The Southeast Asian Games 2019 will stage its opening ceremonies today at the Philippine Arena. Perhaps because of a shaky start, due to the lack of preparedness and misplaced sensitivities of some of its organizers, Floy Quintos—the award-winning playwright, show director, and the creative director of the SEA Games opening ceremonies—felt he needed to express the inspiration and motivations that will drive today’s performance. Here is his Facebook post from yesterday, November 29.
Tomorrow is the big day, and though I am not supposed to post any photos, I feel the compelling need to share just one.
Friends have asked me why I accepted this job and why I — and the creative team I brought on — worked so hard for a whole year, despite the uncertainties and the anxieties, the intrigue and the stress.
One answer is that we saw the SEA Games Opening Ceremony as a chance to showcase aspects of our culture that many modern Filipinos know little about or take for granted, buried under our own divisive neglect and lack of concern.
I felt very strongly that the show should be inclusive of our Animist, Islamic and Pre- hispanic peoples. All three represented in a series of Warrior dances that trace the vigour, physicality and skill that is in the DNA of every great Filipino athlete. Thus, the opening suite, "Ugat ng Ating Lakas / The Roots of our Strength" is a series of "Power" dances from the Bagobo, the Kalinga, the Maguindanao and the pre- hispanic Bisayans. Since physical power and skill isn't always manifested in forceful and aggressive movements, why not cap the suite with that most controlled and demanding of Maranao courtly dances, the Singkil?
To my mind, these choices pay homage to the most marginalized and neglected of our Indigenous peoples: the Lumad of highland Mindanao, the Maranao and their great ruined city of Marawi, the Kalinga who fought for their ancestral lands. More than just a "cultural showcase", I hope this first suite serves as a reminder of the enduring nobility of the marginalized and their current struggle for survival.
I won't give the rest of the show away. But I can say that God/ the humorous, all-seeing Bathala of the Filipinos, will be in the details. In the traditional textile patterns blown up for the world to see. In the delicate curve of a bamboo singkaban arch. In the sassy depictions of grimy street children playing traditional games.
In the joyful, intentionally mis-matched costumes of a hundred hiphop dancers of all genders and body types. There will be no special effects, no fabulous, hitherto unseen technological stage wizardry. Just good old Pinoy energy, talent and joy. The very things we return to. The very qualities that enable us to survive.
Yes, the show is a spectacle. And the power of spectacle is one that has been used worldwide by the powerful to further agendas. But it is in the hands of the spectacle's creators to patch together some meaning, some cohesion, some message that goes beyond the political.
And so this image from the show's finale. Of a people. If only for a moment, united.