TFC News

Theater play tells story of first Filipinos in Canada

Rowena Papasin | TFC News Vancouver

Posted at Jul 28 2022 02:06 PM

Watch more News on iWantTFC

It was two years in the making for the play, 'Buto/Buto: Bones are Seeds.'

Three community organizations, the Southeast Asian Cultural Heritage Society, National Pilipino Canadian Culture Centre and Anyone Can Act Theater, joined forces to come up with the play that tackles migration stories.

Initiated by well-known theater director Dennis Gupa, the story explores the life of Benson Flores, one of the first Filipinos who lived in Bowen Island, British Columbia in the late 19th century, as well as the first Filipinos who came to Canada through the 1791 Malaspina Expedition.

Gupa said migration stories written by company members were also put together as part of the stage play.

"The play text is a collection of vignettes and collage. Instead of a scene, there are fragments. So there are fragments of songs and poetry and dramatic sketches," Gupa noted. "I am hoping that we could talk about this Filipino migration here in Canada. Why are we here and what forced us to be here?"

Renowned choreographer Alvin Tolentino translated their stories to dance. Tolentino commended the participation of community dancers in the show.

"I like working with community dancers because I find that they are so natural in terms of their way of movement," Tolentino explained. "It's beautiful to see non-dancers find language to move and to do things. It’s really unique. It’s very special because it’s coming from their own sensation."

Costume designer Mirabel De Guzman sourced the materials and used local sewers in Kamuning, Quezon city to bring authenticity to the clothes.

"I really wanted to find a way to morph the old indigenous true Filipino culture and wear into what we see as the Filipino cultural traditional clothes," she said.

Ted Ngkaion is proud to have played the titular role of Benson Flores. Like Flores, Ngkaion has a migration story to tell and it was included in the play.

They hope the play will bring more awareness to the significance of Filipino migration to Canada. 

"Despite our differences, we are united in a singular struggle and that’s getting uprooted from our home country and then having our kind of buto planted here [in Canada]," Ngkaion noted.

Tolentino added, "I hope the viewers will leave with a sense of understanding of where we live as a Filipino diaspora in this community, in this region."

'Buto/Buto: Bones are Seeds' will run at the Russian Hall in Vancouver from July 28 to 31.