Cecile Alvarez’s ‘revenge travel’ to Paris for SDGs

Totel V. de Jesus

Posted at Oct 03 2022 09:55 PM

Cecile Guidote-Alvarez presents Manila SDGs’ achievements in Paris
Cecile Guidote-Alvarez presents Manila SDGs’ achievements in Paris

MANILA -- After three years of being waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic that also claimed the life of her husband, Philippine theater pioneer and climate justice advocate Cecile Guidote-Alvarez was able to go to UNESCO headquarters in Paris this September to present the successful holding of the Manila Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ResiliArt Earthsaving events.

She also gave a speech in a special forum that featured the film screening of the docu-fiction “Ulysses from Ghana.”

“The film stresses the history of slavery in Africa as UNESCO commemorates its concern with the historicity of this event and the lessons to be learned,” Guidote-Alvarez said in her speech on September 19 at the forum. 

“Ulysses from Ghana” is inspired by the play “Slaves” written by Ghanaian author Mohamed Ben Abdallah, which had its world premiere in the Philippines on April 3, 2022, during the final leg of the Manila SDGs ResiliArt Earthsaving Peace Event held in Manila Hotel, which Guidote-Alvarez co-organized. 

Besides “Ulysses from Ghana,” an animated short film for children titled “Ballesteros On My Mind: My Hometown in the Philippines” was also shown. It is an adaptation of a children’s book by Rey Edrozo dela Cruz, directed by Carlo Garcia Gino with voice actors Juan Carlos Gino and Bodjie Pascua. With the screenplay also written by Dela Cruz, the story is about a boy growing up in a coastal town in Cagayan province who learns about the true meaning of unity. 

Guidote-Alvarez’s participation was facilitated by Junever Mahilum-West, the Philippine Ambassador to France and the permanent delegate of the Philippines in UNESCO, upon the invitation of human-rights advocate and Ghanian Ambassador to France and Portugal, Anna Bossman. 

“We were pleased to host and organize the SDGs ResiliArt Earth-saving Peace Event in Manila that featured the world premiere VIP showing of this film (‘Ulysses from Ghana’) co-hosted by the Film Development Council of the Philippines under the UNESCO patronage provided by UNESCO director general Madame Audrey Azoulay assisted by the Office of Assistant Director General (ADG) for Priority Africa and External Relations Mr. Firmin Edouard Matoko and ADG for Culture Ernesto Ottone Ramirez,” she recalled.

Guidote-Alvarez is also president of the Global Social Change Network of the International Theatre Institute.

She presented to UNESCO headquarters the successful holding of the Manila SDG events as the country’s techno arts modeling for lifelong learning to assist the Philippines’ fulfillment of the United Nations 2030 SDG’s Agenda. 

“It became a platform to bridge Afro-Asian connectivity as the EarthSavers-UNESCO Artist for Peace and the Philippine Center of the International Theatre Institute-Social Change Network (ITI-SCN) parallels ‘Indigenous Lives Matter’ with ‘Black Lives Matter’,” Guidote-Alvarez said. 

In 2010, she was UNESCO commissioner on culture and Dia del Galeon festival director. She said back then that the galleon trade served as the precursor of globalization. 

Now, in Paris, she pointed out the Philippines, together with Spain, Mexico, Colombia and other countries in Latin- America and Africa caused the approval of the Dia Del Galeón Resolution. 

“Without casting away Hispanic influences, the commemoration of reprising galleon route was meant to revisit and reinforce the importance of dialogue, trade and cultural exchange with educational enrichment focused this time on rediscovery, appreciation and underscoring the value of indigenous heritage, history, habitat mother tongues and creative industries under siege among developing countries during the period of colonization,” she said.

“Two shocking revelations brought to our consciousness the kinship of Asia and Africa. Even in exile, we pushed for the declaration for the ‘Year of Indigenous Peoples’. Luckily, Ambassador Joe Garba, a classmate of my husband, Heherson Alvarez, in Harvard University became the president of the General Assembly, adopted me in the Nigerian delegation to assist in the campaign in the government conference,” she added.

She revealed the three Basarwa tribal people from the Kalahari Desert of Botswana who attended their event organized through LaMaMa Theatre and the Population Media Center looked exactly like the Aetas, the Philippines’ primary indigenous peoples. 

“Same height, same kinky hair, same black color and same musical instrument,” Guidote-Alvarez said.
She recalled at the Global Indigenous Cultural Olympics (GICOS) in the Philippines, the Senegalese Ambassador exclaimed after seeing the Aetas that “there will be no Pan-Pacific African Festival without their presence.” 

“It was a testimony to realizing our brotherhood, our inescapable kindredness between Asia and Africa. The event was addressed by the first black African Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka,” she added.

She recalled with 17 indigenous artists, the EarthSavers Dreams Ensemble, which was founded by her husband Heherson, was invited to be part of the inaugural cultural observance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City in 1992 with a theatre production of the “Agony, Death and Resurrection of the Forests and Seas”.

UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay said, “The EarthSavers in using the arts as a vehicle for educating about the UN SDGs is a very powerful vehicle for promoting cultural diversity, challenging stereotypes and fostering respect, understanding and cooperation among global citizens.”

Liaison with Africa

About 50 years ago in 1971, the Philippines’ liaison with Africa began when the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), which she was founding artistic director, served as organizing secretariat in hosting the first Third World Theatre Festival-Conference in developing countries, creating a permanent committee within the ITI. 

“We trust our country has seeded the dynamic possibilities of holding a similar event annually in different countries and various continents to help the fulfillment of the SDGs 2030 Agenda. Currently, we are engaged in a fruitful dialogue with the Ghana Center of ITI to host the next festival in September 2023,” she said.

She revealed nine other docu-fiction films in cooperation with Spanish producer-director Berne Alder and South-South Cooperation Council, led by Viktor Sebek, including one from the Philippines, will be made. 

“Our colleagues in the ITI led by Director General Tobias Biancone and through UNESCO Regional Offices, can offer their current or forthcoming cultural gatherings in helping actualize the SDGs to rebuild a healthier, just and more peaceful world for our children and the next generations to come.

 “Yes, our artists have proven they are unbowed and undefeated either by viruses or racial discrimination,” Guidote-Alvarez said. 

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