Young people in Olongapo and Angeles City, Philippines are tapping their creative talents to combat serious issues that have plagued their communities: domestic violence and trafficking. Using community theater and digital story telling as tools, they have shared their first-hand experiences, raising awareness about violence against women and youth.
These innovative methods are a direct result of WeDpro’s European Union (EU)-supported project called The Red AVP (Anti-Violence Project), short for Private and Public Faces of Violence Against Women: Addressing Domestic Violence and Trafficking In the Urban Poor Communities and Entertainment Centers of Angeles City and Olongapo City.
According to Aida Santos-Maranan, Chairperson of WeDpro and Project Manager of The Red AVP, the sites were chosen because of the prevalence of abuse in the said areas.
“The dust left behind by the US military bases in Subic and Clark, even if it was more than decades ago, has filtered into all aspects of lives in Angeles and Olongapo. The greatest tragedies of prostitution, domestic violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking in the red light districts of Angeles City and Olongapo City are the consequences it has done for the youth and children,” she said.
“These children and youth grew up amidst a seemingly endless cycle of violence and aggression, and are largely deprived of the kind of environment that allows them a safe space in which to play, experiment and develop a healthy and meaningful sense of themselves and their surroundings,” she added.
Through The Red AVP, WeDpro established two community theaters—”Salamin” in Angeles City and “Maskara” in Olongapo City. The theater program has provided opportunities for the youth participants to develop the skills, self-knowledge, and confidence which would empower them to challenge present realities and to take control of their future.
The theater scholars attended various workshops, undergoing theater exercises and group dynamic processes and activities that tackled basic improvisation techniques, acting exercises, mime, visual arts, voice lessons, dance and creative movements. These exercises and activities enable the scholars to harness and maximize their creativity.
After a series of workshops and with the guidance of The Red AVP Community-based Theater Development Director and Lead Trainer Joel Saracho, who completed the crucial last quarter activities, “Salamin” and “Maskara” were able to perform in public their own plays that relate to the challenges that they face in their communities, including domestic violence and trafficking.
Some members of the theater groups also created their own digital stories in WeDpro’s project called The Youth Tell Their Stories: Breaking Silences, Using ICT as a Form of Healing. Supported by the Association for Progressive Communications and the Foundation for Media Alternatives, in collaboration with Isis International-Manila, the project enabled survivors of violence and sex trafficking to tell their stories and experiences using digital media.
Among the stories were Pagnanasa, where Allen narrates with pain his experience of sexual abuse from his stepfather; Bakit Ganun, a young man’s tale of violence that he experienced from his own parents; and Hubog ng Aking Kabataan, where a youth tells her story about being victimized by child trafficking at the age of 12.
“We use art as a social forum and as a balm for wounded spirits,” Santos-Maranan said. “Our daily witness of their enthusiasm and the seeds of their transformation into self-confident and healthy individuals, is what gives us the conviction and motivation to go on.”