Art helps calamity victims recover from trauma
MANILA, Philippines – In the aftermath of the twin disasters that struck the Visayas in 2013, massive relief efforts have been exerted to help rebuild the countless lives shattered by the Bohol earthquake and Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
After the government and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have addressed immediate relief and rehabilitation needs, projects such as the One Heart ExPress moved to offer something much needed by the survivors of the twin disasters – recovery from trauma.
One Heart ExPress project head Belen Calingacion, who is also a UP Diliman Speech Communication professor, described the effort as a means “to reach out to the victims of disasters specifically geared towards psychosocial intervention.”
“This project is anchored on the use of the expressive arts for healing, empowerment and education,” Calingacion added.
The team included visual artist Alma Quinto, music educator and puppetry artist Aileen de la Cruz, multi-awarded poet Vim Nadera, and performance artist and community organizer Rosalie Zerrudo among others.
Calingacion said the project proved to be challenging before it even started. The team's first challenge was to look for funds to ensure that the project will succeed.
The team was able to get what they needed when individuals pledged monetary support, and donated materials in December 2013.
Shortly after Christmas of 2013, the One Heart ExPress team made its first stop in Tagbilaran, Bohol where approximately 150 teachers, cultural workers, and theatre performers participated in the expressive arts therapy workshops.
During the two-day workshop in Tagbilaran, the participants engaged in different art activities to help them recover from trauma. Participants made storybooks, drew about their lives, painted about the calamities they had to face, and even created heart cards that were later given to citizens of Tacloban.
Some participants also wrote disaster narratives and poetry. The team’s music group later used the poems to create songs. Some of the disaster narratives were also chosen for dramatization.
The participants facilitated the same art activities they had for the women, youth and children of Barangay Napo in Loon, Bohol, after their workshop.
One Heart ExPress rolled into heavily-devastated Tacloban on January 2014. The team facilitated similar activities in makeshift tents, and cramped temporary classrooms.
The participants from Tacloban did their practicum in Barangay Maggay in Tanauan, Leyte, where the women made a tapestry out of their stories. The youth staged dances and performances while the children were engaged into puppetry.
'Empower teachers and students'
Calingacion said the team selected teachers to participate in their program because they can make a big impact to many people in the aftermath of disasters.
“As a teacher myself, I want this project to focus on teachers. As we help them, they, too, can help others, especially the children,” Calingacion added.
She also acknowledged the importance of making sure students can bounce back in the face of calamities. In UP Diliman’s College of Arts and Letters (UP-CAL), where Calingacion is a faculty member, students affected by Yolanda received an arts-based psychosocial support system, the Sagip Bangon Isko-Iska.
The program featured workshops on literature, visual arts and movement, facilitated by CAL faculty and artists, from January to March 2014.
"Sagip Bangon Isko and Iska was implemented with the assumption that survivors of traumatic events are capable of their own healing and that the workshops facilitate the healing process through creative expression, dialogue, interaction and collaboration,” Art Studies professor Dr. Flaudette May Datuin said.
“These collaborative creative processes, done in an affirming and creative environment, will allow participants to become more positive and hopeful,” Datuin said.
Calingacion has the same observation for the participants of the One Heart ExPress workshop, “When you are confronted with such experience, the future looks dark but for people were able to express themselves, there is a certain degree of healing.”
Calingacion also said that the creative output from the workshops can provide useful information in dealing with disasters.
“We are disaster-prone. It happens time and again. We have to retool, to reinforce what they have so that when things happen they can make decisions on how to handle the aftermath of a disaster,” she said. – Rappler.com