Theater can ‘draw out the creative power of ordinary folk’ – Magsaysay Awardee PETA

Cecillia Garrucho

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Theater can ‘draw out the creative power of ordinary folk’ – Magsaysay Awardee PETA
For 50 years, the Philippine Educational Theater Association's actors have brought the stories of the people they meet to life on stage so their voices can be heard

The 6 recipients of the prestigious 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awards were officially recognized during their presentation ceremonies at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Thursday, August 31.

Among the awardees is the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. 

Here is the full text of the speech of PETA president Cecilia Garrucho, as provided by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

(Read also: Theater for change: 10 of PETA’s best plays)


Vice President of the Philippines Maria Leonor Robredo, former President Fidel Ramos, trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, members of the Magsaysay family, fellow awardees, ladies and gentlemen.

In 1967, PETA staged Bayaning Huwad, a Filipino translation of Virgina Moreno’s The Straw Patriot, directed by PETA founder Cecile Guidote. For me, as a young person then, the play was a powerful lesson about Philippine history and heritage. It was my very first time to watch a play where the actors spoke in Filipino. I sat there overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of our own language. I remember asking, how have I become a total stranger to my language and to my culture? That play changed the entire direction of my life. I felt that, as a Filipino, I have finally come home.

Inspired by the play, I joined PETA. We were taught very early on that whatever we learned as artists, we were to share by teaching others, especially non-theater people. We were to use our art to serve. We went in small teams to barangays all over the country. The purpose was always to draw out the creative power of ordinary folk – women in poor communities, students and public school teachers, child workers in sugarcane fields, farmers, workers, and fisherfolk. It didn’t matter whether they were literate or not. The PETA workshops’ main goal was to give people the creative tools to be able to tell their stories that tackled ways to solve their common problems that would bring about healing from trauma and that spoke of their dreams and aspirations.

As actors, we would bring the stories of the people we met to life on stage so that their voices could be heard. It was then that I finally came to understand the power of theater to transform lives, both mine and of others. I tell my story of personal transformation simply because it is a most common one. PETA’s other artist-teachers have similar stories to tell. These inspired them to embrace a vision larger than themselves, to use theater to help transform the lives of people.  

So, armed with this commitment, the artist-members plunged into years of trailblazing work, adding more productions to PETA’s list of original plays. Collaborating with many sectors, PETA developed and refined its pedagogy of people’s theater. This we shared with groups across the country, with our partners in the Mekong Region and Asia, as well as with migrant Filipinos and many other groups in Europe, North America, and Australia.

Fifty years have passed. We continue to do what we do because with the stories we discover in the communities, we see potential for a better society to be realized. With every play we put on stage that inspires young people to reflect, to ask questions, to give way to imagination, understanding, and insight, we see the possibility of a generation of Filipinos who could embrace the task of building a better future for our society. 

And because theater is an art that involves so many, allow us to thank those who contributed to our cultural work throughout PETA’s 50 years. We remember our members and staff who have passed away. We thank all the PETA alumnae, current members, and staff, many of whom are here with us tonight. Please stand to be acknowledged. We thank our board of trustees, past and present. Our many partners – too many to mention, but they know who they are – who understood and supported our work. Our appreciation also goes to Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, PETA visionary and founder. And we share this award with all theater groups, who, despite limited resources, keep theater alive in this country. Most of all, we deeply thank the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for recognizing that arts and culture have an important role to play in building a nation. 

This award inspires us to create more stories for our people, so that through the power of theater and arts, we can move forward with hope to create a just, peaceful, and inclusive society. Maraming salamat po. –

Read the speeches of other 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awards recipients:


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