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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

entry arrow7:54 PM | Pigs

Several things I learned, co-directing The Vagina Monologues with the glorious and indefatigable Laurie Raymundo this year, and being virtually one of the few male members of the TVM production family.

First, that one has to have fortitude of steel to shield oneself from unbelievable narrow-mindedness of so many people in a supposed "intelligent community." Second, that women's concerns are, ultimately, humanity's concerns. Third, that Margie makes great pot roast. And last, that miracles -- like the making of a controversial play -- take time to create. It's like a birthing process, really.

There is gestation, and then there is the long painful process of getting the baby out of the womb, and into the light. There were rehearsal nights when everything ran as smooth as velvet. Others were a bit more testy, and took a kind of imagination, that of the quintessential juggler's. We lost several cast members -- law students most of them -- to the dictates of schedule and other unforeseen circumstances. A nun tells another one of our original cast members to drop out, or else... Prospects were bogged down by a curiously malicious bureaucracy -- despite the fact that we have been staging TVM in Silliman for the past four years...

And then there are the various behind-the-scenes mud-throwing by supposed "intellectuals" and "professionals" in the city. One cast member, a young college student, was accosted by a female teacher in her department's office, and in front of other teachers and students, was berated for being part of a "vulgar show." The teacher reportedly said, "Madayon jud diay 'nang inyong Vagina Monologues? … That kind of play shouldn't be staged in a Christian institution such as this… Even the title itself is so pangit!"

Another one, in a separate occasion, jested in a poorly informed manner: "Vagina, vagina na pud mu? Penis na pud..."

But TVM's Dumaguete producer Bing Valbuena (who is also one of Silliman's most dynamic young faculty) and her visit to solicit support from one of Dumaguete's top socio-civic and "truth-valuing" group (which will remain unnamed), takes the cake.

In front of such a macho, rich-boy club, she started off explaining what VDay was all about, and how it was born. She explained that Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues, had interviewed over 200 women about their experiences as women, and so on. Nobody really listened. The Big Boys were jocular, and talked among themselves.

And then a well-known doctor raised his hand, and from his seat, said, "You mentioned that this Vagina Monologues will be performed by local women…" And then he started smiling, and asked, "Were these women raped?" Right after that, he laughed, and said, "Joke lang."

Giggles, giggles all around.

Some even gave gestures of approval.


More giggles all around.

Bing left, and promised never even to receive any monetary support that group may give. No matter what.

When Ensler first began VDay, she set an optimistic deadline for the campaign to stop violence against women and children. The deadline date? 2005, this year. Now, the question we must ask ourselves is this: Do women and children still fall victims to patriarchy's not-so-secret bloody machinations? It happens they still do. That is why VDay is important.

Here is one statistics to jolt everyone: an average of five women -- your mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends -- are raped every month in Negros Oriental alone. Sexual harassment abounds, although it is heavily cloaked in a culture of silence and shame. And the most damning evidence of all? The proliferation of homemade "sex scandal" videos for sale in our pirates' stalls -- most notably, the Dumaguete Sex Scandal brouhaha two years ago -- featuring hapless women victimized for prurient purpose and profit.

TVM is supposed to be a vehicle for the outcry against all of these. So why the mud-slinging? Are we supposed to do nothing? To the female teacher then who has complained about the "vulgarity" of TVM: Do you really know what you're talking about?

In the long run, however, there have been positive changes. Those who have seen or have taken part in the show -- women and girls for the most part -- have gone away feeling more empowered in their womanhood. For my female students, they learned no longer to be ashamed about their own femininity. The men, too, have learned to respect the role of women in their lives.

In the first year of Silliman's TVM, we had a cast member who had been abused sexually as a child. She pleaded to join the cast that year, to work out her personal demons. At first, it was hard: all that abuse had coalesced to form a very hard shell around her. But by the end of that performance, she said she had broken free. That TVM helped her get over her trauma.

That is the kind of miracle we hope to instill in everybody with this year's version of TVM. Nothing vulgar about that.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich