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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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Sunday, February 14, 2016

entry arrow12:18 PM | The Return of the V Squad

Here we go again—but in all honesty, it’s a constant that has become satisfying for me and many others because every day I live through in every year, I am reminded that this annual thing we do—VDAY—is a necessity. You would think hurtling towards the future would make us more enlightened, more compassionate, and more progressive—but the undying darkness that lurks within humanity ever threatens to hurl us back to the dark ages. Think celebrities, even ordinary folks, misunderstanding the word “feminism.” Think that group of men—they call themselves the Return of Kings—advocating for “legal rape.” Think the continued misogyny that exists in every facet of popular culture. And so, around this time of the year, this column turns to one constant that has been there for so long, I once said that I might as well call this annual space the “vagina’s turn.”

Again, looking back to all my old columns, it strikes me that I have written about VDay every single year since 2001, after having been inspired by the example set by writer/activist Eve Ensler and her groundbreaking play, The Vagina Monologues, which was first staged at the Luce to much controversy in 2001. This also means that, together with Bing Valbuena, I have been part of the movement for fourteen years now, skipping that one year—2002—when things were just coming together, and which led to that big jump in 2003 when Bing started the campaign in Dumaguete. And because this has always been her baby, I will cede space to Bing.

She writes: “Today marks the 14th year of VDAY in Dumaguete, and the fourth year of One Billion Rising campaign. As advocates for change and for humanity, it has been an outrageously dramatic and challenging roller coaster ride. Along with the rewards of knowing how many big our community of co-advocates have grown and how we have in many ways changed people’s better perspectives of the world, we have been hurtfully stumped by conservatives, traditionalists and radicals questioning the validity of our cause because to them our art-theater and dance, are only pseudo-strategies for change.

“Through the years, I have witnessed how theatre has gathered people together, gave them opportunities to tell their stories and empowered them. I have seen how dancing is a strong force in allowing individuals to learn that their bodies are beautiful venues of healing and power.

“As an educator, I have always believed that there is no other powerful tool for social change but education, and education as not only in the classroom but outside of it too. Despite criticisms we will continue to educate our youth holistically through the art because it has been found to significantly impact individuals and communities. Part of the core of what VDAY is about is to be here for everyone, inclusive of all. We continue to embrace all especially those who do not believe in what we do.

“For many years, we have donated to the international VDAY committee that gave birth to the City of Joy in Congo, a school for girls. In Dumaguete, VDAY has birthed Duyan, a theatre group that primarily does playback theater performances. VDAY Dumaguete has also supported various organizations thrusted toward the development of humanity especially the protection of women and children.

“This year, as we emphasize again our campaign for the end of violence against women and children, we also emphasize our call for climate justice. Our beneficiary for this year is Gugma Gaia. Gugma Gaia’s mission is to contribute to the deeper respect and love for planet Earth—for harmony and sustainability—by undertaking holistic approaches that encourage proactive environmental actions and sustainable practices. It is providing programs for children to inculcate a sense of responsibility to care for the planet; and also integrate intergenerational collaboration between generations.

“Its first activity was a workshop among adolescent survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in Palo, Leyte where they were taught creative art as part of healing, and meditation practices to help them embrace and transform emotions that are helpful for survival and living, and develop inner strength. Gugma Gaia’s second activity was a series of lectures and workshop on art and body movement among students of Silliman University. It was to celebrate peace in the month of September at Liptong Woodland.

“We envision for more individuals and communities with core values of love and peace. We invite you to enjoin us to advocate for a better future.”

For director Maru Rodriguez, this year’s production brings together a cast of the most extraordinary people—students, teachers, artists, doctors, office workers, first timers and veteran performers. "All of whom," she says, "have their own personal funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking stories. All of whom are the strongest women I know." They embody the stories of real women -- and helping them do that is one of VDAY's staunchest male supporters, co-director Earnest Hope Tinambacan, who explains his involvement as something crucial to his sense of being: "I have been an advocate for gender equality and the promotion of sustainable masculinity even prior to directing The Vagina Monologues, and this is because I believe that violence against women and children is not just a woman’s issue but a human rights issue in general. Being part of Youth Advocates Through Theatre Arts or YATTA and working with GWAVE has strengthened my belief that men and all people of all genders and sexual orientations must stand together and fight for gender justice and sexual expression. I feel completely honored to have been entrusted with this responsibility of co-directing this show. Although yes, it could be held to be true that no man in this planet could be perfect in this directing position basically because he doesn’t have a vagina, but as an artist among many I—we—can allow ourselves to probe into our own worlds and into our own brokenness. Out of this creative process of allowing myself to also feel vulnerable and to feel the brokenness of each of the characters, I know that in the end it has made me a real person who will continue to stand firmly beside all women and girls who are rising, demanding an end to violence. Directing TVM has given me the chance to be immersed in the many emotions and experiences of women: the sorrow of their struggles, their anger, and as well as their fears. I also experienced the celebration of their triumphs and have stood with them in their fight. To quote Rob Ukon, 'Certainly, Eve Ensler’s play is about women’s lives. But it’s also about men waking up to women’s reality.'”

The 2016 performance of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues unfolds tonight, February 14, at 7:00 PM at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium in Silliman University. This year's cast includes Johanna Adanza, Shamah Bulangis, Nierru Cabilao, Sharon Dadang-Rafols, Elle Divine, Queenie Maria Guibao, Lo Leeta, John R. Lumapay, Alice Mae Mamhot-Arbon, Paula Miraflor, Jo Hannah Naranjo, Trazarra Joy Orden, Sheila Pabalate, Onna Rhea Quizo, Maru Rodriguez, Karla Karina Rosales, Zakiyah Sidri, Virginia Stack, Michele Joan Valbuena, Lee Verdoguillo, and Frances Hope Yap. Ms. Rodriguez directs, with Earnest Hope Tinambacan co-directing. Tickets are available at P175 at the Department of Psychology. You may call Brylle Tumarong at 09154145808. Happy Love Day to everyone!

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