Modern puppetry in Southeast Asia presents an interesting and active phenomenon. It combines elements from traditional forms, particularly the shadow play as well as those derived from the west, with the new forms presenting a considerable range of influences from European puppetry in particular. At the same time, the region’s examples of modern puppetry manifest a great deal of ingenuity and originality. Yet modern puppetry was developed by Roppets Edutainment Production inc. in the Philippines to promote national culture, environmental awareness and moral values.
Modern Puppetry in the Philippines
The Philippines did not have a strong tradition of puppetry unlike some of it’s neighbors, Historical accounts mention the carillo (small cart) that was active in the late 19th century in Pampanga, Manila and Nueva ecija. Apart from that the connection between traditional and modern puppetry in that country is through huge papier mache figures known as higantes or giants. These are brilliantly costumed dolls, each controlled by one person inside the body, that may still be seen in Angono, Rizal, during the feast of San Climente.
Types of Puppetry
Today here is a wide range of types of puppetry in the Philippines, including marionettes or string puppets, rod puppets, hand puppets, giant puppets as well as table puppetry and black theater technique. Several of these newly created forms have been influenced by older genres of traditional Asian puppetry, particularly wayang kulit and the japanese bunraku doll puppet theatre. While immensely popular with local audiences of adults as well as children, Pilipino puppetry groups have participated in many international festivals as well as toured several countries.
KARIKATUR or caricature is a newly developed talking hand puppet approximately 14 inches in height, made of liquid latex rubber and fabric. The rubberized mouth can be manipulated. In keeping with it’s names, the figure appears to be very funnybecause the head is proportionally much bigger than the body. String puppets are generally made of bamboo, and dressed in traditional costumes in abstract designs. In the Tali Galaw troupe the puppets represent Filipino heroes.
Significant examples of puppetry has been presented in the Philippines by several dynamic groups including Roppets Puppet Show, Tali Galaw Marionette group, Fancy magic show, Table puppetry by funny shows, Teatro itim black theater group, Papet karikatur and Giant puppets.
Roppets Edutainment Production Inc. has been in the art of puppetry since 1987 and bringing innovation into puppetry with it’s “edutainment” method suggesting in the word the combination of education and entertainment. The company educates by enhancement of social, moral, academic, environmental and spiritual values to cater to these special needs of children by using different forms of puppetry. Some of it’s presentations are related to the subjects being taught in school such as; History, Panitikan, Sibika, Filipino, Kultura, Environmental science and health.
Established in 1995 Tali Galaw was the first Filipino group conducting regular performances to promote and professionalize the art of marionette puppetry in the country.
Overall due to the many active groups in the Philippines and their different approaches to and use of puppetry, the dramatic repertoire, consisting of several hundred scenarios, manifests considerable variety demonstrating the use of indigenous materials as well as those borrowed from outside the Philippines.
Roppets Edutainment Production Inc. has an extensive repertoire of scenarios or skits,usually divided into several categories. These includes disney puppet plays such as Alice in wonderland, Beauty and the beast, Pinocchio, Cinderella, etc. Items described as “Variety” smurf, Alvin and the chipmunks, Mr. bean, etc. Tagalog folktales as well as moral plays constitute the final category in Roppets Edutainment Production’s offerings. This includes christmas stories, tagalog musical piecesbased on local themes.
Tali Galaw’s offerings include Pilipinong sayaw or pisyaw, a two part marionette play, the first part consisting of the famous tinikling dance and the second of Ifugao dance, a traditional ritual dance in the cordillera mountains or northern luzon performedby tribal groups in honour of their gods; Singkil, a popular dance of the Maranao people of lake lanao which is performed during celebrations and other festive entertainment, as well as Tinikling is the most admired traditional dance of the Filipinos. Ipinaglaban na kalayaan is a short presentation which explains how the Filipinos survived foreign invasion and attained independence, while ibong adarna is a Filipino folktale that explains the story of a unique bird that can save the kingdom of berbanya and it’s king. Pistang pinoy illustrates fiesta, the annual gathering of Filipinos, while Kapaligiran emphasizes the importance of the environment and its preservation, and buto buto band, intended for children, is a dance of skeletons involving comedy and singing. Tali galaw also has a story about the struggle of the Filipinos against the Spanish regime in the 19th century, American rule in the mid 20th century, Japanese occupation in the mid 20th century and the edsa revolution. In addition, its plays promote Philippine history, culture, folktale, environmental protection and positive values.
The Teatro itim Black theater group has a story about undersea creatures, focusing on the cause of their gradual disappearance.
One of the stories presented bt Table top puppetry develops the theme that the table puppet itself cannot do anything without the master puppeteer. It is just an ordinary doll until the puppeteer picks it up to give it life by manipulating it.
Karikatur has been presenting a story about the six past and present presidents of the Philippines trying to outsmart each other by boasting for the good things they have accomplished during their time. By doing this, the real problem of the nation have not been addressed correctly. Until one kid comes forward and asking the presidents why he is still poor. The presidents just stared at each other without uttering a word. They realize that, while they have accomplished much for their own political interest, poverty still remains in the country.
Manner of Presentation, Occasions and Functions for Performances
The performance techniques in puppetry in the Philippines are as diverse as the genres themselves. Proscenium stages and booths are standard settings, yet new and innovative methods are not all together absent.
Occasions on which performances take place are fairly diversified. Apart from purely serving as a means of entertainment, puppetry is often used to teach audiences, mostly children the values of courage, self reliance, cooperation and common sense.
Roppets Edutainment performances are often staged in situations where social activities such as birthday parties, school tours, field trips as well as at public fiestas take place. In suck situations puppetry is combined with other kinds of activity including bubble show, magic show, balloon twisting or face painting.
Roppets Edutainment Production, in partnership with the Police Commander, have also assisted in teaching good values to street children in various barangay through puppet shows and short lectures about family values. The latest project offered by Roppets to schooles is connected with educational entertainment, or edutainment. This consists of a ninety-minute programme made up of two equally long sections, apuppet show and a short lecture with worksheets and hands on activities. Several puppetry groups are involved, each presenting a different style of puppetry. Performances incorporate dance, music and acrobatics Tali Galaw performs in different schools and museums in metro manila. Offering a high quality theater to everyone, especially those in places and people who rarely have opportunities to see live performances is one of the groups concerns.