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Dubai: December has been declared by the Philippine government as Overseas Filipinos month by virtue of Proclamation No. 276, s. 1988, to honour the contributions of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the development of the country. To commemorate the event, the Philippine Consulate General Dubai (PCG) and a group of UAE-based Filipino theatre enthusiasts will stage a play featuring the journey OFWs take in search of greener pastures.

The play, titled Ang Pambansang Litanya ng mga Inang Wala sa Bayan, will run from December 14-15 at the Rizal Hall of the Philippine Consulate Dubai in Al Ghusais.

The cast during a rehearsal. Image Credit: Supplied

“This play is about three women and their stories of hope and their love for their family,” Juan Gonzales, the director of the play, tells Gulf News #Pinoy. “It is set in a money exchange booth and the soliloquy happens while they are waiting for the booth to open. They suddenly remember their families back home and the reason why are they are in their respective countries, and they remember their struggles and what keeps pushing them forward.”

Ang Pambansang Litanya is a pioneering theatre production produced and staged by the Filipino expatriates in the UAE.

“We’ve come up with several events, we’ve come up with several shows highlighting Filipino creativity like visual arts, painting, photography and filmmaking even. We also dabbled into arousing the songwriting and music production community, but we’ve really not tackled and we’ve really not pinpointed theatre,” says Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes.

“When it comes to the acting department – we’re tops in there. Sadly, we don’t have an avenue here in the UAE that could showcase this for the Filipino community. So in our own little way we hope that Pambansang Litanya would awaken the theatrical spirit and the zeal in performing from the Filipino. What better way to come up with this sort of environment in December, which our government has labelled Overseas Filipino month.”

A production staff and ConGen Cortes Image Credit: Supplied

Written by Christine Belen, the play is a project of Ateneo Llibrary of Women’s Writing (ALIWW), and was first staged in 2016 in Quezon City. The Dubai production will be the play’s international premiere.

“It’s very important that we have this kind of art form because we have a big community here from the Philippines and nobody tells our stories,” says Gonzales, 27, who works as a category manager. “For this kind of project, I think it’s more important that we tell our own stories rather than other people telling our stories.”

For Gonzales, the play will have different dynamics to both the artists and the audience since both are OFWs who can directly relate to the stories of the characters.

“This play is relevant to us OFWs because it is important that we continuously tell the stories of Filipinos who are marginalised, not always being represented – because we know that some Filipinos are successful in their OFW journey, but some are still struggling,” says Gonzales. “I think this kind of retelling is a reminder that in some ways we are responsible in making a better life for our fellow Filipinos.”

The cast at a read-through of the script. Image Credit: Supplied

Conmprising a cast and crew of 15, the play revolves around three characters: Azon, Lilibeth and Gracia – all Filipina OFWs living in different countries and engaged in different professions. Each is on a mission to build a better life for their loved ones in the Philippines.

“From this show we want the audience to leave asking questions about their journey as OFWs. We want them also to think about how we can create a community – the sense of oneness,” says Gonzales. “I don’t want it to be just for fun or just an entertainment, but I want it to be a catalyst for them to understand a different side of their humanity.”

The cast and crew

Wilma Rose Limpiado, 26: Plays Azon, a typical “kabayan” – happy, fun and outgoing, but with a deep longing inside

“One of my inspirations is of course the OFWs. I’m usually trying to look for a peg. Azon works in a salon. I’m looking for a character who is outgoing, but also has a soft side. You will see in her eyes that there is something bothering her. She’s happy, but deep inside there is pain.

Henri Abenes Macahilo, 48, portrays the character of Gracia, a 40-year-old teacher who applied as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia

“She was hired as a tutor for a princess. She is enjoying her life as a tutor, the perks and she gets to travel. Unfortunately, before she left the Philippines, she carried with her a baggage from which the story is going to revolve.

I have to give the character a different treatment. We used the 3D characterisation technique to get into the deeper sense of the character. What’s her personality, what’s her psychological make-up, state of mind and her capacity and mental ability.

Exequiel Pia Nuñez, Jr., 38, Composed the songs in the play

“The first song is about the departure of an OFW from the Philippines, where at first you’ll get excited, but when you reach the immigration area, the feeling of longing starts – the feeling of missing our families. The second song is about being abroad, facing struggles and problems at work. The closing song will give hope to the audience and OFWs watching the play.

Hannah Gonzales, 30: Production manager

It’s more challenging to do the production here. In the Philippines, we were part of an organisation so we had contacts immediately. Here, we are all working professionals. It’s a big challenge for all of us – time is very critical for the production. It will be my first time to be part of an event related to us OFWs after having lived in Dubai for six years already. This will be my first time to produce this kind of a show. The challenge is still there even if I have done something like this before – the team is different, the people around me are different, the government rules and policies are different.

Show details

December 14 (Friday) and 15 (Saturday)

Rizal Hall, Philippine Consulate Dubai, Al Ghusais

Timings: 1pm, 3pm and 6pm

Running time: 45 minutes

Admission is free