Announcing Fluid States events


Sa Tagilid na Yuta: On Tilted Earth: Performance in Archipelagic Space

Manila, Philippines and other locations 


RoRo Journeys and Island Events: April – September 2015

Manila Gathering – November 5-8, 2015



Performance in archipelagic space, performance as inter/connection, identification and belonging, performing risk/performing at risk, performance as intervention for survival and restoration, performance in unstable sites



Resilience—the term has been used by government and aid organizations and the media to describe the ability of Filipinos to survive disasters and rebuild their communities. But it has also become a sinister discourse of victimhood and vulnerability.  What does it really mean in concrete terms?

A core team of artists and scholars will be traveling to various localities by bus and by boat, ‘rolling on and rolling off’ from one site to the next, to investigate resilience and in the process learning local practices, conceptions, and lexicons of performance in the archipelago. Designed in response to recent calamities in the country, the project addresses a key theme–what living ‘on tilted earth’ often ravaged by disaster means and entails for various communities in the archipelago, why and how are they resilient, and what this might mean in terms of performance, that is, actual doing in all its creative/expressive forms and manifestations. ‘Disaster’ is understood not only as a calamity like Yolanda/Haiyan but also as strife and dehumanization experienced in war or caused by dire poverty and their effects as well as by the blight of history.

1. RoRo Journey and Island Events

The ‘roro’ journey across the archipelago will connect various sites, from communities to universities, from the auditorium to the streets, plazas, and seafronts. The journey will immerse in or connect to performances and practices organically, as much as possible, that is, what there is at the site at the time of the visit, e.g., harvesting and Hudhud in Ifugao.

Proposals by Local and Visiting Correspondents .are welcome. If interested, please respond to the Call for Local and Visiting Correspondents available here.

1.1. Luzon: Imaginative flows and mobility across plains and mountains

The main island of Luzon is host to sharply contrasting cultures and performance practices of the people of the lowlands and the people of the mountains. This is not unique to Luzon and can be said of all of the islands, but such contrast is the focus of the Luzon journey in terms of performance conceived as ‘dap-ayan’, gathering, ‘haraya’, imagination, and ‘pagbaklay’, walking. Performances are works of the imagination occasioned by and striving towards a gathering, but, in order to gather, people must walk– not within familiar realms but across oftentimes dangerous divides.

The journey will take us across to major gatherings in the Christian lowlands—a community dance, a wedding, various fiestas—and in the mountains of the Sierra Madre and Cordillera—commemorations such as the Cordillera Day and a memory trek with the Aetas from Zambales to Aurora and up the Pinatubo. We will see how far apart the people of the mountains and those of the lowlands are from each other and what possibilities there are for connections. We will follow the paths of disaster, not only of typhoons and floods and volcanic eruptions that have radically changed the landscape or killed thousands of people, but also of impending threats to waterways in urban industrial zones.  We will come face to face with violence and its traces, both real and imagined, from the Lenten crucifixion practices in Cutud, Pampanga or the ‘beheading of Longinus’ in the moriones of Marinduque, the ‘battles’ of moros y cristianos in the tibag of Nueva Ecija, to the displacement of the Aetas from their ancestral lands and the killing of Macliing Dulag over a rift on the Chico River and his people’s ancestral domain. The journey is an encounter with a militant joy present in the many celebrations and devotions of the people; it is an engagement with ideas and memories of revolution and resistance against tyranny; it is an immersion in the poetic expressions of hope and love of ‘kapwa’, the brethren or other that is also always a part of the self. Not to be disregarded as interlacing themes of the journey are heritage, tourism, and practices of recreation.

Itinerary includes: Ifugao, Tadian and Bontoc in Mt. Province, with participation in the Macliing Dulag Memorial; Baguio City, with a symposium and interaction with artists based there; Angono, Rizal; Calamba, Sta Cruz, and Santa Rosa in Laguna; Naga, Legazpi, Sorsogon in Bicol; Pampanga, Zambales, Tarlac, Aurora, with a trek to Mt. Pinatubo; Pangasinan, Batanes, and Palawan.

Dates: April 22 – last week of May, 2015 (journey is cut up into segments with each one lasting 5-7 days)
1.2. Visayas: Flows of past present memories of land and sea and the bells in between

We live in a continuing past and that is not anywhere more apparent than in the islands of the Visayas where there are places like Balangiga whose people still want to have their bells back. Taken by the American soldiers more than a hundred years ago in the assault on Balangiga town during the bloody Philippine-American War, the bells are still in the United States, displayed as war booty and evidence of American ‘valor’ against the Filipinos.

The V
isayas journey will explore the theme of contesting memories of and contesting claims to—the bells of Balangiga; accounts of who to blame or how to explain the grave toll on lives and properties during and in the aftermath of typhoons like Haiyan; the stories of progress and wealth of the islands such as Negros, land of the sugar barons and the sacadas who work the land; and discourses of development seen in contrasting images, rhythms, and styles of daily living in Boracay’s ‘world class’ resorts and the villages of the Panay Bukidnon indigenous community. The journey will be a peregrinasyon, a pilgrimage ‘from routes to roots’ in which artists and cultural workers will try to learn/relearn what wisdom this tracing of routes taken and listening to the land and sea and the missing bells hold for us and how to be coeval with our indigenous roots, which are not of the past, dead, but very much alive and contemporaneous, albeit pushed to the margins of both the geography and our consciousness.

Itinerary includes: Palapag, Calbayog, Balangiga, and Basey in Eastern Samar; Tacloban and Palo in Leyte; Inabanga and Talibon in North Bohol; Bulukabok and Suwac and Bantayan Island in Cebu with a symposium at the School of the Seas; Escalante and Victorias Sugar Central, Silay, and Bacolod in Negros; Iloilo and Capiz and the community of the Panay Bukidnon in Panay.

Dates: April 1 – 15, 2015 (cut up into segments, but one continuous journey)
1.3. Mindanao: Flows of resilience in the land of promise and ferment

There are three big groups in the region: the original non-Muslim inhabitants called Lumad, the Muslim population, and Christian settler communities from central and northern Philippines. How the land which used to be controlled by the Lumads in 17 out of the present 24 provinces became the property of the settlers from Luzon and Visayas and by multinational corporations, with the Lumads now comprising only 6% of the population, is the story of Mindanao as a ‘land of promise’. How the region which was never vanquished by the Spanish colonizers became a playing field for American forces in the ‘global war against terror’ is the story of Mindanao as a land of continuous war waged by the ‘Moros’ for a separate Bangsamoro or Islamic state and concomitant aggressions by armed vigilantes protecting Christian property owners as well as attacks by the Philippine state forces. The land of promise has become a land of ferment and death, and recently also a land devastated by horrible landslides and floods, the years of rape of the forests taking their toll on human communities.

But surely these are not the only stories and images of Mindanao. There are more and different stories, perhaps inevitably linked to these, but we are determined to go beyond what the media and books say and have a face to face meeting with the rich and colourful cultures of the Lumads, Muslims, and settler groups in the region. There will be three simultaneous journeys, each following a theme: (1) history and heritage, (2) spirituality and religion, and (3) indigeneity and identity.

Itinerary includes: (1) Butuan and Camiguin; (2) Zamboanga, Ozamiz, Tubod, Iligan, Marawi, and El Salvador; (3) Cotabato, General Santos, Davao, and Bukidnon. All three journeys will converge in Cagayan de Oro for a conference.

Dates: July 2015 (dates to follow)

Sample details of the journey (Leg 2):
We will begin our journey in Zamboanga where the 2013 clash of rebel Muslim forces and government troops killed 154 and displaced thousands of families from 14 villages, many of them indigenous Muslim Sama-Badjaos. We will visit their relocation sites and join local teams of volunteers who are helping them. From Zamboanga we will travel to Ozamis and there experience a 270 year old Christian pilgrimage. Also in Misamis Occidental we will have a ‘food trip’ to sample the local cuisine and visit the Aquamarine Park. We will cross to Mukas, Lanao del Norte by ferry boat and visit the Dapit-Alim Meditation Site in Tubod, then travel to Iligan for a performance evening and interaction with local artists (IPAG). The next day we travel to Marawi and experience the welcome rite of Pagana Maranao, a walk through Padian Market, and a performance by local artists (Kambayoka). From Marawi we travel to El Salvador which is another Christian pilgrimage city, and later in the day end up in Cagayan de Oro. In Cagayan de Oro, there will be visits to resettlement sites for victims of the 2012 flood, and a conference to talk about the entire journey. An additional site to visit after the conference is the community of the Talaandig indigenous group in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. The journey will last seven days at most.

2. Manila Gathering

Dates: November 5 – 8, 2015

The Fluid States Philippine Cluster events will culminate in an international conference in Manila set for November 5 – 8, 2015. The conference will feature roundtables and panels and papers on the roro journeys and the main themes of the conference. A unique part of the program is a roro journey in the city on the second day, with the participants having a choice of three itineraries. The journeys will include visits to a maritime museum, a Buddhist temple, Intramuros the old city of Manila, interactions with community theatre groups and artist communities, a food and theatre tour, and a ferry ride on the Pasig River. The conference plenaries and panels will be in two venues: De La Salle University-Manila and the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

Proposals for individual papers and panels are welcome. Deadline is on September 30, 2014; notifications of acceptance on October 30, 2014. Email proposals


We live on tilted earth, where soil merges with sea, behind us the slope of mountains, located at what seems to be the edge of the world, at the beginning of the great expanse of the Pacific and what lies beneath and above it, the ring of fire and raging storms, the ring of disaster. The water surges in from the sea or rampages down from the slopes of mountains. The tilting is a constant and we have never perfected the balancing act it requires. Living on tilted earth, here we are, once again, after the strong earthquake and Yolanda, the image of victimhood, crying out for compassion to the rest of the world, who have come in droves to help. We are grateful. But then again we tilt to find another sense of balance, a sense of agency and self-possession, of self-responsibility. We strive to find our own feet, however wobbly. What might all these mean in terms of performance?

Performance in archipelagic space, performance as inter/connection, identification and belonging, performing risk/performing at risk, performanc
e as intervention for survival and restoration, performance in unstable sites, resilience, theatre and climate change

Key questions that might be taken up by papers, panels, exhibitions, and performances (in addition to the roro journey themes):

What and how is it to live (and die) on tilted earth, in the ring of disaster? How does this life and the experiences of death and devastation in disaster prone areas translate to views of the world and notions of human development, safety, and risk?

How may performance and performance research contribute to an awareness of viewpoints and
sensibilities that are often unacknowledged or invisible in discussions on the development of communities and disaster-preparedness? How can performance help mitigate disaster and its effects? How can performance help save and protect lives? How can performance revivify creativity and spur a reimagination of the future?
Corollarily: What are the costs—cultural, economic, and political— of connecting and traversing distances? Who bear these costs the most? How are these borne or negotiated? What are the productive uses of performance for living with and through the traumas and terrors caused by disasters like Yolanda/Haiyan or by calamities of crossing the seas (to study, work, visit, or relax)? How does performance narrate stories of hardship or victory, especially for people living on the coasts or on the plains, or pushed to inhabit the mountains?

What is it to live in an archipelago? What does it mean for people to live in a country with 7,100 islands beyond the simple (or complex) fact that the cultures in these islands differ one from the other? Is there such a thing as an archipelagic consciousness? What might this mean in terms of an awareness of difference and similarity, division and connection, fragmentation and belonging? How might ‘regionalism’ or ‘nationalism’ be located within or in relation to the archipelagic? How might conflicts and animosities be understood? How are all these informed or shaped by history and discourses of nationality? And how might performance help in thinking about these things?