If playwrights and directors are the hubs of a robust theatre practice, then the dearth of these genesis of theatre threaten the decline of its practice.

‘Bilugan’ – a term to suggest juggling fortunes that come to us in circles – is the culmination of a tedious process via consolidated playwriting and directing programs that ensure that theatre be continuously produced.

Established programs like the Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) have honed play scripts and work in tandem with the Mindanao Directing Workshop where these scripts are tested and produced. Apprentices direct productions from scripts critiqued in the INWW and Sulat Dula, Mindanao’s biennial playwriting workshop.

Two apprentice directors, Blesy Cece (a graduate of MSU-IIT’s A.B. Filipino) and John Michael Lagura (an A.B. English senior) completed the 60-hour directing course offered at the MSU-IIT by the Integrated Performing Arts Guild’s Artist Resource Management (IPAG-ARM), the training arm of the Institute’s resident group.


Cece directs “Banua” by Sheryl Sumugat, also an A.B. English graduate of the Institute, while Lagura stages “Makahiya” by Bonifacio Alfonso Javier III, an Anthropology graduate of the Univeristy of the Philippines. The plays of Sumugat and Javier were both fellowship entries at the writers workshop which won the JY Balacuit Literary Awards named after the late Dr. Jimmy Y. Balacuit, former Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension, a staunch supporter of the writers workshop.


The playwriting workshops enhance a play from text to rewrites to performance engaging an apprenticing director working with a team from the IPAG. The Guild provides production and marketing resources for works ready for production in a venue for new original plays called “In-Lab”.

IPAG Artistic Director-Founder and Resident Panelist of the INWW Dr. Steven Patrick C. Fernandez has developed and conducted these programs and their pedagogies.

The directing course has graduated its first batch of 16 fellows representing all parts of the island. These workshops have institutionalized partnerships with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) through its national committees on Dramatic Arts, Literature, and Cultural Education, the MSU-IIT, and Xavier University that hosts Sulat Dula.

The plays in ‘Bilugan’ have received overwhelming responses at the Institute’s Mini-Theatre further inciting interest to draw in the audiences from the community.

Sumugat’s “Banua” set in the mountains of Bukidnon pit NPA cadres suspecting and accusing each other of treachery. The play was first conceptualized in Fernandez’s stagecraft class.

Javier’s “Makahiya” was a requirement submitted for a creative writing class at the U.P., then accepted for a Fellowship to the INWW, before being enhanced for crispy staging. Set in a maximum-security prison, the play has been ‘localized’ (Cebuano accents, local images, and all) about a young man’s wish to get even with the killer of his grandparents through the most unconventional way – get inside prison.

Cece and Lagura, as with the playwrights Sumugat and Javier, who Fernandez has mentored, pass the demanding benchmarks he has set.

The plays feature (Makahiya): Melvin Pascubillo, Julius Hechanova, Trixcel Emborong, Kevin Nico Surposa, Lauro Villanueva; (Banua): Miguel Perfecto, Clint Mermio, Fer Mykiel SF. Gonzales, Ivy Victorio, and Casteelyn Bacera. Stage Managers are Gaspar Cortes Jr. and Michael Paul Gabo.

The production team: Sheila Canete (Production Management), Hermie Dico and Jan Pagarigan (Designs), Mark Saura (Technical Direction), Arlem Abanes, Marvin Julius Pagaduan, Glenn Mark de Gracia, and Jovanie Lapasigue (Marketing), Mark Saura and Glenn Mark de Gracia (Technical Direction), and Meshaq Dangel (Multi-media).

After Bilugan’s original runs from August 8 to 13 (three shows in one day), it will have additional shows in September 2 to accommodate audiences from the Central Mindanao University before plans for road shows.

Fernandez hopes Mindanao will continue to energize its creative resources to maintain its position as one of the country’s most dynamic theatre regions. He asserts, “we have plotted the directions that can assure us that theatre lives for a long, long time.” He warns however of careless and untrained directors and choreographers who have contributed to producing non-engaging and shallow productions that have driven audiences away from the theatre through crude and unthought-of works. He can only consider “directors” directors after they have acquired the practice and learned the principles in a learning environment where a system guides students and their works closely.

Topics : ipag