Art as Communal to Art as an Individual Expression


The performances and exhibitions before the Spaniards came into the picture of the Philippines’ history were communal. When you say communal, the members of a local community will come together and express concerns or issues through an artistic process. This procedure acts as a catalyst to trigger issues, events or changes within a community.

Specifically in the field of theatre, Filipinos before the Spaniards came, did theatre performances which are known as indigenous theatre with rituals, dances, and customs. It is performed together or separately with earnestness and vivacity by the different Filipino cultural communities that composed about five percent of the country’s population. They perform it in occasions such as day of birth, baptism, circumcision, menarche, courtship, wedding, sickness, and death; or for celebrations like hunting, fishing, before and after the war, rice planting, and harvesting.

Most rituals ran like this: a native priest/priestess also called mandadawak, catalonan, bayok, or babaylan will go into a trance, as he/she talks to the spirit who possesses him/her. In some cases, a shaman play a part in the sacrificial offering which may depend on the intensity of the spirit they are worshipping’s anger.

Since in each members of the community is involved in their rituals, it can be concluded that their performances were communal.

In the year 1521, the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, to colonize and influence the Filipinos through Christianization. They used theatre as a tool for Christianization. And they became successful in it. They even changed the idea of the Filipinos of art as communal to art as an individual expression.

They introduced religious plays and secular plays. Among the plays, the most important is the komedya, or moro-moro, which is a play in verse introduced into the country from Spain in the 16th century and institutionalized in the 19th century. It has two principal types: the secular, which concentrates on epic stories of love and vengeance; and the religious, which depicts the lives of patron saints. Elaborate marches, lengthy choreographed fighting between individuals and/or armies, and magical artifices wrought by heaven to save saints or Christians in distress ensure the popularity of the komedya as principal entertainment during town fiestas.

By this time, theatre performances already focused on the individual expression, since there are already identified actors which portray characters in the play. Theatre already focused on each actor’s way of expressing what their characters are feeling. Some actors took advantage of theatre for their mental issues. Some used theatre as a device to express their personal innermost feelings that they cannot say outside the stage. Theatre became a reflection of an actor’s emotional state towards his/her character’s situation.`




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