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‘Mabining Mandirigma’ and the Butuan dream

By R Juan de Abril

I flew to Manila recently to watch the musical play “Mabining Mandirigma” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines thinking it could be the theater event of the year. I was not wrong.

The play made my skin crawl and my eyes moistened wishing Butuanons who have not even seen locally-inspired theater productions could watch it so they will encounter or expose to an option of quality entertainment and inspire to venture it themselves.

After all, Butuan used to be the center of community theater in Northern Mindanao and even the whole island itself, having hosted initially a campus-based theater festival and later, no less than the Mindanao Theater Festival, which also declared the Butuan theater entry, “Lawig Balanghai,” as one of Mindanao’s landmark musical play.

That was early 1990s but sadly the glory of the height of theater in Butuan as a jewel of Butuanons creativity perished because no new generation of local theater artists followed, and zero interest and foresight of local government units (LGUs) and partner agencies like the academe, including non-government organizations (NGOs) involve in community empowerment  and advocacy.

All of them missed the potential use of theater as a creative tool of education and information, throw in alternative entertainment and you get a substantive level of quality time for the young and mature crowd.

What good is the aspiration of an ascending city but with the absence of a consistent, trailblazing artistic expressions more than street dancing reflecting who we are and what our dreams and aspirations are.

When I was in high school in late 1970s, I remember I saw a major Christmas theater event at the city gymnasium  participated by all schools. Even at that time, theater was a much-loved and accepted creative activity by Butuanons. One wonder where did it go wrong along the way. Have all the talented people gone or drown on the river?

“Mabining Mandirigma” can sure inspire the local audience if they only have the chance and more than anything else, restore back Butuan’s creative spotlight and honor.

Artwork courtesy of breaking the fourth wall site

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