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‘Soog Butuan’: Creative narrative of city’s political, environmental past and foresight

By Bryan Edulzura

“Please watch the show and please be kind,” Ramon Jorge Sarabosing, co-author of the dance-musical “Soog (current) Butuan” texted me a day before the production’s premiere night, August 2.

Of course it was a joke, he, being a colleague, friend, mentor (and tormentor-another joke). But I really planned to see it because I trusted the artistic director, Richard Vilar of Kaliwat and his creative staff to come up with another sensitive and sensible story dealing with history, environment and political and social issues.

It did not disappoint.

I was struck by the haunting poetic song (of destruction) written both by the creative writer Sarabosing and artistic director Vilar. “Actually a lament,” says the former when I told him it was my favorite scene.

Here’s the song, set to music by the Mindanaoan-based Kaliwat Theater Collective:

“Ayyy! ang kalasangan
kasakit sa nahiagoman
Ayy! ang kakahoyan
nangatumba, nangapiang

Sa yuta nikamang
gigakos sa kasagbotan
sa lapok nahugawan
dili na matabang

Sa suba gilaylay
daw inahang gihilakan
gianod sa luha
dili na matabang”

On stage, movement artists one by one fall to the ground while the giant movie screen stuns the audience even more. Disturbing questions come to mind but maybe that’s what the writer and director want to come up. (I remember what Sarabosing once said,”as an artist I want the audience to think, not just enjoy and forgotten.”)

The Dulimbay Theater and Dance company of Caraga State University interpret scenes on stage.

Since this is part of Butuan’s historical reality, let this be a lesson learned and perhaps confronted positively by this present generation.

I saw some of the audience nod their heads in approval.

This definitely a worthwhile “look-back” and educational creative multi-media production and leaves everyone asking for more. I mean, to think it was only less than 30 minutes but it seems so grand-and indeed it was.

For where can you find a production with a choir-the Father Saturnino Urios University Voices of Light chorale with its four talented soloists, the Dulimbay Theater and Dance Company of Caraga state University and Kaliwat Theater Collective Band in one project?

The Voices of light Chorale of FSUU provides beautiful music to the production.

Only-and thankfully- the city mayor and local government unit can come up with it. The city absolutely needs an original work of collective art piece and successfully came up, to give a soul and depth to the material aspirations of our people.

For what good is the local saying, “Ato ini, kadyawon ta” when we have nothing to show off our creative spirit?

If the city wants to develop its industrial vision then the cultural aspect must never be left behind, for great cities, big and small, around the world are economic and cultural hubs where people go to, to celebrate.

The communities of Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam are prime examples of our Southeast Asian neighbors.

“Soog Butuan” should be seen by Butuanons to find relevance in themselves and their connection to the world.

Thank you to the local artists of Butuan and Mindanao like the soulful indigenous voice and music of Bayang Barrios (of Agusan del Sur) who was a guest performer
and the Butuan City Government for giving us a soul-searching and uplifting night. Encore please!

Photos courtesy of Butuan City Tourism Office

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