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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tapping the Power of Alternative Media

When we hear the word media, three (3) things automatically come to mind – TV, radio and print (newspapers, magazines, and the like). All other forms are usually considered part of alternative media.

Much hype is given to the power and overwhelming, at times even uncanny influence the "media" has over the general public. In this regard, considering media as a sector to reckon with in matters of any advocacy is as evident as the heat of summer or the wind chills of December. Nonetheless, media is not limited to these three (3) forms as one medium almost forgotten and neglected, and yet as powerful and captivating is the so-called "alternative media", particularly indigenous theater.

Accordingly, in the CAR areas such as Mt. Province and Ifugao classified to be among the poorest provinces in the country; where electricity remains unstable and some people still unable to read and write, utilizing "indigenous theater" for advocacy becomes a necessity. With sustainability as a consideration as we try to avoid interventions that produce little or no effect at all at the end of the project, the Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare, Inc. (PNGOC) held a Theater Workshop for Play Development on RH, Gender, and Population in Summer Place Hotel, Baguio City last March 20-23, 2006. Ten (10) participants from Teatro Kabbule (Ifugao) and ten (10) participants from Teatro Paracelis (Mt. Province) attended the said training. It aimed to harness the theatrical abilities of the locals vis-à-vis the integration of RH, Gender and Population issues and concerns in their performances and plays. Resultantly, it empowers these local trained people to initiate, continue, and mount in turn, their gained knowledge through their work and in their art as they try to get the message across to the rest of the members of their respective communities.

To this date, watching theater performances is a form of entertainment widely practiced in these communities. Festivities and celebrations are seemingly void if no Theater Festival or Performances are showcased. Needless to state, this is primarily the medium to tap in indigenous communities in order to ensure that these people gain access to any information such as their sexual and reproductive health rights.

Trust, developed through time and genuine concern, is vital for continuing conversations in which people's lives and discussions radically change over time as they begin to feel comfortable speaking about their reality. Participatory narrative and performing arts activities such as theater performances, image theater and forum theater among others, generally referred to as alternative media, are deemed more effective and produce greater impact in getting people to listen, reflect and open themselves to unconventional truths. Resistance is lessened, if not altogether avoided, that acceptance and awareness to reproductive choices and rights are realized. It turns a sense of passivity and/or denial into a more active sense of entitlement, and from there, it enables people to collectively demand what is rightfully theirs. This strategy, which allowed free thinking in processing information and messages that surfaces because of these performances would most likely yield positive results. At this point it makes one wonder, is alternative media really just an alternative?

As the process evolves, the power of alternative media ultimately becomes more valuable and helpful; that linking local issues to advocacy for national and global changes, principally through this method, may likely be achieved.