A new theatre production celebrates the resilience of Canadian Filipinos in their adopted country.
Titled “buto/buto: bones are seeds”, the work is a collaboration among the National Pilipino Canadian Cultural Centre (NPC3), Southeast Asian Cultural Heritage Society (SEACHS), and Anyone Can Act Theatre (ACAT).
[‘Buto’ is the Tagalog word for ‘bone’ and ‘seed’.]
The play opens on July 28, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. at the Russian Hall in Vancouver (600 Campbell Avenue).
More showings follow on July 29, 30 and 31. Preview night is on July 27 at 7:30 p.m. for family and friends of cast and crew.
In an email to Canadian Filipino.Net (CFNet), SEACHS vice president William Canero, said, "The historical accounts of some of the first Filipinos to arrive in Vancouver inspire the performance. We sprinkle our own experiences of trauma through migration and the joys of family, kababayan, and connection."
Canero noted that the production received support from all levels of government, and “is rooted in the Filipino community's story of migration to Vancouver.”
“Looking beyond the Pacific Ocean, the ensemble of buto/buto (pronounced: buh’toh-buh’toh): bones are seeds reconstructs the life of Benson Flores, one of the first Filipinos who lived on Bowen Island, BC in the late 19th century,” states a media release for the play.
It notes that an article written by Canadian Filipino journalist Joseph Lopez about Flores sparked interest in the ensemble.
Canadian Filipino Net in 2021 ran a four-part series about Lopez’s research about Flores and Filipino pioneers in Canada:
The media release goes on to relate that an all Southeast Asian cast explores migration stories in Canada.
“Set in fictional Barangay San Diego, “buto/buto: bones are seeds” is a collection of vignettes dramatizing the stories of the first Filipinos who came to Canada through the 1791 Malaspina Expedition, the 19th-century Filipino community on Bowen Island, Vancouver, the Filipino community today, and more,” the release states.
The work utilizes “different modes of storytelling and performance, these narratives—inspired by Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal—speak to where we’re from, where we are, and where we’re going.”
“This original play is an ode to the resilience of the community, filling its longing for home with Rizal’s
legacy: love for the community, land, and their original country of birth,” the release states.
The text for the work was curated by Canadian Filipino poets Karla Comanda, Christopher Nasaire, and Marc Perez.
A team of artists and professional theatre actors collaborated with community members to put together the work: Alvin Tolentino (choreography), Noreen Sajolan (set and lights), Mirabel De Guzman (costume), Thai-Hoa Le (dramaturgy), Allen Baylosis (dramaturgy), Jeremiah Carag (voice coach), Eri Kikuchi (music/sound design), JR Guerrero (musician), Ted Ngkaion (actor), Abi Padilla (performer) and Anjela Magpantay (performer).
Dennis Gupa, SEACHS artistic associate, directs the play.
Gupa is included in the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Encyclopedia of Philippine Arts for his contribution to the theatrical heritage of the Philippines and is one of the Asia Society’s Philippines 21 Fellows for the Arts and Culture. He is currently writing his PhD dissertation in Applied Theatre at the University of Victoria.