Theatre group pays tribute to slain Italian priest

ARAKAN, North Cotabato (MindaNews/23 October) — The Davao-based Kaliwat Theatre Collective on Saturday paid tribute to Fr. Fausto Tentorio at the Our Mother of Perpetual Help parish here, as mourners – mostly farmers and Lumads, shed tears while listening to songs reflecting the plight of the farmers and indigenous peoples.

Upon the invitation of Fr. Tentorio, the group immersed in the community here in the early 1990s. Group members said their community immersion here helped set the direction of Kaliwat as a cultural theater group.

In front of the jampacked parish, Kaliwat opened the tribute with the song “Oya Arakan,” which depicts the journey of the Manobos in this town. “Oya Arakan” the musical was performed by the Kaliwat Theatre Group in the 1990s.

“Oya Arakan” is based on the story of Tuwalang, a Manobo warrior, and Erlinda, a migrant settler. At their wedding, they are gifted with a gunso, the Manobo tribe’s ancient sacred jar, vessel of the Manobo’s heritage and wisdom. Tuwalang was given the task to guard the gunso.

But the migrant settlers grabbed the gunso to try to unearth its secrets and gain power over the tribe. War ensues. And the two peoples-the Bisaya and the Manobo-once united, have now parted ways.

Richard Dian Belar, the group’s artistic director, said the performance is their way of expressing gratitude to Fr. Tentorio, whom they met in one of the forums and  who invited them to visit this town.

The group played 10 songs, which were a combination of their original songs and the songs o  Popong Landero and Gary Granada.

The crowd shed tears when the group played Gary Granda’s “Iisa,” a love song with lyrics about a common dream and a common struggle.

Part of the song sayd: “Ang pangarap mo’y pangarap ko, Ang pasanin mo’y pasanin ko… Ang damdamin mo’y damdamin ko sinta, Ang kalayaan mo’y kalayaan ko… Ang digmaan mo’y digmaan ko… Ang buhay mo at buhay ko’y iisa…” (Your dream is my dream Your struggle is my struggle. Your feelings are my feelings. Your freedom is my freedom. Your war is my war. Your life and my life are one).

Fr. Tentorio was a human rights defender and a known advocate of the indigenous peoples’ rights.

In his two decades of pastoral work in this town, he established day care centers in the hinterlands as well as helped organize the Tinananon-Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa or TIKULPA.

Tikulpa has been active in organizing the Lumad communities and in campaigning against human rights violations in the area, the entry of large-scale plantations and mining.

The Kaliwat performers tried to hold back their tears but some would turn their backs to wipe their tears..

On Friday, four days after his murder, Tentorio’s remains were transferred from the temporary blue casket to the  casket made from the mahogany tree he planted in the 1980s and which he, specifically requested to be used to make his coffin. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)