Davao’s version of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ open for tours

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 July) — The theater production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues (TVM) has been translated into Cebuano and is open for invitations to be shown in the city and other areas from August to October this year.

TVM had a two-day show last June 27-28 at the Philippine Women’s College (PWC) Davao.

Director BJ Absin, who also directed Lualhati Bautista’s Lorena: Ang Monologo between 2000 and 2003, said the TVM production already received invitations to perform in Kidapawan City, Kabacan in North Cotabato and Compostela Valley.

TVM is a collection of monologues performed by different women, portraying anecdotes relating to their vaginas such as sex, rape, and other forms of violence against women and children (VAWC).

Agustin “Don” Pagusara, an award-winning writer and founding member of the Davao Writers Guild, translated the original script into Cebuano. He said there were instances that he had to consider “Davao expressions”.

Asked how many times the word “bilat” (Cebuano for vagina) was mentioned in the entire script, Pagusara said, “Di maihap! (Countless).”

He added: “Pero mas ganahan kos sound sa mga synonyms sama sa bisong. Op kors, segun lang na sa anad. Gadako man gud ta nga bawal i-pronounce kanang pulong (But I like its synonyms such as bisong. Of course, it depends on what you’re used to. We grew up when it’s prohibited to pronounce the word).”

Performing the TVM in Cebuano “was a good starting point in the discussion of colonial mentality,” he said.

There are two meanings of vagina, according to Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan in her speech during the first show on June 27.

She said the first, the literal meaning, pertains to the sex organ, which most parents refer to as “flowers” for girls and “birds” for boys. But the children eventually get confused when they see the real flowers and birds, she added.

Second, Ilagan said, the figurative meaning of vagina represents the women’s womanhood – how a society treats and looks at women, who compose half of the population.

She explained that because of patriarchal and feudal perspective, vagina is being used to oppress and exploit by destroying the personality of a woman through rape, sexual harassment, and in some countries, genital mutilations.

But, such part of her body, which has suffered exploitation by men, the State and imperialists, can be a reason to create a movement for women’s liberation, she continued.

“And that’s why when you mention the word vagina, bisong, puki, that is a way of liberating yourself, at the same time a way of asserting that you’re a woman. We’re women; we’re partners of men; and we have full capacity to attain full liberation,” Ilagan said.

Same view

Mae Fe Templa, vice chairperson of the Women Studies and Resource Center, which produced TVM, said she negotiated with Malou Lopez, the PWC Davao vice president for operations for the venue of the play. She noted that Lopez shares the same view in advancing the cause of women.

“She candidly and gladly agreed to co-sponsor TVM when I presented the twin-purpose: sustain advocacy on VAWC and fund-raising for the rehabilitation of the survivors of typhoons Pablo, Cresing, and Agaton. The WSRC needs a partner to do these twin tasks,” Templa said.

She cited that TVM is a breakthrough as Cebuano edition for having local texts on statistics on VAWC, local audition for emerging theatre artists, and directorial work integrating other forms of art and local poems interpreted with body movements in dance interspersed throughout the play.

“These are elements that made it moving and challenging, making way for a cultural movement to take on another stride in the city,” she added.

Local women leaders who read poems in between the monologues were lawyer Antonet Principe for “Kasalo” by Joi Barrios, Malou Tiangco for “Gahasa” also by Joi Barrios, and Dr. Jean Lindo for “Talaang Digma” by Lorena Barros.

The Vagina Monologues in Cebuano were “Ang Bulbol” (The Pubic hair) narrated by Eloise Batac; “Ang Baha” (The Flood) by Shiela Pacilan and Reeza Veloso- Tigle; “Si Bob” by Florie Mae Tacang; “Ang Pag- agumod” (The Moaning) by Leah Morales Tan; “Ang Gamatoyng Kalachuchi” (The Tiny Calachuchi flower) by Jeofel Socco Carreon and Bea Dehino; and, “Ang Abuso” (The Abuse) by Hochi Benitez.

Tan’s performance of 16 kinds of moans namely tinggil (clitoris), bisong (vagina), tinggil-bisong combo, almost, bullseye, elegant, wasp, American, religious, baby, doggie, militant bisexual, tortured, biritera (belter), kolehiyala (college student) and surprise triple orgasm made the audience erupt into intense laughter.

She said she was inspired by women who were brave enough to express and enjoy their sexuality. “The act of moaning is just a symbol of liberating oneself from patriarchal and oppressive society. Thus, I encourage everyone to moan,” she added.

She learned how to act the different moans from lesbian-themed films and porn movies. “I have to watch them to gather different ideas and I also watched several renditions of the monologue so that I can make my own version,” she explained.

Meanwhile, Absin was surprised by the size of the audience. “I only expected to see 10 people paying for the tickets and watching it, considering that in a staunchly patriarchal society. Women talking of vaginas are in some other places and respectable people shouldn’t be there. But, the crowd went well.

“A lot of people were expecting to see Monique Wilson perform and not a bunch of local women as if local women have a less adept vagina. We have to forgive them. They must have thought vaginas are purely there for entertainment. Thus they need someone from tinsel town to give them their much needed vagina fix,” he said.

He cited that he overheard a conversation between a security guard and a teacher of PWC Davao.

According to him, the teacher asked the guard “Unya kita mo? Bastos? (Have you seen the show? Is it obscene?). The guard replied, “Yes Ma’am, pero masabtan nimo nganong ang babaye gipahimuslan” (Yes, Ma’am, there are obscenities but you will understand why women are oppressed).

“I did not even bother to sell tickets to the teacher, hoping that since she was a woman, she must be able to take cue from a male guard,” Absin told MindaNews. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)