And so it came to pass.
The Manila International Storytelling Festival has folded up yesterday, August 29, 2009 in De La Salle Zobel, Ayala Alabang. As the visiting storytellers finished their performances early last night, I'm positive that they had been treated to Filipino hospitality to its fullest. Participants, on the other hand, witnessed one of the greatest performances on earth. It may sound like the circus, but it is more.
Let me begin with my attendance to the workshop session of Eth-Noh-Tec on body movements in storytelling. I was ten minutes late. Nancy Wang and Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo were winding down on their last routine of the telling. I could tell it was a splendid performance as they blended movement, music and language beautifully into one composition. They had to be the best tandem storytellers in this side of the world!
Their session was a full-bodied participation workshop, meaning, every part of your body - external parts and internal parts - were engaged. In three hours, they covered everything you need to know for an effective performance telling. I loved the group activity best because I gained new friends, I performed, I had fun! Best of all, I got to do the techniques they taught to make my movements when telling stories more energized, cohesive and controlled. I'm expecting a lot form myself after attending their session. My goal now is to eliminate the awkward movements and body language I use and convey when telling. This would mean investing on time for practice. Art is also DISCIPLINE. The skills necessary for storytelling must be honed and polished.
And this is what struck me during the matinee. Except for our local tellers, the visiting foreign tellers displayed a class and sophistication to their telling. They were POLISHED. Indeed, the Filipino's ways and techniques of storytelling still has a long way to go. By saying this would mean challenges for us, Filipino storytellers.
We need to cull out tales from our oral tradition. To tell these tales, one must be true to its cultural, historical and political context. Book based storytelling is great however, there are many elements in our culture which we could still explore to incorporate in our storytelling. Thus, the many techniques we could use -- local props, indigenous materials, songs and rhymes. Research into the history of our people and nation is necessary so that, our stories will be known by a unique Filipino voice. More storytelling sessions and festivals rather than contest! Use Filipino when telling. It helps achieve spontaneity. We're all English Second Language learners. We're bound to make mistakes! And of course, the different sectors concerned in storytelling must be one in the development and advocacy of storytelling in the Philippines.
Filipino storytellers, myself included, are skilled, creative and competent. But we still need to immerse ourselves in our own cultural heritage and history to enrich our telling. The techniques will follow. First, we need to put up content and substance in our stories so that we could tell them with justice.