PETA's 52nd Season-Ender Acts on the HIV Epidemic
by Jace Amodo, October 25, 2019 11:53am
Art by Dani Elevazo. Photo from PETA Theater Center
Even in 2019, the "HIV" acronym continues to strike fear among Filipinos. People living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (PLHIV) have been in hiding for a long time, mainly because of their fear of the stigma and discrimination.
Being a marquee spot for tackling topics of national concern through arts, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) partners with advocacy organizations actively spreading awareness on the HIV epidemic. Together and stronger, PETA, The Red Whistle, and LoveYouself, Inc. launch the Acting on HIV Campaign with Rody Vera's anthology drama, Under My Skin.
Under My Skin
Written by Rody Vera (Ang Unang Aswang) and directed by Melvin Lee, Under My Skin is a culmination of various, real stories of PLHIV.
The characters consist of an HIV-positive teen, a mother who innocently transmitted the virus to her son, a gay beauty parlor employee constantly discriminated at work, and more. Dr. Gemma Almonte, an epidemiologist at the Department of Health specializing in the HIV epidemic in the Philippines, is running out of time as the HIV-related cases increases. Her only hope is a change in public perception, an increase in compassion, and a society afflicted not with ignorance and prejudice, but with compassion and understanding.
This isn't the first advocacy-fueled play PETA ran. There was the political parody in Trumperte, the imagining of the perfect Philippines in Charot, the immortalization of the Ondoy crisis in Rak of Aegis, among others. Taboos tackled and barriers broken, Under My Skin is a hard-to-miss play. What's more, Under My Skin also serves as PETA's 52nd Season-ender.
The "Acting on HIV" Campaign doesn't end with the front lining play. Talkback sessions with the cast members, artistic team, and HIV experts will create a safe space for audiences to unearth some of their thoughts on HIV-AIDS.
Clinics in Manila that provide free HIV consultations are proof that although we still have a long way to go, we have come so far. The free HIV screening component of the campaign will be available to the audience at the theater space before and after every performance.
Shape the young minds for the sake of our future, they say; shape, the campaign will. Young people are encouraged to join an 8-hour workshop aimed to pass on knowledge towards HIV-AIDS advocacy and to create a culture of appropriate messaging and communications. There will be a myriad of arts activities such as music, dance, visual arts, creative writing, drama, and group games.
The photo exhibit aims to send the message: "PLHIV are worthy of love." And it's true, they're just as human as everyone else. For this component, Project Headshot Clinic, a breakthrough concept that merges social media and advertising and has been around for 12 years, was tapped.
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“Nasa DNA ng PETA that we cannot work alone. We always work with partners. So for this (Acting on HIV) campaign, we sought the partnership of Love Yourself and Red Whistle.. kasi mayaman yung karanasan nila, yung technical expertise nila on the subject of HIV” - Cecilia Garrucho, PETA President on PETA’s creative campaign from December 2019-March 2020 dubbed as “Acting on HIV” #PETATheater
We can't deny how powerful social media is in delivering a message and in uniting people with a commonality. The "Ready, Set, Connect" segment will conduct an online EduSeries, ranging from HIV-AIDS 101 to debunking myths and misconceptions to sharing real PLHIV stories.
Let's be honest. Many Filipinos can be unbecoming towards HIV topic. But often, it only takes one effective guide to influence others until a domino effect takes place. "Acting on HIV" is a platform where the traditional front is nowhere near, an opportunity where we can promote empathy and inclusion for PLHIV, together and stronger.