Theater and babies’ lives | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Theater and babies’ lives

“May your work be compelling and original. May it be profound, touching, contemplative and unique. May it help us to reflect on the question of what it means to be human, and may that reflection be blessed with heart, sincerity, candor, and grace. May you overcome adversity, censorship, poverty and nihilism, as many of you will most certainly be obliged to do. May you be blessed with the talent and rigor to teach us about the beating of the human heart in all its complexity, and the humility and curiosity to make it your life’s work. And may the best of you—for it will only be the best of you, and even then only in the rarest and briefest moments—succeed in framing that most basic of questions, ‘How do we live?’ Godspeed.”

That’s the message sent by American actor—and producer, screenwriter, and director—John Malkovich to fellow workers in theater on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of World Theater Day, to be marked on Tuesday, March 27.

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In the Philippines, the occasion was observed the other week in ceremonies spearheaded by the International Theater Institute/Earthsavers Dream Academy headed by the redoubtable Cecile Guidote Alvarez. In a message, Unesco Director General Irina Bokova highlighted “the special role of culture” in these times of environmental challenges and swiftly changing societies. “New approaches to sustainable development will be effective only if they are sensitive to local identities, values and world views—in short, if they put people at their center.”

This is entirely in step with the staging of a “Creativity-Bio-Cultural Diversity Dialogue Workshop for Peace and Sustainable Development” on the occasion of World Theater Day. “We have here all the key words for fostering a dialogue that recognizes the intricate links between biological diversity and cultural diversity, and the role of human creativity for transforming our societies,” noted Bokova.

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Speaking of powerful and moving theater, for the 12th year, V-Day Manila, a benefit performance of the award-winning play “The Vagina Monologues,” goes onstage at the Music Museum on Saturday, March 31.

V-Day Manila is produced by “the socially engaged and provocative theater group” The New Voice Company, to raise funds for Lila Pilipina, an organization of Filipino “comfort women.”

This special one-night performance features stage, screen and recording stars—as well as acclaimed journalists and activists. Leading the cast is “screen legend and film star” (I can just see her raising her eyebrows at such an accolade) Boots Anson-Roa and international singing star Kuh Ledesma. And would V-Day be V-Day without the presence of multimedia actress and director Monique Wilson? After all, it’s Monique who’s provided the fire and the passion the last 12 years to hold V-Day events in the Philippines and around Asia, highlighted by a guesting at

V-Day’s 10th anniversary show in New Orleans, together with other international stars.

Also in the cast are leading ladies of the Philippine stage—Joy Virata, Pinky Amador, Tami Monsod, Juno Henares, Sheila Francisco, Roselyn Perez, Madeleine Nicolas, Gina Wilson and Mae Paner—as well as acclaimed singers—Cynthia Alexander, Leah Navarro and multiawarded actress/singer Aiza Seguerra and actress/host Giselle Toengi. Also featured are the younger generation of rising theater actresses—Angelina Kanapi, Christine Carlos, Ampy Sietereales, Christine Escudero and Angela Padilla, as well as NVC resident actresses Denise Bontogon, April Celmar, Rona Lou San Pedro and Nikki Ventosa. Other special guests include multiawarded actress/writer Bibeth Orteza, celebrated news anchor Ces Drilon, well-known journalist Dolly Anne Carvajal, respected women’s rights activists Anna Leah Sarabia, Edna Aquino, Jamie Tapales-Oakes, Rep. Emmi de Jesus and former Rep. Liza Maza, leading OB-gynecologist Dr. Marlyn Ruaro and Gabriela’s cultural group, Sining Lila.

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Moving on to matters beyond theater, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) last week became the first medical facility in the country to install the low-cost, durable neonatal equipment provided by the Breath of Life (BOL) program of the East Meets West (EMW) Foundation.

The BOL addresses the urgent need to provide “effective treatment for commonly occurring, but potentially life-threatening medical conditions in newborns, such as respiratory distress and jaundice.”

With $80,000 in funding from the Lemelson Foundation, and in collaboration with medical engineering firm Medical Technology Transfer Service and local nonprofit partner Consuelo Foundation, the BOL provides innovatively designed respiratory therapy machines (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP) and phototherapy devices to alleviate infantile jaundice and infant warmers to help preterm babies suffering from hypothermia.

The donation to PGH includes eight CPAP machines, 12 phototherapy machines and 10 infant warmers as well as an infection control system. At PGH, some 2,000 babies are born premature or sick each year, about half of whom are admitted to the Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. In the next year, the BOL equipment will allow PGH to address the needs of at least 1,000 babies at high risk of hypothermia, 150 newborns with immature lungs, and 250 infants with severe neonatal jaundice.

“Our collaboration with EMW is fully in line with our goal of providing the best for the Filipino newborn,” said Dr. Resti Ma. Bautista, a neonatologist at PGH. “With full-scale implementation of the BOL program, we look forward to significantly improving patient services and specialized training in neonatal healthcare at the PGH, as well as targeting relevant research objectives in the field of maternal and child health.”

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TAGS: At Large, health, Hospitals, John Malkovich, opinion, Philippine General Hospital, Rina Jimenez-David, theater, World Theater Day
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