January 22, 2009

Themes of Friendship and Sacrifice, Not Prejudice, Come through Shakespeare Play

December 11, 2008 LAOAG CITY - High-school student Sharmaine Mata was among more than 1,000 people laughing and chattering as they watched William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice staged in Filipino at a local college.

The 15-year-old Santa Rosa Academy student was filled with "excitement" and "curiosity," she said, because it was her first time to watch a live play.

Laoag, the capital of Ilocos Norte province, is 340 kilometers north of Manila.

Mata remembered vividly the character Antonio, who was willing to "sacrifice his life" to help his friend, Bassanio, who needed a large sum of money. Antonio was able to borrow the money for him from Shylock, a greedy moneylender, by agreeing to give a pound of flesh if he failed to pay it back.

Fellow student Jan-Jan Decano, 14, another person UCA News interviewed in connection with the play, was also impressed by Antonio's commitment to his friend. The boy told UCA News it was hard for him "to imagine someone would sacrifice his life just to help out a friend."

Actors' Repertory Theater staged the play on Nov. 29 at Ilocos Norte Centennial Arena in Laoag City, in collaboration with local tourism and education officials. The Manila-based theater group has been touring cities and towns outside the national capital region to promote appreciation of Filipino culture and Christian values through stage plays.

Group member Don Umali said he hopes students in areas where the medium is not popular will deepen their appreciation of theater arts.

The Merchant of Venice, written in the late 1590s, has stirred debate over the Jewish identity of its villain, Shylock. The U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League provides on its website (www.adl.org) a discussion guide for educators on anti-Semitism and The Merchant of Venice. The website says the league seeks to stop defamation of the Jewish people, and secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike.

However, Father Joel Castillo, superintendent for Catholic schools in Laoag diocese, noted that the local audience found the nature of the characters "more important" than their religion and did not express any prejudice."

In Ilocos Norte, people of all religions live in harmony and without prejudice," the school superintendent said on Dec. 11.

Laoag diocese serves Ilocos Norte province. Roughly 67 percent of 658,454 people are Catholics, according to the 2005 Catholic Directory of the Philippines. Most of the rest are other Christians.

Santa Rosa English teacher Mercy Reyes told UCA News teachers appreciated The Merchant of Venice as well. She said it showed students values "we have been teaching them in the classroom."

According to provincial education department records, there are about 20,000 high-school students in Ilocos Norte.

Catholic schools require students to take Christian Life Education where values are taught. The public high-school curriculum integrates values education in Filipino, English literature and other subjects.

On Dec. 8, Father Nolasco Pacua Jr., Laoag's catechetical director, told UCA News each parish provides optional weekly catechism classes for students in public elementary and high schools in their area that have values formation in their curriculum.

The director said about 140 catechists teach 15,000 students.

by Leilani Adriano, UCAN News

No comments:

Post a Comment