Performing Heritage / The Intramuros Project (The Project Brief)

On 1 April 2019, the project “Performing Heritage/The Intramuros Project” commenced.

Funded by the University of the Philippines Diliman Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development, the project is both an ethnographic study and a performance of ethnographic data about cultural heritage development. The goal is to problematize the concept of heritage via a devised performance manuscript / text (performance writing) vis-à-vis the Old Manila or Intramuros. 

The proposed performance manuscript will be based on the narratives of the stakeholders of the walled city – the government employees, tricycle or pedicab or kalesa drivers, tour guides, students, and even the informal settlers who, in one way or another, contribute to the development of the space by being part of the workforce and are witnesses to how the city has been progressing and even decaying.

The Research Team preparing for fieldwork (Photo: The UP Diliman Intramuros Project)
The Research Team and a Kalesa Driver posing with Papa P, the galant horse of Intramuros (Photo: The UP Diliman Intramuros Project)
The Research Team listening to the narratives of some informants (Photo: The UP Diliman Intramuros Project)
Listening to an informant (Photo: The UP Diliman Intramuros Project)

Following the traditions of performance-as-research and performance ethnography, the project is envisioned to engage all stakeholders into conversations regarding cultural development and cultural heritage in more inclusive and holistic purviews. The project is built upon the premise that heritage discourse often marginalizes some stakeholders: the locals and the residents, who are the backbones of the city’s development. Generally, the project aims to utilize performance ethnography and performance-as-research to engage local communities and stakeholders in creating a future for the area that benefits everyone. 

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES OF THE PROJECT. The project goal is to problematize heritage via a devised performance manuscript vis-à-vis the Old Manila/Intramuros. The specific objectives are: (1) reflect narratives of various stakeholders in Intramuros in relation to cultural heritage and cultural development; (2) eimagine these narratives as intervening spaces between the past and the present; (3) Engage in performance-as-research and performance ethnography modes of inquiry in the creation of narratives; and (4) Embody the narratives through a performance reading of the collected ethnographic data from the performance ethnography conducted.

BRIEF THEORETICAL AND CONCEPTUAL NOTES. A devised performance manuscript about heritage and cultural development vis-à-vis the Old Manila or Intramuros will be read theatrically. The devise is framed within the tradition of Moises Kaufman’s intermarriage of form and content in devising performance ethnography .

The performance manuscript to be devised is based on the narratives of the informants (stakeholders of the city mentioned above). As the performance manuscript is workshopped, the collaborators (dramaturg-devisors) will keep in mind that the performance manuscript is envisioned to engage the state (i.e. Tourism Department and Local Government Unit) and the administrators (i.e. Intramuros Administration) into conversations and dialogues regarding cultural development and heritage in more inclusive and holistic purviews.

The majestic Manila Cathedral (Photo: The UP Intramuros Project)
The statue of Jose Rizal at the ruins of the Fort Santiago (Photo: The UP Diliman Intramuros Project)
Plaza San Luis Complex inside Intramuros (Photo: The UP Diliman Intramuros Project)
A soon-to-be-developed arts and culture hub called Maestranza (Photo: The UP Diliman Intramuros Project)
A street inside the Walled City (Photo: The UP Diliman Intramuros Project)

BRIEF METHODOLOGICAL NOTES. Any ethnographic study is a representation of a group of people. However, representation has ethical consequences. We have been representing a group of people in one way or another through story-telling and other modes of communication. The problem: representation may sometimes be editorialized, spectacularized and even hyperbolized to suit a particular agenda not necessarily beneficial to the community being represented.

Performance Studies scholar Dwight Conquergood reminds us that doing critical ethnography is a dialogue with others – a recognition that subjectivity is not only about subject position but also about one’s relationship with others. Critical ethnography, as defined by Soyina Madison, another performance scholar “is the meeting of multiple sides in an encounter with and among others, one in which there is a negotiation and dialogue toward substantial and viable meanings that made a difference in other’s worlds.” In this way, the diologic stance of critical ethnography refuses any totalizing generalization and conclusion because the ethnographer is situated in multitude expressions that transgress, collide and embellish realms of meaning. Ethnographic representation is about agreement and disagreement, difference and similarity, separation and coming together. 

Based on how Madison and Conquergood conceive critical ethnography, the following will be conducted: 

  • Identify our (the dramaturg-devisors) position. It is also useful here to identify our agenda: to come up with a performance text about the community’s conception of heritage. 
  • Participate in the interpretative community. 
  • Bracket our subject. In philosophical sense, do phenomenology or an intellectual activity where we have to put aside all scientific, philosophical and cultural assumptions labeled at the subject. 
  • Prepare field encounter. First, it is important that the community becomes aware of our presence. We have to let them know our purpose especially since we are outsiders trying to navigate their structural systems. 
  • Go to the field. Engage in conversations – in dialogues. Our role is to collect narratives and eventually to entangle the stories the community members tell into a performance devise. 
  • Go back to the assumptions pushed aside. Do a synoptic reading to comprehensively paint a complete picture of the subject. 

 After conducting ethnographic work, devising the performance is the next step. The key to this method is dramaturgical collaboration  via Kaufman’s moment work. The performance manuscript is developed during a designated time span of discussion, debates, experimentations, improvisations among all participating devisors / collaborators. The participating dramaturg-devisors will begin to mark what are needed to keep, cut and if applicable rephrase some words from the ethnographic narratives. It is also within this period, where participants place sequences, scenes and even beats in the performance manuscript.  

PEOPLE. Sir Anril P. Tiatco (Project Leader), Davidson G. Oliveros and Michael Bernal (Study Leader), James Luigi Tana and Hannah Villaflores (Research/Graduate Assistants), Dolly Dolot and Ian Ramirez (Field Researchers), Chris Abecia, Dyastin Adarlo, Camillo de Guzman and Aina Ramolete (Student Assistants).

The Research Team (Clockwise: Hannah Villaflores, Aina Ramolete, Chris Abecio, Ian Ramirez, Davidson Oliveros, Mr. Yap, Sir Anril Tiatco, Michael Bernal, Dyastin Adarlo, Dolly Dolot and James Luigi Tana) with Mr. Jeff Yap of the Intramuros Administration taken at the Fort Santiago during the fieldwork (Photo: The UP Diliman Intramuros Project)

For inquiries about the project: sptiatco@up.edu.ph

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