“Charot!” Talks About Charter Change and Elections, Urges Voters to be “Choosy”

News03.04.2019
Charot! cast on stage
Charot! cast on stageFNF Philippines

With the ongoing debates on charter change (cha-cha) and campaigns for mid-term elections in full throttle, how does one cruise through a sea of information? How do people make informed decisions? How can Filipinos exercise their constitutional powers as citizens?

“Charot!”

The Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (PETA) actors answered in high-pitched and spirited choral blend.

Supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), this musical satire tackles the highly-debated Charter Change and Federalism in the Philippines. It also touches on different issues surrounding the upcoming elections in May 2019.

Maribel Legarda, Director of Charot!
Maribel Legarda, Director of Charot!FNF Philippines

Director Maribel Legarda said: “In principle, Federalism is a good thing, but the question is: Is now a good time given the condition of our politics: political dynasties, corruption, the amount of money it would cost? Should we do it now? This is generational in effect so we should care. Later on down the line, kung mas maayos ang government [when the government is better] and when we’re ready, then why not. But not now, we’re not yet ready, therefore [there’s Charot].” 

FNF Head of Country, Wolfgang Heinze said that a huge part of FNF’s aim is to widen and stimulate citizen’s engagement in political discourses. One of the ways by which FNF can achieve this is through modern and unconventional means of connecting to the public.

“As FNF we are always happy to find new and innovative ways to have a discussion on what is going on in the Philippines, and hear different sides to these discussions,” Mr. Heinze said.

One of the members of the audience Melissa Gonzalez, a private school educator, shared her impression about the play, “Charot is able to inform the audience about legislations, policies and burning national issues in a light and extremely entertaining way. While we laugh our hearts out, we were actively asking questions in our heads about the choices that we need to make as citizens.”

Scene from Charot!
Scene from Charot!FNF Philippines

“Comedy is subversion”

At the heart of “Charot”, a Filipino slang term that equates to “just kidding”, is its advocacy to inform in a funny and interactive manner. 

Legarda said that the commitment to develop “thoughtful entertainment” inspires them to create pieces such as this. For PETA, it is important to mirror stories of real people, present them in an entertaining way and allow these narratives to evolve into a platform that creates the possibility of reflection, discussion and action.

“Comedy and music for advocacy plays provide a space of whimsy and light heartedness that allows us to examine, confront and interrogate grand narratives and complex issues,” Legarda said. 

She believes that despite the funny lines and antics in the play, “comedy is subversion, and it can be a powerful tool to expose harsh realities.”

J-mee Katanyag and Michelle Ngu, writers of Charot!
J-mee Katanyag and Michelle Ngu, writers of Charot!FNF Philippines

The two young playwrights of Charot, Michelle Ngu and J-mee Katanyag, hope that this show would promote critical thinking among young Filipinos.

“We wanted to play around with the famous Filipino trait of being cheerful even in face of difficult situations - but we also want to know when do Filipinos realize that things are not funny anymore,” said Michelle.

J-mee hopes that Charot will push the current generation to look at the current state of governance and be critical about the things that don’t work. They also want youth to appreciate the values of democracy, and how taking them for granted could haveserious consequences.  

“We hope that as we laugh, we also think about solving the perennial problems that stifle progress in our country: corruption, false truths, poverty, calamities, political dynasties, etcetera,” Katanyag said.

Charot! cast encourages the audience to vote!
Charot! cast encourages the audience to vote!FNF Philippines

People Power and Tech Steer a Nation’s Story

“More than the intention to inform about charter change and federalism, the play underscores what it truly means to participate in a democracy,” Legarda said.  

What better time and place to practice democracy than in the theater itself! Audiences were given the responsibility and power to steer the direction of the story by exercising the power of their choice.

Charot incorporates technology through the use of the Mentimeter interactive software, a real-time digital polling tool that engages the audience with survey questions — from choosing which current events and issues they care about, to deciding the fate of the characters in the story.  

“PETA’s Charot! is a clear example of thinking outside the box,” wrote Dorynna Untivero in her review for The Philippine Tatler magazine. Untivero commends the show’s “fresh use of technology”.

Always Be ‘Choosy’

Ngu said that the more urgent task is to vote wisely on May 13. 

One of crowd’s favourite song in the play, “Choosy”, encouraged the audience to think about what they value collectively and as individuals, when they cast their votes. It goes:

Anong paninindigan mo (What is your stand?)

Kaya always be choo(6x) choosy (So always choose wisely)

Bawat piliin mo, kita ang iyong pagkatao (your choice reflects your character)

“Mas mahalagang makilahok at bantayan ang boto sa eleksyon (it is more important to participate and monitor the vote in the elections),” said Ngu. 

Ngu emphasised the power of each vote they will cast. She said that while Charot can be a tool for people to discern and think critically, their actions after watching the show will determine if their serious about their commitment to change their country for the better.

After the play, audience participates in the discussion
After the play, audience participates in the discussionFNF Philippines

“The politicians we shall allow to lead us will largely determine the course of our country. Will they push for charter change? Will they allow political dynasties? Will they put our taxes to good use,” said Jiggy Calucag, a youth leader who watched Charot’s gala show. 

During the talkback, most comments and questions came from teachers and students from Batangas State University, Assumption College and Bulacan State University. They were clamouring for a show extension and for a tour around the Philippines.

“We need shows like Charot. We hope more Filipinos will be able to learn and laugh and be moved by the high-caliber story and performance of this PETA production,” said a member of the audience during the talkback session.

Charot is the season ender show of PETA’s Stage of the Nation theater season. It ran from 8 February to 17 March 2019 at the PETA Theater Center. 

Charot’s curtain may have closed for the time being, now what?