“Buto/Buto: Bones are Seeds”: Play reconstructs life of Ben Flores, the first Filipino to settle in Canada

Vancouver, B.C.

Filipinos arrived in Canada in the 19th century

Charmaine Janis Rodriguez
An original play with an all Southeast Asian cast and crew will tell the story of how the first Filipinos settled in Canada in the 19th century. It  will take centre stage at the Russian Hall in Vancouver on July 28-31, 2022.

“Buto/Buto: Bones are Seeds” is a community-devised theatre performance based on stories and poetry from the Vancouver’s Filipino-Canadian community.

It reconstructs the life of Benson Flores, one of the first Filipinos who lived on Bowen Island, BC in the late 19th century.

An article written by Filipino-Canadian journalist Joseph Lopez about Ben sparked interest for the project and it will be based on the 1791 Malaspina Expedition.

However, it will also explore the contemporary migration stories and more through “different modes of storytelling and performance, these narratives—inspired by Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal—speak to where we’re from, where we are, and where we’re going,” according to event’s Facebook page.

Directed by Filipino-Canadian Dennis Gupa, the production is “an ode to the resilience of the community, filling its longing for home with Rizal’s legacy: love for the community, land, and their original country of birth.”

The cast and crew come diverse disciplines and will perform dramatic scenes of poetry, live music, original songs, choreography, costume, multimedia, and pageantry emblematic of Philippine traditional theatre forms (Kundiman, Pasyon, dula-tula, and oyayi) curated by the best emerging and professional artistic talents working in the Filipino community today.

“As immigrants with a heritage rooted to lands elsewhere, the storytelling has been called ‘cerebral’ as it jumps entire eras and oceans. The text is a circuitous and ebbing memory of arrival, transit, and the specter of departures based on texts that were collectively created by community members in a year-long creative process,” it added.

The text is curated by Karla Comanda, Christopher Nasaire, and Marc Perez who are prominent poets and writers from the Filipino-Canadian community.

Professional theatre actors including Alvin Tolentino (choreography), Noreen Sajolan (set and lights), Mirabel De Guzman (costume), Thai-Hoa Le (dramaturgy), Allen Baylosis (dramaturgy), Jeremiah Carag (voice coach), Eri Kikuchi (music/sound design), JR Guerrero (musician), Ted Ngkaion (actor), Abi Padilla (performer) and Anjela Magpantay (performer) collaborated with community members to build this devised theatre piece.

The play is in partnership with the National Pilipino Canadian Cultural Center (NPC3), and the Southeast Asian Cultural Heritage Society (SEACHS), with special participation of Anyone Can Act Theatre (ACAT).

The group credits Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, the City of Vancouver, and community donors for their support.

“For members of our community, this performance is a nod to well-understood and documented shared experiences, and for those who are not, this performance is an inside look into our village, our barangay, through the eyes of those who experience it every day. Welcome to the barangay of Vancouver,” it added.

The shows run from July 28-31 at Russian Hall, 600 Campbell Ave., Vancouver, Canada.

General Admission is $25 while senior citizens and students get a discounted ticket of $15.

For inquiries and reservations, one may contact butobuto@npc3.ca.

Preview: July 27. Doors 7:00 PM, Show 7:30.
Opening Night: July 28. Doors 7:00, Show 7:30.
Show 1: July 29. Doors 7:00, Show 7:30.
Show 2: July 30. Doors 7:00, Show 7:30.
Closing Show: July 31. Doors 2:30, Show 3:00.


Tickets can be purchased at: linktr.ee/npc3                                           Facebook event page: fb.me/e/1LuwgzBQi

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