Cabaret stages act of protest to Philippines anti-terrorism law
Filipinx performers press for recognition of marginalized communities
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/08/2020 (1014 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
On July 3, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law new powers to target terrorism. The law’s ramifications have many people from the country’s diaspora concerned, and Winnipeggers are taking to the stage in celebration of their culture and in protest of the new anti-terrorism legislation.
A Filipinx Cabaret, produced by 23-year-old performer and activist Kristina Guevarra is a cabaret billed as a night of comedy, song and performance by the Filipinx — a word devised to avoid the gendered term “Filipino” — diaspora inspired by the motherland.
She was motivated to create tonight’s event in response to the new law, which she says is “very strict but very vague.”
“The bill is a major human-rights violation,” Guevarra says, “because it condemns anyone who criticizes the government.”
The event lineup features pole dancers, singers, drag performers, break dancers and live DJing by Maribeth Tabanera, who is also a street dancer and an educator at Seven Oaks School Division and goes by the performer name Kilusan, a Tagalog word with two meanings: “campaign” and “move.”
“We’re occupying space,” says Tabanera of marginalized communities in Winnipeg, “and now with everything that is happening in the world, people are becoming more awakened to the things that they need to do in terms of their practice and how they run organizations and businesses and move forward in an authentic and meaningful way that is based on relationships and not tokenization.”
For Tabanera, taking the stage in this moment is important because many spaces where marginalized people go to find community — such as nightclubs — remain closed while spaces that serve other communities — such as golf courses — were among the first to be allowed to reopen.
“That’s concerning to me because it shows me that people don’t understand the importance of these spaces.”
Lady Fortuna is just one of the performers who will be reclaiming some space onstage at the cabaret, the proceeds of which will be donated to Diaspora Against Dictatorship. The 24-year-old describes herself as “a classy drag queen who holds herself very beautifully.”
“She has a regal sense to her, but at the same time doesn’t take herself too seriously and likes to have a lot of fun,” she says. “She might seem put together on the outside, but on the inside she’s a total mess.”
Lady Fortuna has been performing for over a year, making her debut in March 2019 as part of a showcase for a drag class at Prairie Theatre Exchange, where she learned about stage presence, drag history and drag culture.
“Going from being yourself to being totally opposite is very fun to me,” she says of the transformative elements of drag. “You are this character, but this character is someone that is inside me that doesn’t usually come out.”
For Lady Fortuna, performance is all about bringing joy to others.
“I have a great feeling when someone comes up to me and tells me they enjoyed my look or my show.”
Uniting Filipinx artists from different artistic backgrounds is important work for Guevarra.
“Being part of the diaspora, it’s really natural for us to feel separate from each other,” she says. “I think it’s the perfect time now, because of what’s going on in the motherland, to come together.”
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Frances Koncan (she/her) is a writer, theatre director, and failed musician of mixed Anishinaabe and Slovene descent. Originally from Couchiching First Nation, she is now based in Treaty 1 Territory right here in Winnipeg, Manitoba.