When children think of puppetry, their first thought might be of the jolly characters from The Muppets and Sesame Street with bright colors, fuzzy fur, and comically large eyes. But for kids in the Philippines, they need not look too far to find that we have puppets of our own telling distinct Filipino stories too. Instead of felt paper, foam, or cloth, they are carved from Philippine wood and last for many generations.
One of the first puppet theater companies in the country is the Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas, born out of the late National Artist Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio’s realization that her daughter needed to grow up with more of our own culture’s stories. "Mulat” means to open or to awaken. The company today aims to bring to light the beauty of Asian culture to the younger generations.
There has been a lull in stage and theater performances in the past years, but the Teatrong Mulat will be bringing their puppets to life once again as they mount their Papet Pasyon performance in the Metropolitan Manila Theater this March 31. In the spirit of keeping this tradition alive, their performance is free to watch for the public.
This will be the 39th year that the show will be on stage but Aina Ramolete, granddaughter of Amelia Bonifacio and the theater’s current Associate Artistic Director, believes that the group still has more to experience: “There still are a lot of firsts left for [the company!] First time sa MET ipapalabas ang show. First time after three years magpeperform ulit kami ng live. First time ko rin hindi maririnig si [Lola Amel] na iopen yung show, pero siyempre first time din niya mapapanood ito ng buo from up there.”
It will also be the first time that the company will perform the piece thrice in one day. Interested guests can reserve tickets for their shows at 10:00 AM, 2:30 PM, and 7:00 PM
Puppetry is not just a hobby for Aina, it is a family tradition close to her heart. This is what she grew up with when she was young herself. Now, she and the rest of the company’s puppeteers are driven by this hope that Filipino children can grow up with classic Filipino values and stories that are closer to home.
There is a lot of excitement and pride behind the company’s return to the stage. In a series of Instagram stories, Aina shares, “This is our puppet tradition. And this is what I hope to show everybody including the world that we have this, it’s in its 39th year, and yes, we’re still very much here. I promise to bring so much more to the table in the future.”
Tickets for the Papet Pasyon are still available and can be reserved through links in the Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas’ Facebook page.