- Places for Happiness: Community, Self, and Performance in the Philippines by William Peterson
Places for Happiness: Community, Self, and Performance in the Philippines
Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2016. 209 pages.
William Peterson works as senior lecturer at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. He is a former director of the Centre for Theater and Performance, Monash University. His major works on performance are, among others, Theatre and the Politics of Culture in Contemporary Singapore (Wesleyan University Press, 2001); "Performing Indigeneity in the Cordillera: Dance, Community, and Power in the Highlands of Luzon" (Asian Theatre Journal, 2010:246–68); and "Discipline and Pleasure: Dancing Inmates in Cebu's Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center" (About Performance, 2012:41–62).
Peterson's latest work comes as a very much welcomed empirically based addition to the body of scholarship on Philippine performance. Much of the scholarship in this field tends toward descriptive, interpretative, and historical approaches while focusing on specific performance forms or traditions. Peterson's work decidedly goes the other way by linking performance to identity formation, the creation of meaningful or meaning-imbued sense of place, and the very human pursuit of individual and collective happiness. He pursues these linkages not only through a thorough review of literature on Philippine culture and performance, but also and more importantly through insightful observations gleaned from regular visits to the field.
From the point of view of Philippine studies grounded on the concepts from the field, Peterson's introduction to his inquiry rightly includes, among others, Virgilio Enriquez's notion of kapwa, which encapsulates Philippine identity as a "unity of the 'self' and 'others'" (11). Kapwa as a concept can indeed explain many Philippine values and their behavioral correlates that may very well be observed in performative events such as rituals and festivals. As seen in many Philippine ritual-festivals, such as that of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo, Manila, or the Peñafrancia of Naga City, there is a Filipino propensity to come together regularly in extremely dire conditions to pursue potentially dangerous ritual acts. Such collective action that reconstitutes self-in-community, which is well illustrated in Peterson's work, can be said to convincingly stem from this conception of self. Augmenting the concept of kapwa, he uses F. Landa Jocano's notion of kalooban (interiority), which includes "the inner dimensions of personal consciousness that combines the [End Page 403] perceptions, the mental state and the emotional well-being of a person visà-vis the situation or condition within which interaction is carried out or about to take place" (97). One external expression of kalooban is found in "dama (perception through intuitive feel)," which in turn is operationalized through "the actual practice or compassion" or damay (106). Among lowland Christian communities, damay is a most important concept in understanding the whys and wherefores of the panata (oath), which propels many to embark on acts of self-sacrifice during Holy Week, linking the suffering of Christ to that of self and others. The panata, therefore, integrates the person's loob (interior) with the labas (exterior) through performance.
From a discussion of Philippine perceptions of self, Peterson proceeds to present a "bayan action model." This model constitutes his most significant contribution to theory building in the field of performance studies as presented in this tome. It operationalizes the "relational" aspects of Filipino identity in the conceptualizations of "bayan as people," "bayan as place," "bayan as nation," and "bayan as cultural imaginary'" (174–79). "Bayan as people," which may be understood as the totality of individuals who self-identify with or who are ascribed the label of "Filipino," constitutes the encompassing sphere in Peterson's visual representation of this model. The three others constitute smaller interlocking spheres located at the center of the larger encompassing one. "Bayan as place" refers to the "physical space of the archipelago" as well as to the smaller-than-the-nation communities that "self-define by location, religion, shared cultural practices" (174) and others. "Bayan as nation" refers to that network of constructed loyalties or to those who have invested in the project of the nation or national formation itself. "Bayan as cultural...