Why “Libulan” isn’t your usual high school thesis

Philippine High School for the Arts student and alumnus explore collaboration

For University of the Philippines Diliman Fine Arts sophomore Wika Nadera, it was a way of giving back to his high school alma mater when he agreed to collaborate with Ren-Ar Padole, a senior high school student from the Philippine High School for the Arts in Los Baños, Laguna. The collaboration was for Padole’s thesis recital.

Unlike the “regular” concept of school, the Philippine High School for the Arts is a public, secular, and non-profit institution established to provide a general secondary level program and a special curriculum rooted in the arts. It is geared to the early recognition and development of highly talented children exceptionally gifted in the arts. It aims to provide a continuing source of artists of excellence and leaders in the preservation and promotion of the Filipino artistic and cultural heritage.

Ren-Ar Padole

“It was an opportunity for us to do our passion project,” Nadera says, since the school encourages its SHS students to explore and collaborate on their final thesis project, in this case the Arts and Design track’s thesis recital. “The photo shoot was just for fun,” Nadera adds, “I had vision for this thesis recital and I wanted to show in the poster.”

The final theme was inspired by the moon god in the Visayan creation myth called, “Libulan.” But some myths associate the deity with the female, making him a gay icon. Libulan’s cult had cross-dressing males who were revered for their power to heal and prophesy. These men were called “Babaylan” and were believed to have the ability to communicate between the physical and spiritual worlds. But when the colonizers came, they were demonized and erased from records of tradition.

Padole explored the queer culture in the Philippines in his Grade 12 thesis recital, LIBULAN: of Quiescence and Disturbance. With the help of schoolmates ranging from Grade 8 to 12 students, who served as dancers, actors, light designers and visual artists,  they started shooting back in January 2019 and posted it on social media in March 2019 in time for the thesis recital.

Libulan dancers (Upper left to lower right) Angel Ramos, Chin De Castro, Sophia Maunahan, Iya Desamero, Zaline Chavez, Lamuel Pulpulaan, Glycel Abatol, Eden Dumas, Nicole Tangalin, Carlo Señeres

Everything was provided for by the students, from fabrics, costumes to accessories.  “I enjoyed the creativity brought by the spontaneity in collaboration. Working with artists from other disciplines taught their diverse ways of problem-solving,” Nadera said.

Nadera explained the reason he shared these photos only now—because this meant a lot for the people behind the production. “It brought a lot of people together. It’s nice to recall things like this especially during these times, where we’re far from each other.  This gave us strength,” Nadera adds. And he hopes that this would lead to more collaborations and innovations among the students of his former school when things get better.

Wika Nadera
Libulan collaborators (Costume, set, and light designers) Rain Balane, Andrea Jaro, King Velasquez, Jet Tan

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