Neslie Carol Tan1
1University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
This presentation explores how Deaf advocacy is promoted in the Philippines through a dance musical entitled “Ding, Ang Bato!” (“Ding, [Give me] the Stone!”) staged by De La Salle-Benilde Arts and Culture Cluster and School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies in 2018. Drawing on live performance observations, online reviews, and interviews with key Deaf performers and choreographers/Filipino Sign Language (FSL) coaches, I will discuss how this particular adaptation of Darna, our local Wonder Woman, celebrated Deaf culture as a legitimate linguistic and cultural minority, and not as a disability. The deliberate consideration of Deaf culture is illustrated in three key points: First, its narrative shift in perspective highlighted the sidekick Ding (imagined Deaf in this version) instead of the superheroine, thereby opening up rich potentials of witnessing Darna’s battles differently and inserting messages of diversity. Second, the production’s inclusive casting and direction generated a productive process of creative adjustments, displaying learnings from initial lapses. Third, its inventive use of Deaf Theatre aesthetics not only introduced an immersive experience for hearing and Deaf audiences, but also powerfully demonstrated the creative and communicative functions of FSL (at a time when the FSL Bill was being reviewed by legislators). Combined, these efforts exhibit an optimistic case of shifting inequalities in disability representations and perspectives, as well as respecting linguistic diversities, in the Philippines.
Neslie Carol Tan is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne (English and Theatre Studies). Her current PhD research project, which is funded by the Melbourne Research Scholarship and the Faculty of Arts-Dean’s PhD International Scholarship, focuses on disability performances in various cultural locations in the Philippines.