After 50 years, Balintataw marches on

Amadís Ma. Guerrero - The Philippine Star
After 50 years, Balintataw marches on

MANILA, Philippines - PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) and Repertory Philippines are not the only cultural organizations celebrating their 50th anniversary, there’s Balintataw, the TV (and now radio) drama   which was created by Cecile Guidote (Alvarez) at about the same time she founded PETA on April 7, 1967.

Thus, while PETA was making waves on the theater front, Balintataw invaded the mass market, so to speak, also bent on educating and entertaining bigger audiences with stories taken from literature and literary drama.

Recalling those exciting years, PETA president CB Garrucho said: “After a while, writers such as Malou Jacob and Frank Rivera started to write their stories and were featured by Cecile. The director then was Lupita Aquino (Kashiwahara). So Balintataw became a training ground for writers and directors like Soxie Topacio, Joel Lamangan, even Lino Brocka.”

“And Lav Diaz,” Cecile puts in herself.

Soon movie stars came into the picture, lending glamour to the project. Recalls Cecile: “Lolita Rodriguez, Rita Gomez, Vic Silayan, Robert Arevalo, Dante Rivero, Veronica Palileo, Leopoldo Salcedo, Rosa Rosal, Nora Aunor, Suzette Ranillo, Bert Marcelo and Cachupoy participated for the enhancement of their acting skills and to popularize the theater with the masses.”

She adds, “Balintataw was the bridge between the cinema and the stage. It was a magnet for an audience development program…”

After 25 years, it was becoming too expensive to sustain the TV shows and so Balintataw transferred to DZRM, becoming a radio-novela, a classy soap opera as in abangan ang susunod na kabanata. And it has been there ever since, and may be heard every night from Monday to Friday, 11:30 p.m. to 12 midnight.

“It’s drama, entertainment, cultural and educational at the same time,” says the PETA founder. “We have lots of talents from the schools and from theater.”

Balintataw is strong on environmental and historical soap operas, like the impact of air pollution on health and the lives of heroes like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and Gregoria de Jesus. The newest play by Batang Mujahedin is about child royals, and it is an appeal for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims. There have also been dramatized stories by National Artists Nick Joaquin and Alejandro Roces.

“We are always winning Aliw Awards and we have been featured on CNN,” says Cecile. “The OFWs, the Fil-Americans access us for their children na hindi marunong ng (don’t speak) Tagalog, Even the British din, they appreciate us. For them it’s a course on being acquainted with the language. Taxi drivers nakikinig (listen), even those in the boondocks. We are hitting millions, that why we have staying power. The problem is that there are few sponsors.”

Be that as it may, Balintataw marches on, then and now winning many awards, and educating and entertaining the madlang people.

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