Word by: Andrea Sangco
Photos by: Joselle Reyes
Together with The Red Whistle and LoveYourself, The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) uses art to humanize and give light to the HIV issue, which has always been a taboo matter in our society. Their new production, Under my Skin’s profound take on the HIV epidemic in the Philippines emphasized open-mindedness as the key to breaking the stigma inflicted upon People Living with HIV (PLHIV).
Dr. Gemma Almonte and Syd discuss the ways HIV is transmitted.
PETA’s success in tackling sensitive topics through theater made it a stepping stone for educational and advocacy art. Indeed, art plays an imperative role in bridging people in the midst of crisis by evoking feelings of emotion and providing enlightenment to audiences. “Theater has the ability to move people to understand the issue more. We need to shift perspectives around HIV-related stigma and change attitudes towards our sexual health,” says The Red Whistle president Benedict Barnabe.
PETA Advocates HIV Awareness with Under my Skin.
As part of its creative campaign “Acting on HIV”, PETA ends its 52nd Theater Season with Rody Vera’s Under my Skin, a provocative and relevant drama anthology about the stigma surrounding the HIV epidemic in the Philippines. The play is directed by Gawad Buhay! Awards Nominee Melvin Lee who claims that the production is quite personal to him not only because of the alarming issue of HIV, but also because he has loved ones who are living with the virus.
The story revolves around Dr. Gemma Almonte, an epidemiologist at the Department of Health who studies the spread of HIV in the Philippines. She changed the definition of “gay” people into “men who have sex with men” as the government continues to deny their existing sexuality. Her research shows that there was a 90% increase in the number of HIV cases among men who had sex with men together with the rise of mother-to-child transmission.
Dino’s confrontation with his mother.
Some of the cases Dr. Almonte encountered included that of Dino, a gaming player who found out that he was infected by HIV through his contraction of tuberculosis. Next was the story of Mary Rose, whose son had an HIV-related gastrointestinal infection. It turns out that she has contracted it from her husband and passed it down to their children. The last story was about a gay beauty parlor employee who was suffering from discrimination from work.
Here’s why you should watch it.
Under my Skin accurately depicts the realities, fears, struggles and hopes of people living with HIV and how it is significantly related to issues concerning sexuality, acceptance, and tolerance. It is inspired by real people and events and aims to debunk myths and misconceptions about the disease to eradicate the stigma around PLHIV as part of the Acting on HIV campaign.
Jonathan and Greg’s intimate moment at the bar.
The drama-anthology draws attention to how the disease is transmitted and to how HIV isn’t really life’s dead end. It has brilliantly incorporated science, art, and advocacy through its empathetic and holistic approach to realistically project the discrimination, prejudice and internal turmoil experienced by PLHIV. It has successfully broken barriers and tackled HIV to educate, inform and enlighten people of this alarming epidemic through art.
The lack of education and the stigma revolving around the issue is said to be the true culprit of the worsening cases of HIV in the country. UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Louie Ocampo adds that “HIV can destroy the body’s immunity, but not the spirit of the community”.
The stage drama features stellar theater actresses Cherry Pie Picache and Roselyn Perez who share the role of Dr. Gemma Almonte. The cast is also joined by TV, film, and theater artists Miguel Almendras, Mike Liwag, Anthony Falcon, and Dylan Talon, together with PETA artists: Eko Baquial, Gio Gahol, Lotlot Bustamante, Kitsi Pagaspas, Ekis Gimenez, Dudz Teraña, Jarred Jaicten, She Maala, Gold Villar-Lim, Bene Manaois, Mico Esquivel, Erold Enriquez, Jason Barcial, Joseph Madriga, Rach Gimpes, Reggie Ondevilla, Roy Dahildahil, and Csai Habla.
Under My Skin is presented by PETA, The Red Whistle, and LoveYourself PH, in partnership with UNAIDS and Unilab. The play runs from February 7 to March 22, 2020 at the PETA Theater Center, No. 5 Eymard Drive, Brgy. Kristong Hari, New Manila, Quezon City. For tickets go to www.ticketworld.com.ph, 891-9999, www.petatheater.com/undermyskin.