Since 2013, the months of February and March have held a different meaning for me. And it all started in 2005, when some of my 3rd year high school students were invited by Mozart Pastrano to perform in The Vagina Monologues at Rodelsa Hall. Although I have heard of Eve Ensler’s controversial and award winning play, I didn’t really have an idea what it was about. I wasn’t sure what to expect either because, honestly, the title itself intimidated me. But, since I really wanted to experience something new, I allowed myself to drown in the stories interpreted by talented Kagay-anon women.

I didn’t feel violated or embarrassed. I laughed at the funny monologues. I did a short self-examination, as I saw myself in some of the women in the stories. But, mostly, I was in awe. I was in awe of women. I realized my worth; my value. And, sadly, I also realized that not a lot of people – including women – know this. After that first time, I vowed to join the next Vagina Monologues production. It didn’t happen until four years later.

In 2009, I was invited by Jamee Rivera to audition for The Vagina Monologues, which he was directing. I decided that I wanted to work in the background, so I took the role of stage manager. I performed, too, but only for one piece. Being a part of the production from day one until the last performance night really changed me. The experience was so overwhelming that I vowed to become a part of The Vagina Monologues every year. However, there were no productions in 2010 and in the next couple of years. I felt bad because I haven’t been able to fulfill my vow. Because of this realization – and because of the fact that I was missing theater so much – I finally decided to inquire how one can apply for the rights to bring VDay to Cagayan de Oro. VDay is the global movement created by Eve for the campaign against women and girls, which is what The Vagina Monologues is really all about.

Anyway, I applied for the rights sometime September 2013 and it wasn’t until more than a month later that I got the approval. I was excited, but I didn’t really know what to do or where to start. So, I called some of former students, “my anaks”, and asked if they wanted to help out. Mark Diovannie Cavan (Diocavs/Dio), whom I have known since his elementary years, was one of the very first ones to respond. I also reached out to friends who’ve been active in the local theater scene, specifically Shaun Pilapil, Mai Santillan, and Cheeney Casiño-Baula. The biggest support I received, however, was from Pagbantog Cagayan. Headed by Atty. Sam Tan, the group is composed of students, artists, and professionals dedicated to advocacy campaigns. Without Pagbantog Cagayan, The Vagina Monologues 2013 wouldn’t have happened. We had two shows that year; The Vagina Monologues and A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, & A Prayer.

 Nadine Legaspi performing the “Wear & Say Lists” (The Vagina Monologues)

These people are still with me now, despite knowing how difficult it is to find supporters and sponsors. They were with me in 2014, when we held The Vagina Monologues at Rodelsa Hall. And they are still with me now, as we are about to stage our second run of TVM and A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, & A Prayer this Saturday, March 21, 2015.

Iris Dy-Lagria’s “Fur is Back” (A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer)

Every year, we read the same stories; the same monologues. There are new ones, yes; but there are those that have been read, interpreted, and performed for years. But, this doesn’t matter, really. We don’t get paid for what we do. We don’t get anything at all. This doesn’t matter to us, too. All that matters is we’re able to share these stories with Kagay-anons. All that matters is that we deliver the message.

Evans Yonson in The Vagina Monologue’s “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy”

The Vagina Monologues is not something you should cringe about. It’s not something bad. It talks about something that’s an essential part of every woman – the vagina. The word vagina is not dirty. It’s not curse. It’s a representation a woman. This is what the show is trying to say. This is what the stories are trying to tell us. There are stories about women discovering their worth, about a woman overcoming her fears, and about a devastated woman whose vagina was violated by soldiers. And then there’s a fun story about “the first time”, then there’s an elderly woman talking about her “down there” that has been closed for years. There’s also a monologue especially made for transgenders. One of the most touching stories is Eve’s poetic account of the first time she witnessed childbirth. These stories are real stories. They’re nothing to be ashamed of. They’re not dirty or taboo.

Dennis Flores telling audiences about “The Closet” ( A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer)

A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer, on the other hand, is a compilation of writings about violence on women and girls. The stories were written by women, our LGBT friends, and men. Yes, men. They share painful, eye-opening stories about their experiences on violence. A male journalist, for example, shares a story about a young girl who was forced to endure the harsh realities of life even before she could build dreams of her own. Rescue is the story of a young man whose female family members were subjected to different forms of violence – and he was a witness to everything. These are stories that will tug at your heart. You don’t hear them everyday, but you know they’re happening.

Our aim is to make the people aware that violence is real. Violence is happening. It may not sound like doing a lot, but it is one step closer to the global goal of putting a stop to violence on women and girls. Oh, and yes, we know that men are violated, too. There are many of them. In fact, the men who share their stories are themselves victims of violence – because they were witnesses. We talk about violence on women and girls not because it’s the only thing happening, but because women and girls normally do not have the strength to fight back. They are often silent victims.

On Saturday, March 21, at 4:30pm, we will be staging A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer. After a one hour break, The Vagina Monologues will go onstage at 7pm. Venue is Inside Out City, which is located at the 4th floor of One Montecarlo Bldg along Corrales and Hayes Streets (where Ababu Persian Cuisine is). Our aim is to raise as much money as we can so we can create projects, with the help of JCI Kagayhaan Gold. These projects will benefit the women survivors of Sendong. Our donation tickets are affordable: Php175 and Php200 (for VIP seats); both are for the two shows already. We will also be selling VDay merchandise like statement buttons (Php30), statement magic mugs (Php200), and VDay t-shirts (Php250).

This year’s performers are some of the best in the city. So, join us and make your Saturday a meaningful one. Join our campaign against violence. Watch our shows with your mother, your sister, your grandmother, your female friend, your girlfriend. Do it not only for yourself, but more importantly, for the women in your life.

(Photos by Chinx Abbu Banquerigo)

(Poster by Shaun Pilapil)

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