S Anril Tiatco – Performance, Devotion, Gender: Figuring the Peñafrancia in the Bicol Region, Philippines


S Anril Tiatco

University of the Philippines

Performance, Devotion, Gender: Figuring the Peñafrancia in the Bicol Region, Philippines

The Festival of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is celebrated on a Sunday after the octave of 8 September. Housed at the Peñafrancia Basilica Minore, Peñafrancia is considered the patroness of the entire Philippine region of Bicol. In the presentation, the Peñafrancia is described as a theatricalized devotion where devotees are transformed into a frenzied ensemble that normalizes masculinity as a privileged norm. However, digging deeper into the festival’s peculiarity, the normalization of masculinity is only incidental because the gendering is argued to idealize and celebrate a figure of a woman. The idealization and celebration of the woman-figure is asserted to have a precolonial root. In the end, it is argued that the Peñafrancia is a manifestation of a cultural community in which the pre-colonial lifeways of its members are recuperated through expressive bodily movements. At the same time, the legacy of Hispanic Catholicism is problematized through the rearticulation of an indigenous past. This way, the community members of the Bicol region are called to participate in a decolonized future.

Keywords: cultural performance, Philippine Catholicism, panata, pre-colonial lifeways, surrogation, figuration

S Anril Tiatco is professor of theatre and performance at the University of the Philippines Diliman Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts. He is the author of Buhol-Buhol/Entanglement: Contemporary Theatre in the Metropolitan Manila (Peter Lang, 2017) and Cosmopolitanism, Theatre and the Philippines: Performing Community in a World of Strangers (UP Press, 2018), winner of the 2019 Alfonso Ongpin Best Book on Art given by the National Book Development Board and the Manila Critics Circle. He is also currently a member of the editorial associates of Contemporary Theatre Review and Humanities Diliman.