‘Clean, Healthy, Strong and Safe!’
How UNICEF is still supporting communities affected by Ondoy six months on.
Laguna province, March 2010 – Loud music is playing in the covered basket ball court in Aplaya Elementary school in Laguna province. Around 200 children and their teachers have gathered around an improvised stage where members of a participatory mobile theatre lead by Perlyn ‘Lakan’ Bunyi are preparing for their performance.
‘Good morning Aplaya Elementary School.’ Lakan greets the children. ‘Good morning sir!’ is their unison reply. ‘Before we start, you need to help me shout out the title of our performance: Linis (clean), Lusog (healthy), Lakas (strong) and Ligtas (safe).’ Lakan says. The children excitingly join in, copying the movements that Lakan teaches them and soon everyone in the village can hear the children shout: ‘Linis! Lusog! Lakas! Ligtas!’
The participatory mobile theatre is part of a UNICEF and Save the Children collaboration to promote good hygiene; sanitation; and breastfeeding amongst communities affected by Tropical Storm Ondoy that struck Manila in 2009. The format is light and has the audience laughing with songs, dances and sketches and so far the troupe has visited 75 communities in the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan and Metro Manila.
Involving the community
‘Getting the children and the community to participate is an important part of the performance. It makes them feel at ease and when they participate it is easier for them to remember the messages.’ Lakan explains. ‘We also have a pre-test before the performance starts which is meant to familiarise the audience with the messages and also for us to measure their level of understanding.’
Lakan during a performance in Barangay San Vincente, Quezon City. UNICEF has funded the entire run of productions, as well as provided technical assistance to the artists. ©UNICEF Philippines/2010/Pirozzi
'Our problems might be your problems'
‘Every family, young and old,
‘There is no water, no food, no electricity, no light,
The song makes the children laugh and some of the teachers are looking at each other and nodding in consent. The actors receive even more laughter when relief goods are being handed out and seven different recipes of how to cook sardines are being listed. ‘Pinoys are fond of comedy,’ Lakan explains, ‘so we made this performance light and enjoyable to make people laugh of their own mistakes without being defensive and to make them reflect over their own behaviour. It is also a good way to talk about issues that are not normally talked about in public.’
The actors crammed in the 'evacuation centre.' ©UNICEF Philippines/2010/Pirozzi
‘Ah that was nice.’ One of the actors has just pretended to go to the toilet on stage and gets a round of laughter from the children. ‘I think going to the toilet has made me hungry again.’ He strokes his stomach. ‘Good thing I have this nice piece of cake with me.’ He picks up the piece of cake and is about to put it in his mouth when suddenly: ‘STOP!’ Three of the other actors shout. ‘You have just been to the toilet and you haven’t washed your hands!’ They are moving in closer to him. ‘Your hands now carry a lot of germs, so if you don’t wash your hands before eating, the germs will enter your body and make you sick.’ At this point the other actors have surrounded the man and they are clinging on to him, simulating germs inside his body. The children are engrossed in the story and they are laughing of the man being ‘attacked’ by the germs. ‘To avoid being sick, you need to wash you hands every time you have been to the toilet and before eating.’ The man nods and the ‘germs’ disappear off stage.
Lakan teaches the children how to wash their hands. ©UNICEF Philippines/2010/Pirozzi
'Let's all come together'
Lakan then moves on to ask the same questions he asked in the beginning and several more of the children raise their hands to answer. ‘When we ask the questions at the end we know if the audience have understood the messages and gotten rid of certain misconceptions they had.’ Lakan says, ‘So far we have only had positive feedback from the audience and this shows how powerful the mobile theatre can be in getting these messages through to the people.’
For Analyn, 12, the messages has hit home. ‘I liked the part about cleaning the environment.’ She says. ‘It was nice and it is something I can do where I live.’
Written by Silje Vik Pedersen, Emergency Communication Officer
This story is also available on the UNICEF global site.