Creative placemaking with Atlantic Pacific Theatre

Through Atlantic Pacific Theatre, “a theater company that creates theatre works, community programs, and social practice art experiences towards cultural equity for and with the Asian Pacific Islander (API) diaspora community and beyond” (Atlantic Pacific Theatre, n.d.), I’ve been engaging with the Filipino community in New York City, specifically Queens, as an artist since 2015. The timeline I feature below highlight the work we’ve done in Queens.

I was part of the My Baryo, My Borough Project, an oral history project of Filipinos living in Queens, which culminated in a devised production in Topaz Arts on the 19th of December 2015.

On the 11th of June 2016, I facilitated the storytelling of Filipino children’s stories and playground games in Woodside, where Little Manila is located, during the Woodside on the Move festival.

In 2017, Claro de los Reyes, the artistic director of Atlantic Pacific Theatre, introduced me to Venessa Manzano, the founder of The Filipino School of New York and New Jersey, and I began to teach Filipino Language and Culture classes for young people of Filipino descent in Queens.

Gallivanting! A Walking Tour of Little Manila is our latest place-based project.

Last September 22, 2018, Claro de los Reyes and I, along with other artists of Filipino descent, facilitated a walking tour of Little Manila. The tour was divided into four parts. The first part, which Atlantic Pacific Theatre was in-charge of, was to reflect on the American influences present in the Filipino-American community in Queens. At that time, the tour group was standing close to Jollibee, a Filipino fast food chain that was inspired by McDonald’s, but is now its fierce competitor in the Philippines. The second part, when the group was at a section where there were also restaurants from South America, we explored the Spanish influences in the Philippines. The third part was about the shared practices with other Southeast Asian nations, like Indonesia and Malaysia. Finally, when the group reached the intersection between Little Manila and Little India, we showcased the Islamic culture present in Filipino culture.

It was an enjoyable experience overall, but we, the Gallivanting! group, was critical of ourselves. Because we only had a short period to prepare, we weren’t able to involve the actual people living and working on Little Manila. While we agreed that there was value in the work that we did, it would be even more meaningful (and ethical) if more of the actual community was involved in the design and implementation of the project.

With these improvements in mind, we hope to facilitate another walking tour late this year.

For my dissertation project, I hope to engage place—specifically, Katipunan Avenue—with a group of students taking a community-based devising course in Ateneo de Manila University. These place-based projects that I’ve done with Atlantic Pacific Theatre, along with the courses and workshops I’ve taken related to creative placemaking, lend me some confidence that I will not be jumping into my dissertation project completely ignorant.