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PETA’S Storytelling Sundays Tells Israel-PH History

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QUEZON CITY, Philippines – The Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (PETA) weekly online series, Storytelling Sundays, embarks on a unique partnership with the Embassy of Israel in the Philippines to tell a heartwarming tale about survival and the friendship between Filipinos and the Jews, borne out of a time of persecution and suffering.

Storytelling Sundays was one of PETA’s first initiatives in June 2020 to bring the theater experience to the digital platform. With a mix of different storytelling and performance techniques such as animation, shadow puppetry, musical numbers, and more, Storytelling Sundays explored different tales about Philippine history, heroes, and heroism. But apart from that, the series’ writer, Felinda Bagas, says that they were also looking for something new, like a part of Philippine history or a “lesser-known hero” seldom taught in schools.

“The story of the Manilaners came up,” Felinda Bagas reveals. “It’s a very interesting story; it’s just the kind we were looking for. But there is no children’s book about the Manilaners yet. We decided right then that we’ll just do it, write and produce a children’s story about the Manilaners for Storytelling Sundays.” With the Embassy of Israel in the Philippines as a partner in the project, PETA continued to develop the story eventually called The Doors of Chai, written by Felinda Bagas and featuring PETA President Cecilia B. Garrucho as the storyteller.

The Doors of Chai narrates the journey and friendship of two children ­– both displaced, both grieving for the homes they had to leave behind, both struggling with being in a strange place – who find comfort and acceptance in each other. It is set during the enactment of then-Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon’s Open Door Policy, which allowed Jews to seek refuge in the Philippines and escape the Nazi regime and the Holocaust.

“We will never forget this. Most countries shut their doors, but the Philippines, through its leader, President Quezon, decided to open its doors,” says Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Rafael Harpaz. “The legacy of President Quezon will always be carved on our hearts.” Israel and the Philippines continue to exhibit their friendship to this day by supporting each other in diplomatic, economic relations, and more, especially in times of crisis. According to PETA Artistic Director and The Doors of Chai director Maribel Legarda, this theme of friendship in times of crisis was what compelled PETA to pursue this unique Storytelling Sundays episode.

“I think this is a great message especially now during a pandemic. We should be unifying ways to empathize and be compassionate with each other,” says Maribel Legarda. “That’s one of the things that compelled PETA to do this – the beauty of the story of two nations helping each other in times of trouble. This can resonate through generations because there may always be some sort of war or pandemic the world deals with, but what’s important is our capacity to be able to rise above the challenges and make a better world in spite of them.”

Set to be the seventeenth episode of Storytelling Sundays hosted by John Moran, The Doors of Chai is a rare gem of a history lesson. According to Felinda Bagas, the heroism in the story and in the Open Door Policy roots from compassion. “Heroes became heroes because they cared enough for others. They found the strength and courage to go beyond what they think they are able to do for the sake of other people,” she says. “That’s what The Doors of Chai is all about: simple acts of heroism – of ordinary people, of an ordinary child – that led to the survival of a generation.”

The Doors of Chai also features Neil Daza as the director of photography, with animation by Ellen Ramos, music by Jeff Hernandez, and sound design by Jethro Joaquin.

“I would like to extend my thanks to PETA for initiating this partnership with the Embassy,” says Ambassador Harpaz. “Thank you for assisting us spread this great story in the history of Israel and the Philippines’ friendship.”

This episode is a testament to viewers that we can be heroes to each other any day. During this pandemic, The Doors of Chai can be a source of comfort and inspiration to all who watch it.

Tune in on PETA’s official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PETATHEATER or Israel in the Philippines’ official Facebok page at www.facebook.com/IsraelinPhilippines for the premiere of Storytelling Sundays Episode 17, The Doors of Chai, on October 18 (Sunday) at 7:00 PM.

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