Maria Leny Felix

Maria Leny Felix

Maria Leny E. Felix is on the Board of Directors of Sumaro sa Salog, Inc. (SULOG) “Unite for the River”. She is currently working as freelance International Consultant on Organisation Development and Governance. She uses her over 30 years experience and technical expertise in M&E, proposal writing, project management and leadership development to assist SULOG in developing river and environmental advocacy campaigns, project proposals and partnership building. Her research interest and publications include community-based approaches to leadership and management, gender and civil society participation in environmental governance.

Theatre Arts and the Rehabilitation of the Bikol River: A Study of Civil Society Advocacy Project in the Philippines

The Bikol River is the eighth largest river in the Philippines with a rich array of biodiversity. It provides socio-economic and cultural benefits to communities and people in three provinces . At present, it is in a critical situation due to problems affecting the river system such as soil erosion, waterway congestion causing floods, solid and liquid waste contamination, and climate change. Sumaro sa Salog (SULOG) Inc., literally meaning “Unite for the River,” is a non-government organization that aims to strengthen citizens’ participation in river governance in the Bikol Region. One of its key advocacy tools is Theater Arts. This paper describes the process for adopting and implementing the SULOG project, “Mga Aninipot sa Tahaw kan Salog/Fireflies on the River,” a musical play. The project is a community-based, collaborative interdisciplinary artistic production in Naga City and downstream riverine municipalities of Camarines Sur, on the theme of Saving the Bikol River. It is part of the holistic approach to ecological management, which means partnerships among civil society, barangays, and private business on sustainability-based projects connecting livelihood and ecology, cultural tourism and capacity development, and the creation of a “culture of caring” for the river and the environment.  Partnership was established with four theater guilds, local government units (LGUs), private sector and National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) to implement this project. Research, writing and production has involved discussion and some immersion in riverine communities to collect river stories. The “Story Telling” approach among senior citizens was used to understand the state of the river in the past and gather good practices in environmental preservation and conservation. The utilisation of theater arts offered multiple opportunities for discussion that raise people’s awareness on the need for river rehabilitation and was a first step toward facilitating partnership to achieve good river governance.

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