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The Prime Mover of the National Theater Movement

The Early Years

Her passion for peace was instilled since childhood by her Mother, a war widow who told her: "Your Father died so you would be born free". Cecile never saw her father, a guerilla fighter during World War II who was killed before she was born.

She was High School Valedictorian in St. Theresa's College QC.

Cecile Guidote Alvarez graduated AB-BSE - summa cum laude, St. Paul's College 1962 and in the first select group of Ten Outstanding Students. She holds an MA degree in Theater and took special Communications Arts Studies in the State University of New York in Albany, on a Fulbright-Hays and John D. Rockefeller III Fund Scholarship at the Dallas Theatre Center.

At the age of 18, she created produced and directed a live drama series, Teenagers, as an antidote to juvenile delinquency. Students from public schools and out-of-school youth were integrated with students from exclusive schools, reflecting together on the needs, problems and aspirations of the youth. Her work was cited with a nomination for a Citizens Award for Television. Fresh from graduate school, she conceived and organized the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) as a national theatre movement, encouraging writers to draw power from the language and lives of the people.

She conceived the flexible staging spaces at the Paco Park and Fort Santiago most notably the Raja Sulayman Theatre in the Ruins. She designed a Creative Theatre Training program rooted in indigenous heritage appreciation crystallized in CITASA and founded its repertory Company, Kalinangan Ensemble. Among its productions were the critically acclaimed Pilipino translation of Virgie Moreno's Straw Patriot (Bayaning Huwad) and Nick Joaquin's Portrait (Larawan), and Filipino adaptations of such classics as Durenmatt's the Visit ( Doña Clara) Ionesco's bald Soprano ( Tatay Mong Kalbo ) the Morality play Everymen (Tao) and an original politically sensitive Zarzuela "Halimaw" by Isagani Cruz and "Aidao" a muslim play by Malou Jacob. She provided a bridge between the movies and the stage through its TV drama series Balintataw. This brought to the masses an alternative diet of history, literacy classics and social conditions dramatically depicted for their entertainment and education.

She pioneered exchange with the Arab World and opened cultural links with Eastern European countries in the Philippines when there was still absence of diplomatic relations particularly with Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland, German Democratic Republic (GDR) and even China. She has initiated Philippine ITI programs with Asian, African, Latin American, through the holding a Third World Theatre Festival with the International Theatre Institute.

She openly questioned the use of limited public funds by Imelda Marcos for a building by the bay and suggested the use of the 67 million dollar veteran education fund for relevant arts education and equitable distribution for provinces to have their own centers of culture. Her frank statements aroused the ire of the First lady who prevented her exit out of the country in her travels abroad as Secretary of the ITI Third World Committee and UNESCO Consultant on Ethnic minorities for the US Center of the International Theatre Institute. The Ramon Magsaysay Awards, recognized her artistic work in the national and international scene for Public Service in 1972. She is the youngest Filipina to have received the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in Asia as well as the Patnubay ng Kalingan Award given by the City of Manila.

In Exile

She got married in a matrimonia de consciencia ceremony presided by Fr. James B. Reuter to ConCon delegate Heherson " Sonny" Alvarez who eluded arrest and a shoot-to-kill order during the imposition of Martial Law. Both escaped and lived in exile for 13 years, working with Movement for a Free Philippines, an overseas movement to restore democracy and eventually the Ninoy Aquino Movement founded by her husband after the Assasination of the former Senator. Passing on the legacy of her parents, she has named her two children, Hexilon and Herxila, with the word "exile" carved into their consciousness so that they too, will zealously but peacefully defend democracy.

With other exiled artists from Chile, South Africa, Uganda, Argentina, East Timor and Cambodia, Cecile organized the International Alliance of Concerned Artists for Human Rights and Peace (ACAHRP). As Founding Member of the Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament (PAND), she organized various for an in Cooper Square, Asia Society, Riverside Church and La Mama Theatre, featuring sculptures of prisoners, relevant paintings, and anti-dictatorship performances, and thus drawing attention to violations of human rights and encouraging protests against nuclear weapons. She liaised with Amnesty International for the creation of a desk for the plight and concerns of artists.

In the streets of New York in front of the Philippine Embassy, the United Nations, at St. Patrick's Cathedral, in front of the White House and the U.S. Congress in Washington, demonstrations organized by her husband to restore democracy took the form of creative arts presentations that added color and media strength to the political rallies. Images of the Filipino carrying the cross of dictatorship, veiled women in black lamenting the Desparecidos, Muslim women in funeral rituals, Cordillera war dances, exhibits of the Dictatorship's Seven Deadly Sins, a helicopter carrying a STOP USAID sign, even Ninoy Aquino's life-size sculpture saw print in the newspapers.

She extended PETA into PETAL, reaching out to the Filipino communities abroad, not only in America but including England, Italy and Canada, providing training, production services and cultural festivals focusing on the struggle of the Filipinos for cultural identity and freedom. Performances like Amerikanong Hilaw, Sultan Kudarat, Macling Dulag, Hayop Man ay Dapat Mahalin, and Ninoy Aquino's poems in prison received rave reviews in the New York Times, Village Voice, and Asia Week. PETAL, under her direction received the Outstanding Political Theatre Award together with the world renowned Bread and Puppet Theatre. The PETAL Ensemble was selected as the first ethnic American minority theatre company to participate in the Third World Festival hosted in South Korea.

PETAL was based in La Mama Theatre where she co-founded the Third World Institute of Theatre Arts Studies (TWITAS) with Ellen Stewart and was instrumental in presenting new plays and cultural traditions of Asia, Africa and Latin America in a series of Annual World Theatre festival in New York City.

Her brilliant direction of a Third World Liturgy was hailed by Robert Patrick as " The masterwork of a Third World Woman Artist". Her interpretation of Juana La Loca merited an invitation to Mexico's Cervantino Festival.

As Founding Chairperson of the International League of Folk Arts for Communications and Education (FACE), she initiated and directed parallel cultural programs at various UN Conferences as a vehicle for Human Rights Education. Among these events are: the Population Conference in Bucharest (1974); the Women's Tribune in Mexico (1975) and in Nairobi in 1985; Habitat in Vancouver (1976). She developed the Child Year Culture Corps Project for the Year of the Child (1979-80) inaugurated with the Pacific Peoples Festival which she organized and was featured in the CBS Festival of Lively Arts. She designed a Third World Arts Curriculum utilized in artist-teachers training. Cecile conceived and directed the highly successful cross-cultural performance, The Ramayana, for the Year of the Disabled, involving a blind Indian choreographer (1981). She designed and organized the Conference/Festival on Traditional Cultures and Communications Technology (1983) at the United Nations and also served in the UN Panel for the Year of the Youth (1985).

She was given a UN Human Rights Day Award for Cultural Innovation by the Fund for Free Expression in 1985.

Coming Home

She revived of the multi-awarded TV drama series, Balintataw, which she has also translated to radio on DZRH and comics on OCWs. Her tri-media creative approach Sali-Salising Buhay for human resources-development, social integration and employment expansion, dealing with women, youth, OCWs, street kids, tribal concerns, and health issues like AIDS and maternal and child care, was reviewed favorably by Time Magazine and singled out by Cable News Network (CNN) in a special 30 minute feature on Soap Opera for Social Change and transmitted by satellite to 100 countries introduced by Jane Fonda.

Her proposal for a Cultural Summit and Indigenous Cultural Olympics for Peace and Sustainable Development, to mark the Decade for Indigenous Peoples and to observe the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, resulted in the UN Resolution 48/163 sponsored by 28 countries and passed by the General Assembly. Thus were the seeds of GICOS sown: "To affirm the value of traditional cultures, folk arts and rituals as effective expressions of respective national identities and as a foundation for a shared vision for peace, freedom and equality".

She is Founding Artistic Director of the Earthsavers Movement/DREAMS Academy initially based at the Ninoy Aquino Park which provides cultural and livelihood studies for street kids, ethnic and disabled youth. The DREAMS (Development, Rehabilitation, and Education through Arts, Media and Science) Academy, has developed socially integrated performing group that has been cited by UNESCO Sources Magazines as "one of the most unique Theatre Companies in the world" besides being nominated as UNESCO Artists for Peace.

They have successfully staged shows here and abroad. Perhaps the most memorable one was when Cecile celebrated her 40th year in public service in the arts and media, when the youths performed in "Pasasalamat sa may K: Para sa Karapatang Pantao, Kalayaan, Katarungan, Kapayapaan, Kalikasan at Katutubong Kalinangan" at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The DREAMS Ensemble did an original adaptation of Antoine de Saint Exupery's, The Little Prince in Marikina for the Global Earth Day Festival in 1997. The musicale was unorthodox for it was the first time that a blind girl, Jaymee Castillo, took the role of the Prince.

Cecile also broke grounds when she took the DREAMS Ensemble to perform in different countries. They received rave reviews in the Queen Faviola Center for the mentally handicapped in Belgium, in the UN Earth Summit in Brazil, in the UN Social Summit in Denmark, at the Vatican for their special performance for the Pope, in the UNESCO in Paris, in the International Festival for Young Professional in Romania, in the UN Habitat Forum in Turkey, in the UN Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, in the World Youth Festival in Lisbon, in the Social Summit in Copenhagen, in the UN Habitat Conference in Istanbul, the UN Millennium Forum in New York City as well as Canada, England, Korea, and Thailand. They have received awards given by Earth Day International and the Ford Motor Corporation. They were honored with commendation from the Los Angeles County Board of Education, the festival of Twin Cities in California, the Asia-Pacific American Heritage Council and the Environmental Protection Agency. Cecile and the Ensemble bring to different audiences around the world a universal message, a uniting force of hope, peace, and love.

Peter Yarrow of the legendary Peter, Paul and Mary gave them the song "Don't Laugh at Me." Speaking to the group, he praised them as, "Young peacemakers, (I have only) admiration for your courage, your superb artistry and your beautiful hearts. You teach us all something about loving, and you make us one with the beauty of your art and inspiring souls."

Cecile has received the Ten Outstanding Women of the Nation (TOWNS) awards and other recognition from the different civic groups and international organizations.