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Aksyon ng Ating Kabataan  

This prairie Pinay

by Vizlumin Cabrera

Dutchess Cayetano and Stephanie Sy star in Prairie Nurse at Prairie Theatre Exchange

When I was seven years old, I saw a Pinay on TV for the first time. It was during an episode of Barney. In 1992, during the show’s third season, they introduced a character named “Min.” It was the nickname my family had given me, and I had never seen anyone with the same name. I remember purposely watching all the way to the credits so that I could see my name written in them. She talked about how her family was from the Philippines, and in one episode she even sang the Tagalog birthday song, Maligayang Bati. Barney’s Min was a made up character, but it didn’t matter because the inclusion of her story told me it was cool to share the songs and stories of my culture.

Representation matters and sharing Filipino stories in the present will create the knowledge, wisdom, and interest needed to keep them relevant in the future. When I heard that Marie Beath Badian’s Prairie Nurse would be at Prairie Theatre Exchange, I couldn’t wait to see how this story would be portrayed. I had heard that the playwright was from Toronto, and that the play is based on her mother’s immigration to Canada. The performance of Purificacion “Puring” Saberon (Dutchess Cayetano) and Indepencia “Penny” Uy (Stephanie Sy) was truly inspired. I can’t tell you how affirming and important it was for me to hear a Filipino accent on stage played by Filipinos, portraying Filipinos. As children we grow up hearing English and Tagalog dance together on the lips of our parents, grandparents, and other family members, but rarely on TV or in movies. Prairie Nurse reclaims the Pinoy accent to help tell a tale of immigration, friendship, true love, and a number of really great jokes. While Winnipeggers have embraced Filipinos and Philippine culture, many of them may not know how or why there are so many of us here in this region of Canada. Prairie Nurse successfully shines a spotlight on the how and why for many who came as healthcare professionals during that time.

On the preview night of Prairie Nurse, I sat in an audience of mainly non-Filipinos. We sat in the same room, laughed at most of the same jokes, and became super-kilig” at all the same parts. During the intermission, Tagalog love songs from the 1960s were played over the speakers. While most audience members could not understand the lyrics or remember them as songs from their youth, it meant a lot to know that there were a handful of people near me who could. The ANAK family all came to the show together. We brought our moms, along with a handful of other members in our community, many of whom immigrated to Winnipeg during the time when the play was set.

We must always tell our stories. No matter what the medium, we must continue to spread the deep wisdom of our culture and experiences, and continue to retrace the steps of the people who paved the way for us. In doing this, we secure our place in Canadian history and make sure all of our future contributions to society are known for generations to come. The success of a play like Prairie Nurse reminds me that the rest of the world is finally ready to see us write our own stories and play our own parts. We are here and ready to take centre stage.

Prairie Nurse is playing at Prairie Theatre Exchange until October 21st.

Vizlumin Cabrera is the Public Relations Officer for ANAK. She invites you to join ANAK at Prairie Theatre Exchange for this year’s Philippine Heritage Youth Forum on November 2nd and a special multimedia performance featuring artists from the Philippines and Winnipeg on November 3rd. Contact for more info.

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Photos by Rey-ar Reyes

IMG 2983    IMG 2991
Kristian Jordan & Dutchess Cayetano
Ross McMillan, Dutchess Cayetano & Rayna Masterton
             Stephanie Sy so provincialStephanie Sy Nurse   IMG 3038
Stephanie Sy (Photos by Leif Norman)
Dutchess Cayetano as Puring & Stephanie Sy as Penny