QUEZON CITY, Philippines—Picking up from where its advocacy left off, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) brings its powerful depiction of the interwoven stories of human frailty and triumph impacted by HIV and AIDS, Under My Skin, from the stage to the screen to cap the year in its continuing efforts to #TakePETABeyondCOVID.
In commemoration of World AIDS Day, PETA, together with esteemed advocacy organizations LoveYourself PH and The Red Whistle, along with major co-presenters UNILAB, Inc., and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., revamps Rody Vera’s provocative, relevant, and heart-wrenching anthology stage drama on HIV, directed by Melvin Lee, specially filmed for streaming via Ticket2Me.
As history sees it, Under My Skin was PETA’s last live performance at the PETA Theater Center before the lockdown in 2020 happened, just about two weeks shy of the show’s closing. The play was driven by stories inspired by real people and events, and it accurately depicts the realities, triumphs, and struggles of people living with HIV, while navigating an important conversation on acceptance, not just tolerance, crushing the persisting stigma surrounding the disease years since it perpetrated to national consciousness, before ballooning into a global concern.
Scenes taken from the live staging of Under My Skin. Images courtesy of PETA
The show introduces us to a number of characters – Jonathan, Greg, Syd, and Mario whose relationships are tested when Jonathan gets infected; Dino, an HIV-positive teen whose status is discovered through a contraction of tuberculosis; Mary Rose, a mother who unknowingly passed down the virus to her son after getting it from her husband; a gay beauty parlor employee experiencing work-related discrimination, among other grating but thoughtfully-detailed human experiences.
Their stories of love, pain, and acceptance are revealed through the omnipresent narration of Dr. Almonte (played by Cherry Pie Picache), who is studying the spread of the devastating virus.
Cherry Pie Picache. Image courtesy of PETA.
For PETA Executive Director Beng Santos-Cabangon,Under My Skin hopes to, yet again, provide a space where various HIV-advocacy groups can unite and strengthen their cause, with art and theater at the centerpiece. “We believe that Under My Skin Online can continue to serve as a platform for probing conversations and reflections as well as bringing attention to and engaging the public on the issue of HIV and AIDS. Converting the production into the film medium would allow for more people to see it – and bring to the spotlight the advocacy,” says Santos-Cabangon.
“Amidst the COVID- 19 pandemic, we should be relentless in our efforts to address the problem of access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment. It is our hope that this endeavor will contribute in generating greater public awareness and concern, building a caring community and somehow helping eradicate stigma and discrimination,” she adds.
Now is also the time to generate urgent conversations about HIV and AIDS – especially since there has been a “21% increase in new infection brought about by the decrease in HIV prevention coverage and increase in treatment gap,” highlighted by the 2021 data of the Department of Health. LoveYourself founder and executive director Ronivin Pagtakhan says that as the pandemic continues to evolve, we continue to adapt in the name of the HIV advocacy.
Mike Liwag and Gio Gahol on the film version of Under My Skin. Image courtesy of PETA.
“LoveYourself has allocated resources to shift our services online including refill for treatment medicines with XPress, self-screening with SelfCare, and setting up regular appointments for health check up with Booking as we contribute to ensuring equitable access of HIV-related services for key populations in the country,” says Pagtakhan.
“We are glad to partner once again with the wonderful people at PETA to make Under My Skin accessible online for greater awareness as this initiative amplifies our advocacy’s voice towards ending the HIV epidemic.”
Film version of Under My Skin. Image courtesy of PETA.
The Red Whistle also continues to respond to the HIV epidemic by addressing the need for a change in mindset. “Theater has the ability to move people to understand the issue more. We need to shift perspectives around HIV-related stigma and change attitudes towards our sexual health,” says Executive Director Benedict Bernabe.
“If we want to change people’s minds, we need to tug on their heartstrings first. This is why the arts is an important and necessary component—especially during this pandemic—not just for awareness and education, but also for behavior change in the HIV advocacy.”
Under My Skin is written by Rody Vera and directed by Melvin Lee. Joining Picache, the acclaimed online streaming cast includes Eko Baquial, Gio Gahol, Mike Liwag, Jarred Jaicten, Kitsi Pagaspas, Dylan Ray Talon, Dudz Teraña, She Maala, Bene Manaois, Erold Enriquez, Jason Barcial, Joseph Madriaga, Rach Gimpes, Reggie Ondevilla, Roy Dahildahil, Gerard Dy, and Ekis Gimenez.
Under My Skin is streaming this November 26 to 28, and November 30 – December 5, 2021.
Rank Magazine is an official media partner of Under My Skin Online, supported by other media institutions, ClickTheCity, Village Pipol, Flow Galindez, 8list.ph, CNN Philippines, and WhenInManila.
Tickets are still available at Php 180 for Livestream, and Php 250 for Video on Demand tickets via www.ticket2me.net, bit.ly/undermyskinonline, or through any of the Under My Skin Online showbuyers. For bulk sales, and more sales information, contact Mitch Go at 0917-5391112.