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Naranjilla, Lara Isabelle R.
Coming Out: A Study on Em Mendez’s Anagnorisis and the metaphorical Closet

Chapter 1: Introduction
The phrase “coming out of the closet” is recognized to have a history relating to queer individuals and homosexuals. As a result of this, majority of narratives on coming out are unsurprisingly about disclosures of a gay identity. However, Em Mendez’s plays in his collection Anagnorisis illustrate that the act of coming out and the closet metaphor are by no means restricted to its queer correlation.
This study will explore the concept of the metaphorical closet and the act of coming out using Em Mendez’s dramatic narratives. In Chapter One, this study will tackle the history of drama and theatre in the Philippines. The researcher will briefly discuss how drama and theatre rose from the indigenous rituals and ceremonies of Filipino communities, the Spanish and American influences in drama to the rise of the Proletarian Theatre and eventually the development of Philippine contemporary drama and theatre. A brief history and background the Virgin Labfest will also be discussed. It will then go on to discuss the study’s statement of the problem, its significance and the scope and limitation. The chapter will end upon the discussion of the thesis’s theoretical framework that will serve as the guide to the path of this study along with the definition of terms. Moving on, the Chapter Two of this study will survey the related literature on the history of the metaphorical closet and studies on the closet metaphor followed by studies on the act of coming out and lastly, studies on coming out narratives. After which, the researcher will conclude the study.

I. Background of the study
Philippine theatre and drama could be traced back to the indigenous practices of the early Filipino people. Drama in the Philippines rose spontaneously in early Filipino communities out of the landmarks of daily life: birth, rite of passage, courtship, marriage, harvest, battle, victory, and death to name a few. It first began from various indigenous rites, rituals, and ceremonies that are performed outdoors such as in clearings or in fields for rituals and a space around a house as enactment locations for rituals whereas ceremonies are held at wakes or at other community gatherings – the setting of the theatre was determined and defined by the occasion (“Philippine Theater: Aspects of Production”). Rituals and ceremonies are held to seek the favour of a spiritual being which is often overseen and guided by a high priest or priestess called babaylan or cantalonan who is the intercessor and mediator of the event and “the representative of the spirit whose favour was being sought” (Fernandez, 3; Diamond, 142).
In addition, some customs of the early Filipino people such as games and contests were also considered as part of Philippine drama thanks to its mimetic actions and, in some instances, its element of pretend (Fernandez, 4). For instance, the duplo is a verbal joust popular during wakes for the dead where participants, each playing their assigned roles, imagine a situation and exchange improvised lines.
The arrival of the Spaniards brought in the earliest fusion of a Western colonizer and a colonized Asian country: the Komedyas (Diamond, 142). These were verse dramas that were indigenized from the 16th century Spanish comedias. Komedyas came in both sacred and secular form, although sacred Komedyas are now considered as virtually extinct and replaced by short religious plays. The secular, vernacular Komerdya blends romances, dance and battles eventually developed to be called as Moro-moro that centers on the epic battles between the Philippine Moros and Christians (Diamond, 142) which was performed from town to town during barrio fiestas (Fernandez, 8). Further, priests found creative and innovative ways to attract the interest of the Filipinos to church signifying the creation of Sinakulo (also spelled cenaculo) performed during Lent and Christmas season written in either prose or verse that document the life of Christ (Fernandez, 10). The growth of the popularity of the secular Komedya was contested by the Spanish Zarzuelas. Zarzuelas became part of Philippine drama towards the end of the nineteenth century and the Spanish regime eventually Filipinized into the Filipino Sarswela. Sarswela was most prominent during the arrival of the American occupation; it was used by playwrights as a means of expressing nationalism and to condemn the regime (Diamond, 143; Fernandez, 17). It imparted the first professional Philippine theatre coming in commercial theatre form with its actors, troupes, authors, and other associates in its production personnel. The Sarswela was a play incorporated with music, dances and celebration scenes performed with different adaptations on domestic life, mirroring the Filipinos concerns and insights on daily life.
In conjunction with Sarswela were the vernacular drama and the spoken drama. Vernacular drama was a prose play that provided and interfusion of romantic or tragic or comedic themes and bear heavier subject matter. On the other hand, the spoken dramas are one-act pieces in verse or prose that tackled nationalistic themes. Theatre occasions also changed with a chosen time and date depending on the convenience of the theatre company and availability of the theatre, inasmuch that Sarswela and dramas are no longer performed outdoors in feasts or fiestas but in buildings build for theatre.
The arrival of the Americans introduced the Americanized French Vaudeville (Vod-a-vil or Bodabil in Filipino), a variety show with a comedy skit and song and dance routines to serve as entertainment to the American soldiers in 1916, popular before and during the height of World War II and Japanese occupation (Fernandez, 21; Diamond, 143). The Americans also introduced what they call “legitimate” theatre wherein drama is now performed in Tagalog and English, however, interest in theatre began to die down (Diamond, 144).
The Proletarian Theater rose in the sixties during the swell of student activism and nationalism in the country; this theatre was also called the theatre of ideas inasmuch that it questioned, analysed, persuaded and gave new ideas concerning the national problems of the time (Fernandez, 23-24). Philippine drama shifted in the language of performance. Theatre therefore became a potent medium for political expression.
Filipino theatre and drama in the present time has now evolved to tackle and reflect the modern problems and concerns of the Filipinos and continuing to meet the demands and needs of the people (Diamond, 144; Fernandez, 24). Different professional theatre companies have also emerged along the years including the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) founded in the year 1967 and the Tanghalang Pilipino (TP), the resident drama company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) established in 1987. Likewise, writers have also joined forces to set up their own associations such as The Writer’s Bloc Inc. The Writer’s Bloc Inc. first started as an unofficial group part of PETA’s in-house writers. The Bloc had been guided by two writers before the leadership of Rody Vera, as the coordinator, and became an independent group in 2005. In the same year, The Writer’s Bloc Inc., in partnership with Tanghalang Pilipino and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, established the Virgin Labfest (VLF), with Tuxqs Rutaquio as its artistic director, a highly distinguished three-week annual laboratory festival that aims to provide a platform for Filipino playwrights, both aspiring and veteran, to present their works that have not been published or staged, in other words “untried, untested, unstaged, and unpublished” plays. Submitted plays for the festival are picked and chosen either to be developed and staged or to be stage read. Selected new and original dramatic productions are produced in several sets with three plays each for each season of the Labfest. One set in the Virgin Labfest is dedicated to revisit notable plays from the previous season. One of the ‘Virgin’ playwrights who joined the festival was Em Mendez, a Thomasian graduate with a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Malikhaing Pagsusulat from De La Salle University Manila, who first joined with his Unang Regla ni John in VLF 8 followed by a number of his plays staged in the next three seasons of festival. He published these plays in a collection entitled “Anagnorisis: Apat Na Dula” under the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House in 2017.
Anagnorisis is composed of four plays: Unang Regla ni John, Ambong Abo, Barbie Girls, and and Ang Nanay kong Ex-NPA. Unang Regla ni John is centered on a 13-year-old boy brought up in a hyper-machismo and virile family with his father and two older brothers with the belief of “the more hair you have, the manlier you are”. Regardless of the weight put on all things that says macho, John dreaded the growth of hair in different parts of his body. Ambong Abo featured an old Bikolano copra farmer, Ambo, who immigrated to New York with his younger daughter. Ambo’s frequent visions of Daragang Magayon, a beautiful maiden whose grave turned into the perfect cone Mount Mayon, and Handyong, a hero who killed the serpent Oryol, together with his uncanny actions caused a debate between his two daughters, with the eldest he left in Bicol, whether or not staying overseas is better for their father. An interaction between a Filipino employer, Chona and a young, newly employed American housemaid, Holly, highlighted Chona’s origins in Barbie Girls. Barbie Girls, with its exuberant and was delivered in a light, comical manner, on the other hand, Ang Nanay Kong Ex-NPA was served with a serious tone. Ang Nanay Kong Ex-NPA was co-written with Genevieve Asenjo about Teresa’s, an estranged mother, reunion with her daughter. The play, dependent on dialogue alone, led to the re-opening of old wounds, expression of long-held bitterness and undisclosed revelations with brought up questions.

II. Statement of the Problem
Coming out stories, according to Shereen Inayatulla, are narratives of darkness (lost) to enlightenment (found) (11). It is a narrative of a journey to personal growth and identity development of an individual. It is also a significant act that connotes the possibility of a positive or negative consequence. Coming out is a complex, life-shaping process (Adams, 23; Sedgwick, 81; Urbach, 69; Svab, 1345) that can no longer only affect the outing individual but also the other people that he or she came out to as well as their relationship (Švab and Kuhar, 19; Inayatulla, 22).
This directs the study’s problematic question towards the closet and the act of coming out:
• For instance, how was the closet as a metaphor used in Mendez’s plays?
• How did his protagonists enter the closet? How did they envision coming out?
• How did coming out of the closet influence the relationships of Mendez’s protagonists with the other characters?

III. Significance of the Study
Before the 1960s, the presence of the invisible closet was not acknowledged thus, the closet would still be regarded as a private room or a furniture. Had it not been for the events that fought for gay liberation and gay rights such as the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the term closet, in the sense of homosexuality, would not be identified (Urbach, 69). The closet then became, in the eyes of the gay rights movement, as an apparatus for violence towards homosexuals considering that queer individuals enter the closet due to shame, stigmatization and fear of exposure (Schildcrout, 43). Hence, “coming out” and the “closet” metaphor are both inextricably entwined with homosexuality and the gay identity (Sedgwick, 71; Urbach, 69). These metaphors are best illustrated in the well-known phrase “coming out of the closet”, an act where an individual reveals a gay identity to another individual.
However, the matters of the closet and coming out metaphor are not only limited and restricted to gay and sexuality relations and behaviour (Sedgwick, 72; Lazarson, 274) just as the phrase “coming out of the closet” can be made relevant to all individuals.
The significance of this study is to acknowledge and to argue that the metaphor of the closet and coming out is not only applicable to homosexuals and LGBTQ individuals but also to other people. The act of coming out is part of the construction and development of an individual. Each individual have different closets that he or she can come out of every time in a situation. An individual either a man or woman, young or old would come out to the other one way or another because he or she need the other.

IV. Theoretical Framework
This study will be following the theory of Eve Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet, for its theoretical framework. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick was born into a Jewish family in Ohio 1950. She received her education for her undergraduate studies in Cornell University and eventually attained her Doctorate degree from Yale University. Cornell and Yale University were institutions that, at the time, had French literary theories presented in classrooms and promoted in the anglophone world which explains exactly how she is knowledgeable in deconstruction (Edwards, 7). Eve Sedgwick had the privilege and opportunity to teach subject matters such as creative writing, and literary and queer theory in different colleges and universities. She had authored, edited and co-edited of several influential books and articles (Edwards, 8)
Sedgwick is one of the pioneer queer theorists of her time alongside Judith Butler; one of her most significant works is the Epistemology of the Closet (1990). Epistemology of the Closet is a discourse of her relation of the numerous histories of the modern lesbian and the gay after the Stonewall riots to the metaphor of the closet (Lietch, 2433). Sedgwick analysed the closet by using D.A. Miller’s essay “Secret Subjects, Open Secrets” where he suggested secrecy as a practice “in which the oppositions of public/private, inside/outside, and subject/object are established”. Sedgwick related the closet by connecting with it the known and the unknown that widens the representations of concealment, disclosure, the private and the public (71). Sedgwick adds by stating that the closet is the “label for gay oppression in the twentieth century” (71). However, she argues that despite the closet as an axiom of the queer social life, the closet is not only intended for gay individuals (Sedgwick, 62; Lazerson, 274).

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