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Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio: Patriot and mother who used theater to teach values

Inquirer.net — 11.1.2021

NOVEMBER 3, 2018
Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio with the puppet figure of Sita and Rama.
INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON

The passing of Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio, National Artist for Theater, founder of Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas, and University of the Philippines (UP) professor emeritus, on Dec. 29, 2020,w at the age of 90 was greeted with the appropriate mixture of mourning and acclaim.

Widely recognized as the “grand dame of Southeast Asian theater,” Bonifacio nurtured value-oriented puppetry theater for children for generations. As has been pointed out by Nicanor G. Tiongson, cultural critic and professor emeritus of the UP Film Institute: “The wonder of it all is that she sustained her mission, putting up her own puppet group and venue. All other puppet theater groups have folded up but her group continues to perform folktales as well as classics like ‘Sita & Rama: Papet Ramayana’ and the sinakulo during Lent. The writing and production of original children’s plays, especially through puppet theater, constitute her niche in Philippine theater.”

The aforementioned venue, which was a house near UP that was converted into a theater and made possible by government grants, was also named after her: Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Teatro Papet Museo. It was built in 2006, almost 30 years since she put up Teatrong Mulat, which her daughter Amihan Bonifacio-Ramolete now runs, in 1977.

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