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The Virtual Stage Is Set For This Year’s Gawad Buhay Awards

One of the biggest events for the Philippine performing arts industry takes place in under a week

One of the biggest events for the Philippine performing arts industry—the PHILSTAGE Gawad Buhay Awards night—takes place in under a week. The awards celebrate excellence in the theatrical arts, and honors productions, directors, actors, and backstage artists who have contributed to the past year of performances. With a wide range of exemplary productions and artists in the running for an award, there is definitely a lot to look forward to for this year’s event.

For the first time in the award’s twelve year history, the 2020 show will be presented through an online livestream, with a mix of live and recorded elements. PHILSTAGE hopes that this will allow audiences to re-live the experience of live theater while watching the ceremony from their homes. Since the announcement of an online ceremony, they have received an outpouring of support from audiences eager to celebrate the work of the Filipino theater community.

READ: The Future of Philippine Theater

With the online ceremony also comes a unique opportunity. In previous years, the reach of the Awards remained relatively limited to the Metro Manila area. Now, the online ceremony offers a change to reach and inspire a wider audience across the nation and the globe.

Viewers can also look forward to opening and closing performances with PETA’s Vince Lim as the musical director. The performances will feature an ensemble of theater performers in an intended show of strength inspiring hope, and reminding their audiences of the resilience of the theater industry. Many see this online ceremony as an indication that hybrid models for theater shows are possible and will become the main means of presenting theater—at least for the time being.

We spoke to director Pat Valera of Philstage about the upcoming ceremony:

What can viewers expect from this year’s Gawad Buhay Awards which will be presented through a live component and an online component for the first time?

For this year, the 12th Gawad Buhay shall be a creative and engaging mix of recorded performances with live segments. We know that most of us miss the theater—that is why for this year, we recorded some of the performances and segments at the PETA Theater. Led by Phi Palmos and Meanne Espinosa and directed by Maribel Legarda, we’ll get to journey the different spaces of the theater where worlds and wonder happens. Apart from the showcase of theater’s magic, live still happens! With categories, each with their own set of nominees, the announcement of winners and the acceptance speech shall happen live!

What performances can we look forward to during this year’s ceremony? 

For this year, the opening and closing performances, with Vince Lim as Musical Director, are expected to be a gathering of theater artists—a show of force—but more importantly, a reminder to our audience that we are here to stay!

What are the opportunities of an online ceremony?

While nothing beats the energy of theater, the outpouring support from our audiences seen through their engagement of our online offerings is electric! Now, the ceremony can not only reach the usual Metro Manila audience but also nationwide—and even a global reach. That opportunity to reach and inspire more people is truly exciting!

In what ways do you see the theater industry growing from the challenges posed by the current pandemic?

Theater folks are radically creative and adaptable people. While some theaters still remain dark, we continue our stories in different platforms and innovations. We’ve seen hybrid models, cross-overs, presence and dominance of theater artists in social platforms, even upcoming projects such as concerts, shows, and series all with theater-related themes. Certainly, even when we achieve normalcy, all these learnings, discoveries, solutions, and innovations shall be carried over—done alongside the live theatrical experience we all miss.


Top Theater Productions to Watch Online Now


Top Theater Productions to Watch Online Now

Tune in to the online ceremony on Friday, October 8 at 8 p.m. via the PHILSTAGE Facebook page or on

Lead photo from Unsplash