Jayvee Mhar Viloria  

The annual theater play "Isko't Iska" of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) has opened its three-day screening on November 8 to 10 at D.L. Umali Hall, which focused on the struggles faced by human rights defenders and student activists.

Photo Courtesy of Zean Rae Amoguez

For this year’s installment, the show centered its story on the problems faced by youth leaders and activists amidst the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act in the country. Among the issues presented were red-tagging, planting of evidence, killings, land-grabbing, and other societal problems, such as inflation, education crisis, misogyny, corruption, and disinformation.

During the first day of screening, UPLB student-activist John Peter Angelo “Jpeg” Garcia, who also faces charges of allegedly violating the mentioned law, delivered a short speech calling out the government from red-tagging and weaponizing the terror act against militant groups.

According to Garcia, “Isko’t Iska 2023” was not just a mere imagination but based on the real-life experiences of youth activists and defenders from Southern Tagalog being oppressed by the “fascist estate.”

He then called for the audience, mostly UPLB students, to be critical and fight the attacks on human rights defenders.

Meanwhile, Director Axcel Beltran said in an interview that the play aimed “not just to entertain, but to enlighten” people regarding the issues faced by each sector of society.

“Sana may natutuhan sila sa pagpasok at paglabas nila ng D.L. ngayong gabi and isa lang naman talaga ‘yung goal ng Isko’t Iska – it’s to enlighten people,” Beltran added.

The director also urged the viewers, “Sana po ay paingayin natin ang panawagan ng Isko’t Iska ngayon na defend the defenders and protect the human rights talaga ng bawat tao.”

Isko’t Iska is an annual theater play with free admission held in the university and organized by the Isko’t Iska Task Force in partnership with various organizations.

The audience thronged the three-day screening of the show; some lined up almost four hours before the start, while others did not have the chance to watch the play due to the cut-off.