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Vancouver playwright Kamila Sediego forges stronger connections with her Filipinx identity through Homecoming

Homecoming Kamila Sediego
The Cultch and Urban Ink will present Kamila Sediego's Homecoming from May 2 to 12. Photo by Emily Cooper.

The origins of Kamila Sediego’s new play, Homecoming, go back more than 10 years. Her maternal grandfather was quite sick in Iloilo in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines. Sediego’s mother went to visit him, returning to her homeland for the first time in decades.

“I watched my mom go through grief here, separated and away,” Sediego tells Pancouver over Zoom in the midst of a Homecoming rehearsal.

As Sediego imagined what that reunion looked like, it inspired her to write a play. The Cultch and Urban Ink will present the world premiere of Homecoming at the Cultch Historic Theatre from May 2 to 12.

There are four characters spanning three generations—two sisters, their mother, and the Canadian-born daughter of one of the sisters. The daughter goes on a quest to learn more about her ancestry and identity through the three older family members.

“I’m very much like the character in the play who is trying to discover and learn things like that,” Sediego acknowledges.

Directed by Hazel Venzon, Homecoming‘s cast includes Rhea Casido (Ana), Lissa Neptuno (Vicky), Carmela Sison (Tess), and Aura Curcueva (Eleanora), with Lisa Goebel as the standby understudy.

In her play, Sediego speaks directly to the culture of Iloilo through languages and dialects. In addition to English, some characters speak Tagalog as well as two dialects common to the Western Visayas: Hilagaynon and Kinaray-a.

“I know this is about a very specific cultural identity,” Sediego says. “But I think at the core, it is really about finding belonging and the struggle to find belonging. If you’re from the Philippines—or no matter where your roots are or where you’re at now—people can see themselves and acknowledge where they are in their journey of finding belonging.”

Homecoming helps playwright make sense of her world

The playwright discloses that writing Homecoming and other works enables her to figure out her own identity.

“What does it mean to be Filipino? Am I Filipino enough?” Sediego asks. “And even on the flip side, what does it mean to be Canadian? Am I Canadian enough?

“With these two identities, do I have an answer?” she continues. “I don’t think so. It’s an evolving search in this country, but writing this play has definitely helped.”

Kamila Sediego
Kamila Sediego is an associate with the Playwrights Theatre Centre. Photo by Noelle Sediego.

Sediego is keenly interested in the impact of colonization on the people of the Philippines. For more than three centuries, Spain ruled the Philippines until it lost the Spanish-American War of 1898.

At that point, it appeared as though the Philippines might gain independence. But then the United States asserted control, which lasted for decades until Japan invaded the country during the Second World War. The U.S. government only recognized Philippines independence in 1946.

Colonization raises many questions

Homecoming doesn’t address the effects of colonization to the same degree as some of Sediego’s other works. However, it still pops up through the reclamation of language and by showing how Catholicism has become so deeply embedded in the population.

“There are definitely aspects of that—that come through in this play—even though that was not the intention when I was first writing Homecoming,” Sediego reveals.

She even feels conflicted about the name of the country. During a 16th-century expedition, Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos named the archipelago after Prince Philip (later King Philip II) of Spain.

This, in turn, raises another question. Does Sediego prefer to be identified by the term Filipino, Filipina, Pinoy, or Pinay?

“That’s also something that I’m figuring out,” Sediego replies with a chuckle. “It’s complex. There’s no right answer. For every person, it’s different.

“For me, I’ve been identifying with the Filipinx term,” she adds. “I am taking it as a rejection of the ‘genderizing’ of the Spanish influence, even though its so hard to escape. So much of our language has absorbed the Spanish language and the Spanish cultural idea. Who knows? It might change.”

The Cultch and Urban Ink will present the world premiere of Homecoming from May 2 to 12 at the Cultch Historic Theatre (1895 Venables Street). There will be audience talkback sessions following the May 5 and May 7 shows. For more information and tickets, visit the Cultch website.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.