Living within a culture that emphasizes resilience and humor amid suffering and pain makes it difficult to talk about mental illness. In the Philippines, you have no other choice but to be strong — both mentally and emotionally.
As a people, we put so much importance in being able to roll with the punches, almost to the point that it’s a requisite to master how to laugh in the face of misfortune. This is why, despite the growing call to recognize mental health as a legitimate public health concern, initiatives to resolve this remain limited.
In the present, a lot of Mary Girards still exist–victims of a harsh society whose leaders are oblivious to the horrendous truth. No wonder there is still a shadow of shame that seems to cover Mary Girard’s legacy. It staunchly proves that the stigma of mental illness, while far worse in the 19th century (in 1780’s to 90’s particularly), still carries considerable weight in the modern times.
Mary Girard was a woman way ahead of her time; a strong feminist who may have called for change during the wrong period. She was a victim of misfortune. And it is this play’s challenge to continue on her legacy — to echo her cries until it reverberates so loud that those who chose not to hear it will have no choice but to listen.
Her story compels us to reflect on the nature of our humanity, and how beautiful or terrible we, as people, could possibly be. Because the truth of it is that insanity lies within the minds of those who refuse to understand.
The title of the reimagination of Lanie Robertson’s original play, “13th of September,” is the date of Mary Girard’s death. It may be said that this play is an attempt to reawaken our compassion towards others, especially to people like her.
ELJAY CASTRO DELDOC & DREW ESPENOCILLA
Playwright & Dramaturg
13TH OF SEPTEMBER (directed by Riki Benedicto) goes to Quebec, Canada for its international debut at the 9th Festival International de Theatre De Mont-Laurier on Monday, September 9, 2019, 4 p.m., at the Espace Theatre (543) Rue du Pont Local.