Nanay Comes Home

A Canadian Production about OFWs now in Manila


“There’s no place like home” – a borrowed cliché that rings loud and true for many of us nowadays. As a popular joke goes, there are only two kinds of Filipinos – an OFW or someone related to one.  Another reality hits just as hard: OFWs though far from their own families, become part of other families abroad – usually as a Nanny – a “nanay proxy”.

It was precisely this irony that led Geraldine Pratt and Caleb Johnston of Canada’s Urban Crawl to devise Nanay – a site specific performance installation. The title is a play on words, where as nanay means mother in Filipino, it sounds like “nanny” to many Canadians.

 Nanay puts different worlds of need and desire into collision. This piece, done in collaboration with the Philippine Women Centre of British Columbia, is about the human costs of Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP).

 Through the LCP, Filipinas and their families are granted permanent residency in Canada in exchange for twenty four months of working as a personal caregiver to Canadian employers. However, many Filipinas are vulnerable to exploitation under the program.

“…the Canadian government [holds] up the Live-In Caregiver Program as a model migration program, which is contradicted and significantly complicated by research conducted over the past 15 years” says Johnston.

The opinions about the LCP are divided however.  A review of Nanay on generated this comment: “Canadians may call LCP many names: slavery, sexism, violation of women’s rights… but Filipinos have one word for it – opportunity.”  As the themes of its content are complex and delicately layered, so is the staging of the production.

Nanay is site specific and uses event media to bring audiences closer to the heart of the matter. Site specific theatrical convention: whereas a stage is dressed up in a set to depict a show’s setting, in site specific theater, it is the character of the venue that gives character to the show. Event media involves the interaction of live performance with audio-visual technology. Nanay’s non-linear story is told in performance installations located in various spaces of the performance venue.


Johnston explains that “…unconventional theater spaces [serve] as a means through which to bring small groups into a close physical and emotional proximity to the issues”.

For the production’s run in the PETA Theater Center this November 25-30, only 30 audience members will be accommodated per performance interval. Audiences are formed into even smaller groups, and literally move from one vignette to another.  The play culminates with a talk back between audiences and the production members.

Though experimental theater isn’t too popular in our theater scene, some local groups have come up with their own site-specific, media event performances before. Sipat Lawin’s “Battalia Royale”  (2011) and  UP Diliman’s Information for Foreigners directed by Anton Juan (2010) feature local adaptations of foreign texts turned into highly visceral audience interaction pieces. It’s an uncanny to note that in terms of text, Urban Crawl has done the inverse.

Verbatim testimonials from the interviews with OFWs and their families form the play’s text. Through “Nanay”, non-Filipinos Johnston and Pratt use experimental theater to dissect and express a uniquely Filipino experience of being nanay-nanny.

In many ways, staging “Nanay” in the Philippines, and staging it with local actors is another level of site specific.  This production which premiered in Vancouver, and later toured Berlin, is now coming home to the country from where its story stems. Like an overseas migrant seeking its roots, “Nanay” awaits the Filipino audiences to connect to it in their own unique way.    

 “Nanay” will be shown at the PETA Theater Center, No. 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila QC. Shows will be at 7:00pm, 7:30pm and 8:00 pm on November 25-30. Only 30 audiences will be accommodated per show. For tickets and reservations, contact PETA Theater Center at 7256244, 4100822 loc. 23, or 0908-8728830 or email

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