Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas (Philippines)

In 1977, Professor Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio was invited by the University of the Philippines Diliman Department of Speech and Drama to present one of her plays. Originally a playwright for adult audiences, Professor Bonifacio decided to present Abadeja: Ang Ating Sinderela (Abadeja: Our Cinderella), a puppet play based on a Visayan folktale about the Cinderella-like Abadeja. It was performed in cooperation with DULAANG UP and UP Repertory Company. After the December shows at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, members of the cast continued to meet and visit Professor Bonifacio in her Faculty Center office. Moved by the enthusiasm and spurred by her own long-standing dream of forming a children’s theater group, Professor Bonifacio founded TEATRONG MULAT NG PILIPINAS (1977). 

MULAT Founding Artistic Director & Playwright Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio with Abadeja puppets, Philippine Starweek, 1988 (Photo from Teatrong Mulat collection)

“Mulat” means to open, to awaken; hence a theater to awaken the children to the beauty and richness not only of their own culture, but of still unfamiliar Asian cultures. Inspired by the Indonesian wayang golek (rod puppet) and wayang kulit (shadow puppet) and Japanese bunraku (puppet manipulated by three puppeteers), MULAT has pioneered in the creation of a Philippine puppet. It has presented children’s plays based on Philippine and Asian folktales. The popular ones include Ang Paghuhukom (The Trial premiered in 1980), Papet Pasyon (The Passion of Jesus Christ In Puppetry, 1985), Dalawang Bayani (Two Heroes, 1996), Ang Pagong at ang Tsonggo (The Turtle and the Monkey, 1977), Sita & Rama: Papet Ramayana (Sita & Rama: Puppet Ramayana, 2004). 

Papet Pasyon (The Passion of Jesus Christ In Puppetry) premiered in 1985 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. (Photo from Teatrong Mulat collection) 

The group was formally introduced to the public in June 12, 1978 at the Quirino Grandstand with the help of the late Mr. Doroy Valencia, a patron of the arts. In its early beginnings, the group presented plays with puppets,  with actors and with mixed puppets and actors. In 1979, in celebration of the International Year of the Child, the group was invited to the 1st International Workshop on Living Children’s Theater in Asia in Tokyo, Japan and the Asian Puppet Festival in Tashkent, Russia. It was the time that the group decided to concentrate on Asian puppetry — adopting the techniques of  the Indonesian wayang golek (rod puppet) and wayang kulit (shadow puppet) and the Japanese bunraku (having two to three puppeteers manipulate a puppet and the use of black outfit for the puppeteers).  In 1983, in celebration of  the University of the Philippines’s Diamond Jubilee,  it hosted the 2nd International Workshop on Living Children’s Theater in Asia. In 1989, the TEATRONG MULAT NG PILIPINAS FOUNDATION, INC. was registered as a non-stock, non-profit organization.

Ang Manok at ang Lawin (The Hen and the Hawk), by Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio, was one of the first plays staged by Teatrong Mulat with actors. (Photo from Teatrong Mulat collection)

  MULAT Theater Founder Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio dreamt of building the very 1st puppet theatre and museum in the country. Together with her husband Sociology Professor Manuel F. Bonifacio, they purchased a house and lot along Mapagkawanggawa Street, Teacher’s Village, Quezon City. In 2006, the AMELIA LAPEÑA-BONIFACIO TEATRO PAPET MUSEO, the 1st puppet theater museum in the country, was established with assistance from former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada.

The Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Teatro Papet Museo is the home of Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas.

MULAT has participated in various international and national puppet festivals, seminar-workshops and conferences. It conducted workshops for day care workers affected by Typhoon Haiyan under the auspices of UNICEF and the group recently performed during the Conference Annual Philippine Studies Conference 2019 at SOAS, University of London. 

Puppetry workshop with day care workers for UNICEF project (Iloilo, 2015)

Teatrong Mulat performed Awit ni Baylan (Song of Baylan) during the Conference Annual Philippine Studies Conference 2019 at SOAS, University of London. (Photo from Teatrong Mulat collection)

In recognition of Professor Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio’s efforts in promoting Philippine stories and Asian puppetry and eventually creating a Philippine puppet tradition, the University of the Philippines’ Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts conferred her the title “Mother of Philippine Puppetry” in February 2010 and was conferred the Order of the National Artists of the Philippines in 2018.

Order of National Artist conferred to Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio by Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in 2018.  (Photo from Teatrong Mulat collection)


Contact details:

Contact Person: Amihan Bonifacio-Ramolete

Office address: Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Teatro Papet Museo

64 Mapagkawanggawa St., Teachers Village West, 

Diliman, Quezon City  1101 Philippines

Phone: (+63-2) 8921-9773

Mobile phone: (+63-918) 903-2040

E-mail: mulat.puppets@gmail.com

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MulatPuppetTheater