Established in 2003, the theatrical dance group Kathara has been performing in the Vancouver and the Lower Mainland area as part of a multi-disciplinary artistic & cultural exchange created by Elenita Boots Dumlao and Babette Santos. Kathara performs traditional music & dance, theatre, and martial art practices inspired by indigenous peoples of Southern Mindanao such as the Manobo, Bagobo Tagabawa, B’laan, Mandaya, and T’boli.
After almost ten years of performances, in 2012, long-time Kathara members formalized the group into the Kathara Pilipino Indigenous Arts Collective Society. When the book entitled Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous (edited by Leny M. Stroebel) landed on the shores of Coast Salish on the same year, members of the performance group answered to what seemed a long awaited call. Self-produced events and gatherings marked Kathara’s journey towards the Third International Babaylan Conference 2016. These milestone events include the premiere showing of Auraeus Solito’s film Busong: Palawan Fate (2012), a theatrical production called Bagobo: The New People (2013), KAPWA Sensing Ourselves in One Another: A Philippine Indigenous Arts Festival (2014), and a multi-media inter-disciplinary art presentation Empowerment Legacy of Lapu Lapu on Unceded Coast Salish Territory (2015). Kathara also capitalized on visits of Philippine champions of Indigenous Peoples rights, such as visiting UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and peace negotiator, author, and cleric Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, by engaging them in community talks.
The arrival of the book Babaylan and the awareness of a growing indigenization movement within Filipino communities across Turtle Island and the Philippines propelled Kathara to ally with the Center for Babaylan Studies in the co-creation of the Third International Babaylan Conference in Vancouver, BC. Kathara has been slowly building bridges and creating partnerships within and outside the Filipino community to cultivate grassroots support towards the Conference. Trumpeting the call to groups in the academe, social services, the arts, advocacy, ethnic and First Nations, Kathara’s vision has infected people’s imaginations. Kathara members, upon invitation by CfBS to co-create the Conference and as if prompted by their ancestors, readily answered, “YES, it’s time.” Thus the journey of Kathara continues guided by the reverence of Kapwa and Loob, hand-in-hand with CfBS.