Choreography in focus: OFW by Gerardo Francisco

Choreography in focus: OFW by Gerardo Francisco

Gerardo Francisco and Rudy De Dios danced OFW for a choreography competition in 2009 where it won the grand prize. Photo by Ocs Alvarez

On the darkened stage, the spotlight falls on two men in blue-collar shirts with their luggage in tow. With such visual cues, one can probably deduce what this choreographic piece is about. Of course, the title says it all.

This is OFW which stands for “overseas Filipino worker” by Ballet Manila's prolific in-house choreographer and principal artist Gerardo Francisco.

OFW was originally named Balikbayan when it won first place at the 4th WiFi Contemporary Dance Festival’s Young Choreographers Competition in 2009. But Francisco got many reactions that the term “balikbayan” seemed to connote people who come home and enjoy themselves, which ran counter to his theme of a contract worker's travails. Since he meant it as a tribute to to the people dubbed as the country's “modern heroes,” he has changed the title to OFW.

Francisco wanted to portray the typical life of an OFW and their experiences abroad. The movements reflect their journey – from the time that they pack their things and board the plane to when they start their work overseas.

Blue-collar apparel and luggage are the visual cues used to highlight the theme. Photo by Ocs Alvarez

Using music mainly from the soundtrack of the movie Troy, Francisco's OFW stirs the heart as the dancers go through the motions – and emotions. “The first time I heard the music, it really fitted my concept so well. Nakakalungkot at nakakaiyak siya (It makes you sad and tearful),” he notes.

Francisco put an even more special touch to the musical accompaniment by adding the voice of his wife and daughter.

The choreographer wanted to convey the struggles that OFWs must go through, being separated from loved ones just to provide for them. “Kahit ga'no kahirap ang trabaho sa labas, kinakaya at ginagawa nila para sa pamilya (No matter how difficult their work is abroad, they cope and do their best for their family),” he explains.

OFW portrays in dance the often sad journey of Filipino workers as they work away from family. Photo by Ocs Alvarez

OFW was included in the 2016 Shanghai Contemporary Dance Festival in Shanghai, China, which was held from July 30 to August 2. Francisco and BM soloist Anselmo Dictado performed the nine-minute piece on August 1 in the city's Lyceum Theatre. OFW was one of Francisco's pieces that was submitted to the Shanghai committee and was ultimately selected for the festival.

“I'm humbly honored and happy, excited at the same time that my piece was chosen to be a part of this event,” says Francisco.

OFW, which served as the finale for that evening's program, was greeted with warm applause and shouts of "Bravo!"

Francisco shares that immediately after their performance, someone approached them to invite Ballet Manila to another festival in China in 2017.


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