THE MANILA DECISION

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a lived experience of the collapse of white privilege



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introduction

A middle aged white Australian, living in Beijing, visits Manila for a visa run in 2014. A chance meeting leads to his abduction by corrupt police, a confusing attempt at extortion and a window into the noir world of the Metro Manila. A tale that sees him grappling with cultural presuppositions, privilege, relationships, court, the catholic church and immigration detention. This work is created from photographs, diaries and emails from the time, with later recollections. This piece is rooted in the lived reality with all its oddness, wtf moments and dark humour.

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the team

A middle aged white Australian, living in Beijing, visits Manila for a visa run in 2014. A chance meeting leads to his abduction by corrupt police, a confusing attempt at extortion and a window into the noir world of the Metro Manila. A tale that sees him grappling with cultural presuppositions, privilege, relationships, court, the catholic church and immigration detention.
This work is created from photographs, diaries and emails from the time, with later recollections. This piece is rooted in the lived reality with all its oddness, wtf moments and dark humour. The story belongs to a visual artist, photographer, who is a research graduate in sociology, garrie maguire. He realised that an exhibition of the images with an essay were not enough to communicate the extent of this misadventure.
He has assembled
Beng Oh (director),
Jane Miller (playwright and dramaturg),
Keith Brockett and
Steve Gome (actors) to shape the written material into a form that works with the imagery and explores the melding of photographs and theatre, away from the slide show aesthetic.

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themes

The production will investigate themes;

  • Cultural difference, misunderstanding and assumptions including social privilege

  • The impact of life being disrupted, a hold departure order, then detained indefinitely.

  • How injustice and trauma affects mental health and strategies for self preservation.

  • The impact on relationships when you have not maintained social norms.

  • Emotional response to a loved one's trauma.

  • Loss of control.

  • That life is not binary.

Woven through a lived tale that provides an empathetic understanding of the players.

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history

The misadventure happened between May 30, 2014 and Jan 19, 2017. We began work on the project in 2018 and a deadline would push us to a final form and force us to narrow the narrative and expression there of and create the cohesive work from the many options.

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text one

I walked to the front of the hotel but Alvin was nowhere to be seen. Another man was there (20ís Pinoy, 168-175cm, medium build) but he didnít look at me. I looked at the hotel and I thought ëthis is dodgyí. My phone is in my right hand, I looked down into the hotel driveway. I was lifted of the ground, twisted around to face the open door of a black van. ìGet in!î / demanded / ìwhat the fuck!?î / I protest / Confused / Left hand and legs / to stop being dragged / into the van / four more men / sitting / dressed casually / time slowed / doing my best / donít get in the van / my mouth / fast as my brain / streaming consciousness / make sense / what is happening? / kidnapping? / Iím / being kidnapped! / I wasnít going to go easy / not going / my attacker is smaller / but stronger / long face / horse face / that had seen one hellish sustained attack of acne / late 30s / can I? / knock him to the ground? / use him to cushion / He says ìIím police!î. I ask to see his badge and ID. He holds me with one hand tight around my waist my feet off the ground and gets out a small ID that looks to me to be homemade. This isnít right. Even if they were cops, by not announcing who they were on arrival I became even more suspicious of their intent and was verbalising all the possibilities; kidnapping, extortion and every other variation you can think of. It was a no win situation. I could not break free, and even if I did I could not get away.
I was terrified, and trying work out what had happened, and why. Alvin had obviously gifted me this fabulous experience; my captors even knew my hotel and room number. I gave up and sat down, my mind was reeling.

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text two

Dear Garrie
There is nothing I'd rather wish you for your birthday than for all of this to vanish, this nightmare in Manila.
Our lives have been rendered into so much turmoil it is hard for me to remember how life was before. But the enduring memories are for me, something which are both a source of happiness and sadness. There are times I'd wish a magic spell might whisk us back in time, to when we were dancing together in the frenzied glitz and excitement of Mardi Gras when we'd first met. We'd be lost in the sparkle and starry nights that we'd hope would last forever. How could moments like these fade? Like the dancer at Sleaze, dressed in a mirrored body suit, suspended in the air, the laser light exploding from her body, or how I cried when the pink Village People shouted out 'you can't stop the music!' because I believed the music wouldn't stop. Ever. We had so much to look forward to.
I don't have a magic wand. No matter how much magic I could conjure, and there's no incantation untested and there's none left in me. The music stopped. The magic too, an illusion that is just an apparition shimmering in the twilight amidst the silence. I never wanted this to happen. Nor do I believe did you. There is no magic to take us back in time, to re live those wonderful memories nor to remove this awful plight that has cleaved from me something special and dear. There are wounds now that are raw, and emotionally deep.
Here I am now, emotionally spent, and apart from the financial support I have nothing left to give. It's ironic. That the heartless symbolism that gives money such a poor reputation, is my last vestige of comfort. Cold comfort.
Please don't ask me to explain how it's come to this. It just has.

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text three

Awoke at 5am. Did JollyBee at 8:30 getting ready to meet my student to give her back her camera. Missed call from Shavaun (from the embassy) and a voice message ëwhere are you, I'm in courtí. Checked calendar sure there was ëcourtí but no alarm. Damn! changed, ran, found a taxi, stressed. Got to court at 9:15am, 15 late, ran in. No prosecutor, again. Reset. WTF! I looked exhausted and exasperated.
Two men were chatting with my lawyer and my embassy joined in. One was holding papers, I could only read the Bureau of Immigration, then my name was clearly visible. What is happening? This cannot be good. Shevaun told me ëthey are detaining you, we are still trying to work out why.í both the embassy and the lawyer were discussing intently. Shevaun was working on finding if the issue was, the not having a passport. Soon she came back, ëThey have deemed you ëundesirableí and seems little we can do about it. Iíll stay with you.í My lawyers told me they would protest my detention, and they should be able to get me out.

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text four

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conclusion

We hope that you can see the potential for this project, as we do. That this project contextualises the cultural milieu that we find ourselves; lockdowns, thoughts of cheap holidays in developing counties and mental health. It puts human faces to these issues and how they can play out. The projectís narrative adds political commentary and provides a fresh perspective the issue of indefinite immigration detention, global inequality and the repercussions of governmental structures.
We are playing with fresh ways of combining narrative theatre with still photography and lived experience.

Introduction video - Link