Manning the World: Staging Filipino Migrant Masculinities in Katas ng Saudi

  • Oscar Tantoco Serquiña, Jr. University of the Philippines Diliman


This essay revisits and analyzes the 1987 play of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) titled Katas ng Saudi, which features four Filipino construction workers during the height of oil-fueled construction industries in the Persian Gulf. It employs the tropes of masculinity, nation, and migration to account not only for that sociohistorical moment when a massive tide of Filipino men (husbands and fathers mostly) comprised the initial phase of the so-called third wave of migration from the Philippines, but also for the hypermasculinity that pervades national, migrant, and diasporic discourses. What happens to male subjects when the patriarchal virility that they believe to possess as agency, or as an access to a labor circulation generative of prof it, is displaced from its reif ied supremacies and consequently lapses into inutility within migratory or diasporic conditions? This essay explains the entwinement of masculinity, nation, labor migration, and diaspora, particularly through the negotiated manhood of migrant workers who are regarded as breadwinners, guardians, and pillars of the homeland, on the one hand, but simultaneously perceived as racialized, stratif ied, and sexualized workers of the world, on the other. An interrogation of Katas ng Saudi’s melodrama, specifically the affordances that this theatrical genre provides in foregrounding and understanding issues of migrant masculinities, concludes the discussion.

Keywords: Philippine plays, labor migration, Filipino diaspora, PETA