Tell it to SunStar: A Holocaust recall in Cebu

By lsabel T. Escoda

JANUARY 27th was the date of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz in Poland 75 years ago. Last Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, a theater group called “Broadway Youth Cebu” performed “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the University of the Philippines on Gorordo Ave. It was a most apropos event, especially since the world needs to remember that never again should evil triumph over good. It’s not just anti-Semitism that still exists today, but various types of hate and ostracism towards people in many parts of the globe. It exists not always in overt ways but in subtle forms.

Anne Frank actually died at the German death camp, Bergen-Belsen, three months after Auschwitz in Poland was liberated. Her diary is an enduring classic about humanity triumphing over horrible adversity. It stands out from other accounts written of the estimated six million Jews who were exterminated by the Nazis.

Anne’s diary has been read by countless adults and young people worldwide. Several films and documentaries have been made about her life and death.

I had read the diary at a young age, and can still remember that when I later saw the 1959 film version, I felt totally drained by the experience. It wasn’t hard to think of myself in Anne Frank’s shoes and try to imagine the pain and anguish a 14-year-old had to endure. Still resonating today are the words Anne wrote in her diary: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

The actors in the recent performances were mostly students of the different universities in Cebu. The director spoke after the show that there had only been two weeks of rehearsals. Despite that, the main cast gave fine performances, with Yna Margaret Cajipe doing an outstanding turn as Anne Frank.

Over the years, the Broadway Youth Cebu group has given other shows around the city, among them “Miss Saigon,” “Les Miserables” and “Master Class.” Shows during the two performances of “The Diary of Anne Frank” were full, unlike in past years when other shows were mainly attended by students and their friends with few from the general public. Amateur theater groups have to contend with limited budgets and inadequate publicity.

While other cultural presentations that cater to Cebu’s so-called high society have no problems producing shows and getting publicized, small groups have to struggle to present their productions.

One hopes that more Cebuanos of all ages and persuasions will learn to support the arts in all its forms.