Karlwinn is a performance maker and teacher. He is a member of inITIate PH, a pan-Philippine artist collective composed of ITI alumni and students. Prior to ITI, he worked as a theatre specialist in the Special Program in the Arts and the Arts & Design Track of Diplahan National School, Department of Education-Philippines.
His recent works include COALateral, presented at the 16th TANGHAL National University and Community-based Theatre Festival. In 2019, he made his playwright debut with Unsay Koneksyon sa Iring? at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Extra Virgin Labfest.
Karlwinn was awarded the Most Outstanding Greenducator of Region IX-Philippines for his contributions in using theatre as a tool to raise awareness of environmental issues and educating youth on the conservation of wildlife and natural resources.
To better himself as an artist, Karlwinn decided to study at ITI. After graduation, he plans to continue making theatre as well as collaborating with various artists and institutions.
Karlwinn is a beneficiary of the Möbius Fund.
What were you doing before coming to ITI?
Before coming to ITI, I worked as an English teacher and Theatre Specialist in the Special Program in the Arts and Arts & Design Track of Diplahan National High School, Department of Education-Philippines. I was also a cultural worker and an active volunteer as a Green Educator at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Tell us how you came to know of ITI. What made you choose to come here?
In 2015, I received a scholarship grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to study for a Diploma in Cultural Education at La Salle University - Ozamiz City, where I met alumnus Felimon Blanco as my school coordinator. I learnt about ITI from him. As a theatre teacher in a public secondary school, my experience in theatre was insufficient because we don't have enough references and exposure to conventional theatre so I involved myself in national training and workshops. However, my capacity to handle the knowledge for the students was still not enough. So, Felimon advised me to professionalise my craft through studying in ITI. For my personal growth as a theatre practitioner and teacher to my future students, I decided to study at ITI.
Think back to your first day here: what were some of your thoughts and emotions then?
I was extremely happy and sad. Happy to finally get to study theatre at a known institution — one of my biggest dreams since young. Sad because studying in Singapore meant travelling abroad for the first time and being away from my family. Although I had mixed emotions, I was so grateful for the opportunity.
What is it like to train here at ITI?
One word is not enough to describe what it is like training here at ITI. For me, it's like a rollercoaster ride. The moment I stepped into the studio, I could hear my heart beat fast because of excitement. I enjoyed the ride going to the top and seeing the things that I could do. Then suddenly it fell, which made me scream, afraid, and doubt myself — something I needed to internalise, focus on and change. Sometimes you stop, sometimes you get to the top and sometimes you fall. It's a beautiful ride.
What have you learnt through working with your classmates from various countries?
I learnt how to appreciate my classmates’ beautiful ideas. Being with my classmates allowed me to break the barriers in terms of language, culture, and expressions. My classmates taught me how to take care of one another, to give value to small things and to understand one another.
What are the most memorable experiences you’ve had at ITI?
The most memorable experience was when Ruz and her husband fetched me at the airport. When I finally landed, I saw Ruz holding my name printed on the whiteboard. I was so happy to meet her. Then she introduced me to her husband. All of a sudden, an Indian guy approached me, whom I thought was Kaleem. At the time, I had no idea how tall Kaleem was or how he looked as a person. So I smiled back at him and we hugged tightly, thinking I had finally met Kaleem. So sweet, right? Because he also fetched me at the airport. Then, Ruz asked if I knew him, to which I said “Yes, he’s Kaleem”. To my surprise, Ruz shook her head. I felt the adrenaline rush to my head, my sleepiness and grogginess disappeared. I was so scared! It was definitely an unforgettable moment.
How has what you’ve learnt here shaped or changed you as an actor?
ITI taught me that theatre is not only a mirror of life; that theatre is life. When we learnt the traditional forms, it brought me back to nature. I learnt to give high respect to the culture and its art form, which was created and nurtured for how many years. I knew the culture of preparation, process and performance onstage and applied it in my personal life.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I intend to continue teaching and making original theatre.
What would you say to a new student or someone considering joining ITI?
ITI is the best choice because it allows you to discover your strengths and weaknesses as an actor. It is a training ground for us to find the centre of ourselves, discipline our body and mind and create a culture of teamwork and family.
Any special thanks or words for teachers, family, benefactors/funders of scholarships/bursaries, members of the arts community, supporters, etc?
Thank you to my teachers, especially Simon, Wan Ching, and Chin Huat, you were there and helped me immediately when I was sick. I will never forget it. Thank you Sasi for listening to my heart and understanding me, you are the most genuine person I know. I am forever grateful to all the teachers for their kindness in sharing their knowledge.
To all my friends, especially Marvin, Ana and Kuya Al, you are amazing. You made my stay in Singapore easy and comfortable. In terms of emotional advice or even financial support, you are always there to help me.
To my parents and my siblings, you are my avid fans. You are my great audience and supporters. Thank you very much for your unconditional love.
And finally, to Almighty God for giving me strength, talent, and wisdom.
Profile photo and ASYLUM production shot by Bernie Ng