The premise: Every month, Word of Mouth gathers around 10 storytellers in intimate venues around Manila. They’re not necessarily public speakers, artists, or performers—just people with stories to share. Each storyteller has five minutes to narrate a real-life story based on the theme of the month. The venue is filled with both friends and strangers.
The story has to be unscripted. No, we weren’t allowed to bring cue cards—not even our mobile phones to check our bullet notes. They’re not looking for the spoken word, theatrical, or FlipTop type of performance. Just talk. It’s like listening to a friend open up for the first time about a heartbreak or crazy adventure—except that he/she’s onstage with a mic.
When this flagship project of Hulma Collab was launched in March, the theme was “Starting Over.” In April, it was “Getting There.” May was “Game Changers,” June was “Breaking Free,” while July was all about “Obsessions.”
Word of Mouth is the brainchild of friends Dianne Mendoza and Pia Benosa. Inspired by The Moth, a non-profit org that organizes live storytelling events in the US, Dianne and Pia decided to put up Word of Mouth in Manila for the same purpose—to bring people from different backgrounds to a safe space where they can express themselves.
“Everyone has a story to tell,” said Char Vilchez, who started as a storyteller in March, and became one of the organizers. “At a time of divisiveness, telling and listening to personal stories can help us appreciate one another.”
This project has evolved. They started by inviting friends who they knew were comfortable with public speaking. Now they have a wider range of participants. They now charge a minimal entrance fee (which comes with refreshments), while storytellers get tokens from sponsors.
Anyone can be a storyteller. Just browse through their upcoming dates and venues, see if you have a story that fits the theme of the month, and then make a reservation. Your story doesn’t necessarily have to be about love or heartaches. While some are dubbing Word of Mouth as a Hugot Festival, it’s subject to interpretation. I’ve heard participants share anecdotes, travel adventures, business success stories, and in my case, a series of serendipitous incidents.
If you’re hesitant, you may start as a member of the audience to listen to other storytellers and get a feel of Word of Mouth. When you’re ready, sign up as a storyteller.
Word of Mouth’s next session is on September 23 at Cool Beans Cafe, Quezon City. September’s theme is “Modern Love.” To join, visit Hulma Collab or email firstname.lastname@example.org.