WATCH: Takoyaki as a means to remember World War II

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Japanese artist Riki Takeda’s performance, "The octopus is an octopus, but it is ______," links the titular animal as a way to remember the sea and, in it, the ghosts of the second World War. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — “I want to talk more to the children but right now it is so difficult because there are so many,” Riki Takeda says as he starts preparing a new batch of takoyaki for his next performance. Having previously been a kindergarten teacher in Japan before pursuing his career as a performance artist in 2012, he seems unfazed by the persistent questions and comments of the children that surround him.

His performance of "The octopus is an octopus, but it is ______" is a part of this year’s Karnabal Festival, a gathering of emerging and independent alternative theater performers in the Philippines. Now on its third year, the festival focuses on the theme of “Divergence,” intended on taking the different performances to different spaces and communities around Manila, including Navotas, Payatas, and Tondo. Takeda’s piece traveled from Diliman to Cubao to Tondo to Navotas.

The festival believes that its artists “take on the role of co-creator of future histories — learning from past/history, responding to the problems of the present, and collectively envisioning and being pro-active in making and redirecting the future.” Which is exactly what Takeda was thinking about on the day of his performance in Tondo, serving takoyaki in exchange for a song, a dance, a skill, or a story. This exchange is a physical manifestation of the greater exchange happening during the performance: an exchange of cultures, and a chance for the kids of Tondo to rewrite history to some extent.