While waiting for the others, I used the precious time to remember past celebrations of Ani ng Sining, now popularly known as Philippine Arts Festival (PAF).
PAF or ANI NG SINING (HARVEST OF THE ARTS) was strange to me before 2001. When I was asked by the Provincial Government of Laguna through Laguna History, Arts, and Cultural Office (LAHACO) to coordinate the event which was to be held in Pila at the time when I was elected Chair of PCCA (local counterpart of NCCA), that was the first time that I learned about it. In the 2007 Ani ng Sining, I received a Plaque of Recognition from the Provincial Government of Laguna for the very successful Cultural Exchange Program that the town of Lopez, Quezon (where I was working at that time) had with Lagunense youth leaders. Every February is actually a festival of the arts or NATIONAL ARTS MONTH by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 683 of 1991. This nationwide celebration is spearheaded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
2008 was special. Upon submission of necessary requirements, I received a grant for the town of Lopez. With the theme “Art in Public Spaces,” students, enthusiasts, and local artists had a real treat to the delight of the crowd. It was also a rare chance for Lopez Culture, Arts, and Tourism Council (LCATC) which is now called Lopez Heritage Conservation and Historical Society (LHCHS) to meet NCCA’s Resource Person for Cultural Caregiving, Frank Rivera. It had been an unforgettable “first harvest” of Lopenze art. After that big event, schools in our town had their own celebrations. I was Guest Speaker in the 2011 Ani ng Sining in Don Emilio Salumbides Elementary School (DESES). In the year 2012, I attended the opening at the Rizal Park (Luneta), joining other dance artists under Prof. Larry Gabao and the first ever Southern Luzon Arts Festival hosted by the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB).
Last year, 2013, we had the 2nd Harvest. Thanks to sponsors like Lopez Quezon International (LQI), LHCHS, Arella-Suguitan Museum, Queen’s Gems, Mr. & Mrs. Chris Manza, SCA Lopez, PNU Quezon, PUP Lopez, LNCHS through Ms Sarah Manza and Ms. Marivic Sante, Prof. Crispulo Alarde, Julianito ‘Boy’ Villasanta, Ms. Adrien Merjudio, the Office of the Municipal Mayor for the use of plaza; and many others who helped in any way. Artists were given a chance to showcase their talents and the general public were able to appreciate art in various forms. Third harvest for Lopez, Quezon would be on 8-10 February 2014. Again, there are several activities lined up for this special occasion.
In the national scene, the biggest festival of the arts is coming this January 31st until March 3rd. And that’s why we were invited.
In the words of NCCA Chair Prof. Felipe de Leon, Jr., “Bloggers are potent force of influencing people; ideas extending reach for the young and the media in a more intimate way. Marami kayong naisusulat dyan na hindi nagagawa sa other media. ” As delicious lunch was served, so the program started.
This year’s theme “Art on the Edge” was extensively discussed by the NCCA Chair. He gave the following explanations: (1) indigenous: art that is new but not really, because it is on the periphery “We glamorize art from Paris and London. In the social hierarchy, we view the Manileño on top of the triangle, followed by city dwellers, the poblacion, bukid, then the bundok settlers. What is indigenous is on the lowest level but our identity is based on them. That social hierarchy must be reversed.” (2) cutting edge: technology or cyber art; or new forms like glass, crystal, resin(3) contemporary: traditional art used in a new way or given a new kind of presentation; something old but given a new dress; with new techniques and materials “A fashion show with T’nalak, T’boli jewelry. A backpack out of traditional cloth. In the 70s, Ryan Cayabyab used singkil in contemporary jazz.” (4) different artists from different arts should collaborate in one performance or production. “We would like to integrate art. Not just interactive but combining painting with dance that harness talents and specialties. Fashion show with music and textile art. Like the sculpture with tubes and liquid that produce music. In Paraguay, a cultural worker used scrap to create musical instruments and the urban poor were taught how to use it.”
He mentioned that installation art is a new phenomenon in the Philippines but mixed media is really a Filipino medium. “Though installation art is new to us, it is actually indigenous. Filipinos don’t like narrow specialization. Angelito Baldemor for one, mixes sculpture and painting. Filipino medium is multimedia. Traditional Filipinos do not separate one art to another. We don’t fragment the arts into seven arts. That is not Filipino. That is western. But we allowed this due to the western influence in the country.” “In sagayan, a healing ritual with visual arts, prayer, and music played by kulintang, the dancers are healers. They are warriors in beautiful vestments that attract evil spirits. Brooch is used to drive away “usog.” “In tarek dance of Palawan, their architecture is musical instrument. They make sure wind chime sound well. Bamboo floors produce sounds. Bamboo stairs have distinguishing sounds, too.
In music, we want medley. In food, sinigang; where there is soup, vegetables and meat. Halo-halo lahat. Gusto ng Filipino, andoon lahat ng medium to bring people together. Anything multiple, especially sacred, attracts people to one another, like in the Black Nazarene. Filipinos are fond of multiplicity. We don’t want those that separate people. Number one value of the Filipino is connectivity. We’re number one in social networking at 93.9% followed by Israel and Turkey. Out of 136 countries, Filipinos feel most loved. Out of 150 countries, Filipinos are most expressive, emotional. The more expressive you are, the more you attract. Performing arts is the most expressive in the arts. The first winner of X-Factor was Filipino because of expression. Madrigal Singers were the first choral group to win the European Grand Prix. We excel in anything that brings people together because we love to connect. We have the most techniques for bringing people together— ngiti, pabaon (sa kainan), balato. In the Philippines, hardly anybody is alone. Malls in the Philippines are likewise multiple. There is hardware, cinema, offices, church, hospital, recreation.
Prof. Jun de Leon is also the Head of Subcommittee on the Arts at the NCCA. He told the crowd about the planned new creations for next year. “Every year we’ll be happy to have new harvests. Architects should offer new designs that are typhoon and earthquake resistant. That project would be opened by the Philippines to the world. We plan to have an international competition for architecture design using the balangay as symbol of Filipino greatness. We are not Malay. We’re older. Peopling of Malaysia and Indonesia came from the Philippines. We had reached as far as Madagascar. Balangay is the symbol of Filipino identity par excellence.
Asked which type of art is most challenging to promote, Prof. de Leon replied, “Architecture and literature. A videoke of national artists reading poems… We never had literature na babasahin. Poetry to us is meant to be recited. To ‘read silently’ is very American. Experiential is for the Filipino. Babaylans were performers. Filipino is the exact opposite of solitary. In architecture, we don’t even know what’s Filipino about Filipino architecture. Filipinos were living in crowded places until hamletting into the plaza complex, so we used stone for bahay kubo (bahay na bato) instead of nipa. Maranao torogan is most beautiful. Maranao torogan and the Metropolitan Theater are examples of architecture that are very Filipino.
Calendar of Activities for the PAF will be released soon, but bloggers who were present in the Blogger’s Hour were invited to three events: (1) ANI NG SINING SA LRT on 20 January 2014, 8:00 a.m. in D. Jose and 10:00 a.m. in Cubao stations. In lieu of the regular press conference, there will be flash mob, hiphop, ballet, Filipiniana dancers, musicians, painters, poetry readers, theater artists, etc. (2) ANI NG DANGAL on 02 February 2014 at the Newport Performing Arts Theaterin Resorts World Manila, and (3) TABOAN on 24 February 2014 in Subic, Zambales.
After the event, I visited the NCCA Gallery to see Andres Bonifacio’s Tinubuang Lupa by Alwin Reamillo. It’s been there since 06 December 2013 and will only be on exhibit until 20 January 2014.
There’s a lot of things I learnt. I saw familiar faces like blogger friends Ronnie Bernardo and Pepe Alas, and met new ones. Now I’m looking forward to the 2014 Philippine Arts Festival, as well as the one that we are going to have in our hometown. I expect to see art expressions that are boundless, out of the box with unlimited possibilities, high impact, fearless, maybe dangerous, art to the max— on the edge!