Friday, August 04, 2017

Journeys in Culture and Creativity in Western Visayas: The Panakayon Workshops on Arts and Culture in the Communities

Panakayon participants' finale number during the camp's opening night
In Cuartero, an interior town of Capiz, near the center of Panay Island, a drab covered court blossomed into a makeshift museum, gallery, art space and venue for performances and discussions for a few days, showcasing the cultures, traditions, attractions and creativity of the Christianized ethnic groups of Western Visayas in central Philippines—the Hiligaynon, Kiniray-a and Aklanon—some unknown even within the region itself.   
There was a display of Cuartero’s cultural and natural sites of interest, photographed by budding photographers and made into postcards. The group from the town of Balete, in Aklan, brought in a loom to demonstrate the weaving of the fine fibers of the pineapple leaves into the piƱa fabric by its master weaver Raquel Eliserio. Hand-woven cotton fabrics from Miag-ao, Iloilo, were laid out in a bright and colorful spread. Pieces of embroidery from San Jose de Buenavista, the capital of Antique, were framed and mounted along with artworks. The municipality of Jordan, in the island province of Guimaras, brought in their tultul, big rocks of sea salt made in the traditional way in the barangay of Hoskyn, with several handicrafts and their famously sweet mangoes. 
Rousing performances enlivened the evening. A group from Antique mounted a dramatic retelling of its famous legend about the coming of the ten Bornean datus. Cuartero presented its Sayaw kay San Antonio de Padua, a dance for its patron saint characterized by young women dancing around a pole and holding multi-colored ropes until the ropes interweave around the pole with their movements, very similar to the Germanic maypole dance. Other towns presented dances highlighting their own traditions, melding folk movements and contemporary choreography. 
These were the products and creations of about 150 youth, students, teachers, cultural masters and artist-trainers from different parts of Panay Island—Balete, Aklan; Miag-ao, Iloilo; San Jose de Buenavista, Antique; Jordan, Guimaras; and Cuartero, Capiz—gathered here for the Panakayon Culture and Arts Camp, held from June 30 to July 2, 2017, the culmination of a series of workshops, lectures and cultural immersions held in these areas since January 2017. 
Initiated and organized the Sigmahanon Foundation for Culture and Arts (SFCAI), a cultural organization based in Sigma, Capiz, and supported by the government cultural agency National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Panakayon workshops are different from the others with their focus on arts and culture, creativity and their importance in their communities.
Nestor Horfilla, grassroots cultural worker. theater director and one of Panakayon’s facilitators, explained that panakayon is a word in Hiligaynon, the dominant language in the region, that means “journey,” to describe the multi-pronged project as a “creative journey of young artists and culture-sensitive educators.” It also emphasizes the safeguarding cultural heritage, and the role of culture and the arts in sustainable development.
It is often noted that the levels of consciousness about and appreciation of culture and the arts have been low in the country, and culture and the arts have often been neglected in national policies and agenda despite their vital role in national development. There are numerous endeavors to address this, and many begin with the youth and the communities and deal with local governments.
            “We believe this project will not only help the young people and the artisans, but the whole community as well,” said Alphonsus Tesoro, provincial tourism officer and head of the NCCA’s Subcommission on Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts, who hatched the idea in 2015.
Panakayon workshop series started in Miag-ao, known for its UNESCO-recognized church and hand-weaving industry, in January 16, followed by Cuartero in February 10 to 14 and Balete from February 16 to 18. The municipality of Jordan had theirs from May 11 to 13, and San Jose de Buenavista from May 29 to 31. These towns were preselected and deemed to benefit most from the workshops.
The workshops were multi-faceted, integrating several disciplines, but all intended to be culture-based, community-focused and youth-oriented. There were workshops on photography and journalism, performance and festival management. There were even workshops on climate-change mitigation and adaptation and disaster-risk reduction management, the region being frequented by typhoons.
The trainings were adapted according to the needs of the community. In Jordan, for example, there was emphasis on festival management and performance because the town expressed desire of creating their own festival. The workshop produced a festival management plan, tackling organization, financing and the festival proper, which they planned to present to the local government.
“We are hoping to develop creative industries,” Tesoro added.
He also hoped the Panakayon project will be instrumental in reviving traditional crafts that have vanished such as sinamay weaving in Cuartero. He said they have found artisans who still know how to weave the sinamay, a loosely woven cloth made of abaca fibers, and they are thinking to ways to document the practice and pass it on. 
The workshops culminated at the Panakayon Culture and Arts Camp, which aimed to strengthen a network of artists and cultural workers in the region and to exchange experiences and insights. The camp also provided opportunities for participants to refine their strategies in engaging their local government units to support community-based and culture-focused development programs.
The camp mounted an exhibit called “Mabihonon: Panakayon Traditional Arts and Crafts Exhibition,” highlighting the cultural richness of the region, and a showcase of performances. There were also lectures and activities about heritage and its conservation, and on developing community museums.
The camp provided a generous glimpse into the cultural richness of Western Visayas. These cultural products and practices by themselves are already valuable and important in the lives of the communities, but they’re in danger of being eroded or vanishing as awareness and appreciation wane. Panakayon endeavored to make people see the importance of creativity and cultural heritage, injecting a strong consciousness on and propagating a love for culture and the arts. 

As Panakayon project concluded, a second phase is being prepared, which will continue the initial efforts, as well as tackle how cultural efforts can be sustained and strategize on incorporating them more into local governance and daily lives, propelled by a hope of establishing a sort of “cultural renaissance,” and fomenting community-based productivity and development.




The "Mabihonon Panakayon Traditional Arts and Crafts Exhibition” during the Panakayon camp in Cuartero


Embroidery from San Jose, Antique
Weaver from Miag-ao demonstrates loom weaving




Colorful hablon pieces from Miag-ao, Iloilo

Tultul, traditionally crafted salt from Jordan, Guimaras, displayed at Panakayon's exhibit

Weaving the fine pina fabric of Aklan
Pineapple fibers





A work of sculptor Cipriano Lachica from Balete, Aklan
The performing group from Balete, Aklan


Capiz provincial officer Alphonsus Tesoro
Performers from Balete, Aklan




The Sayaw kay San Antonio de Padua of Cuartero, Capiz




Performance of the group from Jordan, Guimaras




The group from San Jose de Buenavista, Antique, did a dramatic retelling of the legend of the ten Bornean datus


Group of Miag-ao, Iloilo


 The lecture on developing community museums by Irene Magallon



Participants work on exercises in a session on developing community museums

St. Anthony of Padua Church of Cuartero, Capiz, with the ruins of an old belfry