Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Grand Gathering for the Arts

For 18 years now, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has been spearheading the National Arts Month (NAM) in the month of February with a series of festivities and activities mounted throughout the country meant to celebrate Filipino artistry and to promote the arts and the artists. For 2009, the celebration continues with intensified promotion. For a country that has a scant interest in art and culture, NAM has remained largely overlooked despite efforts to popularize it. It is an unfortunate thing as the past celebrations have yielded notable and interesting productions. As early as now, efforts in publicizing the event are underway. There are plans to penetrate television shows, malls and different schools to promote NAM. Celebrity endorsers are being tapped. Contests, many targeting the students, are concocted like poetry writing through SMS and contests for the best cultural page in student publications.
But the still the substance lies in the lineup of productions and events for NAM. For the past few years, the celebration has become wishy-washy, some of the events just a tepid rehash of past ones and some serving particular agenda. This year, will NAM shine through its own cloud of obscurity, enlighten the public and lift the gloom of the looming global financial crisis? It remains to be seen.
Like in the past, NAM will feature the talents and performances of artists and arts groups in the seven arts, particular those of the NCCA’s committees. There will also be productions in the regions that have been granted funding by the NCCA. NAM gets ambitious by calling itself Philippine International Arts Festival (PIAF) but the international aspect involves selected artists from different countries joining some events in coordination with the Philippine International Theatre Institute (ITI) headed by its secretary general Malou Jacob, who is also the NCCA’s deputy executive director. It is not yet promoting itself internationally to attract art-loving tourists as the cultural events of, say, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Though the international caliber is not yet determined, there are many events, geared towards the local public, that are worth anticipating.

The flagship projects
At the frontline of the NAM celebration are the projects of the committees of the Sub-commission on the Arts, which is headed by poet Ricardo de Ungria, namely architecture and allied arts, cinema, dance, dramatic arts, literary arts, music and visual arts. The Committee on Architecture and Allied Arts will mount traveling exhibits, while Cinema will show films made in the regions. Concerts and shows will be staged by Dance, Dramatic Arts and Music. Arts festivals will be held by Literary Arts and Visual Arts.

Architecture: the celluloid and the vernacular
The projects “Pa(ng)labas: Architecture + Cinema” and “Walai-Vernacular Architecture of Mindanao” will be offerings of the Committee on Architecture and Allied Arts with the College of Architecture Foundation for the Built Environment and architect Gerard Lico as proponent and coordinator.
The title concocted from the Tagalog words palabas (showing) and panglabas (for the outside, or exterior), “Pa(ng)labas: Architecture + Cinema” is composed of a traveling exhibition, lecture-forum and a film showing “which will to examine both the medium of film and the form and style of architecture as they relate to the development of film media, architecture and urban landscape.”
The exhibit will have laid-out archival photographs of buildings, film stills and accompanying text “that dramatizes the juxtaposition of the built environment and imaginary environment of the cinema and at the same time probes the transformation of Filipino space as visualized and mediated through the camera lens.”
On the other hand, the lecture forum will have an architect-academician who will provide a historical and theoretical overview of the discursive link of architecture and cinema in both global and national context, and a film scholar who will address issues of cinematic representation of architecture, landscape and urban form.
The film showing will have works “chosen for its architectonic qualities spring-boarding from the same curatorial trope employed in the didactic exhibition.” The films are grouped into “Screening the Celluloid City” (Geron Busabos, Manila by Night, Bulaklak ng Maynila, Maynila…sa Kuko ng Liwanag, Ikaw Lamang Hangang Ngayon, Kanto Girl); “Projecting the future: Science-Fiction and Futurist Space” (Tuko sa Madre Kakao); “Imagined Kingdoms: Orientalism and Moro-Moro Movies” (Aladin, Ibong Adarna, Prinsipe Teneso, Haring Solomon at Reyna Sheba, Engkantada, Florante at Laura); “Designing Suburban Modernity” (Feng Shui, Seksing-Seksi, ROTC, Octavia, Jack and Jill, Big Broadcast); “Nostalgia for Nation: Guerilla Film and Postwar Reconstruction” (Dawn of Freedom, 48 Oras, Victory Joe, Oro Plata Mata. Manila: Open City, Anak Dalita, Return to the Philippines, The 26th Cavalry, Intramuros, Candaba); “Slumming Utopia-Urban Dystopia and Informal Settlements” (Pila Balde, Insiang, Bona, Jaguar, Babae sa Bintana, Kalyehera); “Styling the Screen: Movie Musical and Screen Deco” (Giliw Ko, Tunay na Ina, Pakiusap, Mutya ng Pasig, Bituing Marikit); “Imperial Imaginary: Colonial Urban Reformation and Travel Film” (Escenas Callejeras, 1898; Panorama de Manila, 1898; Manila Queen of the Pacific, 1938; Castillan Memoirs, 1938; Intramuros, 1930); “Atlas of Emotion: Melodrama and Domesticity” (Biyaya ng Lupa, Higit sa Lahat Malvarosa, Portrait of an Artist, Tanging Yaman, Ina Kapatid Anak); “Vernacular Splendor: Cinematic Nativism” (Zamboanga, Banaue, Badjao, Igorota, Kalinga, Ifugao); “Noir Architecture” (Itim, Sigaw, Huwag Kang Lilingon, Blackout, Ibulong mo sa Hangin. Cofradia, Bahay ni Lola); “Tall Stories and New Building Forms” (Condo, Working Girls, Despatsadora); “Colonial and Feudal Landscape” (Noli Me Tangere, Sisa, Gitano, Sawa sa Lumang Simborio, MN, Dambanang Putik): “Inhabited Panorama” (Parola, Temptation Island, Isla, Babae sa Breakwater, Himala, Silip); “Residual and Tight Spaces” (Scorpio Nights, Serbis, Ang Lihim ni Antonio, Lalake sa Parola, Burlesk Queen); and “Cinema Dream Palaces: Death of the Stand-Alone Cinemas” (Bellevue, Life, Galaxy, Avenue, Lyric).
“Pa(ng)labas” is set to be mounted from Feb. 9 to13 at Cine Adarna, Aldaba Theater, University Theater of the University of the Philippines; from Feb. 16 to 20 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines; and from Feb. 23 to 27 at the University of San Carlos in Cebu. After the tour, a CD-ROM compendium with a supplementary monograph containing the lectures, virtual and film excerpts is planned to be published.
While “Pa(ng)labas” is set for Luzon and the Visayas, the “Walai-Vernacular Architecture of Mindanao” is for Mindanao. This exhibit of architectural drawings and photography will feature the vernacular houses of Mindanao culled from the Walai Pangampong project, to be mounted at the Sarangani Capitol. It will be complemented with a lecture series on vernacular architecture, selected ritual dances, including that of the Blaan, craftworks associated with house building and construction like those of the T’boli, replicas of selected indigenous structures, and an interactive video of the Walai Pangampong project. This is slated from Feb. 1 to 6.

Cinema from the regions
The Committee on Cinema will hold the “Sinerehiyon,” showcasing the nascent cinema from the regions. Lectures and workshops were regularly held in the regions, and holding their own films festivals were encouraged to show the fruits. For the NAM, the committee will gather these works for grand film showing. The members are setting their eyes on Baguio, where there is an active Cordillera film collective group; the Bicol region, led by animation graduates of Ateneo de Naga University; Bacolod City, with its Negros Summer Film Workshop; Cebu, with its various associations of filmmakers; Cagayan de Oro; and Davao. This will be from Feb. 17 to 19 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Literary arts, the gathering
The Committee on Literary Arts and the Filipinas Institute of Translation will hold Taboan: Philippine Writers Festival, which is envisioned to gather for three days both the younger and the older generations of writers who have been recipients of grants from the NCCA and who have made and are making their mark on the Philippine literature; and to be composed of a conference by and for writers below forty years of age, conversations with writers or writers group, lectures by writers on topics of their own choice, craft workshops, book launches, and literary readings and performances.
This is will be a celebration of the word—written, painted, sung, or performed—and will assemble writers from all the regions and across generations who will interact with one another and with their audience on issues pertaining to their craft or the situation of writing in the country, or read from their new works.
The conference will have writers below forty years old talking about topics such as getting started in writing, effects of writing workshops on their art, difficulties of being a young writer, furthering one’s career as a writer, etc. The conversations will feature panel discussions involving three to four young and older writers who may come from the same region or from different regions talking about issues on craft, publishing, mixed media work, etc. Lectures by individual writers will be on specific issues, literary or otherwise, involving criticism, biography or history, etc. The craft workshops will be mini workshops on different literary genres.
Projected to be an annual event, the Taboan is slated for Feb. 11 to 13 at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Ateneo de Manila and Cubao Expo.

The strata and strategy of music
The Committee on Music and the Bagong Lumad Artists Foundation will hold “Organik Muzik” a series of four concerts showing the metamorphosis of elements of Philippine music from village roots to urban manifestations. The performances will have annotations by and interaction with musician Joey Ayala, the participant-director. Repertoire will range from the Cordillera musical traditions to Kadangyan’s world music, from Leyteño siday to Junior Kilat’s Visayan reggae, from GAMABA Awardee Samaon Sulaiman’s virtuoso kutyapi-playing to the hard-driving neo-ethnic rock of Popong Landero, from flights of Balagtasan to the acid-jazz rants of Lourd de Veyra and Radioactive Sago. These will be shown in a shopping mall milieu “in the hope that demonstrating the connection to native human creativity through both traditional and innovative forms may stimulate a resonant creativity in the urban kamalayan, and a realization that we are all contemporary natives (bagong lumad).”
“Organik Muzik” will happen on Feb. 7 at SM Baguio, Feb. 14 at SM Cebu, Feb. 21 at SM Davao and Feb 28 at SM Mall of Asia.

Dance and prance
The Committee on Dance and the Halili-Cruz School of Dance will offer “Sayaw Pinoy,” a touring dance concert that aims to bring together different dance forms and features local dance troupes of the host cities and municipalities performing back-to-back with the different professional dance companies in the country.
Now on its sixth year, the Sayaw Pinoy aims to “initiate the youth towards creative activities, provide the public access to quality dance performances and encourage continued interaction among the dance artists, directors and dance groups/companies and the youth in the communities.”
Dance workshop/interaction will also be conducted to the youth through the Sanguniang Kabataan and a dance concert will be staged featuring local dance troupes and professional dance companies held at the public plaza of each venue.
This will from Feb. 6 to 9 for the Visayas (Oton, Iloilo, Palo, Sta. Barbara, Ormoc, Tolosa) and NCR regions; from Feb. 13 to 16 for Mindanao (Butuan, Cabadbaran, Sarangani, Koronadal, General Santos, Surigao and Sultan Kudarat); and Feb 20 to 23 for Luzon (Quezon City, Batangas, Tagaytay, Los Baños, Olongapo and Bulacan).

Luzon in the limelight
The Committee on Dramatic Arts will have Tanghal! The Third National University Theater Festival, to be hosted by Colegio de San Juan de Letran-Calamba. The event will feature university-based theatre groups from Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and NCR in cooperation with the Lusong Luzon Arts and Culture Network.
The Tanghal festival was launched in February 2007, hosted by the University of San Augustin and the Teatrokon Western Visayas Theater Network in Iloilo. This was followed by the second Tanghal in 2008 at Zamboanga City. This third one will focus on Luzon and will be composed of an interactive play festival, in which six productions (one each from the Visayas , Mindanao and NCR and three from Luzon) will be staged and in which artists and audience give feedbacks on the aesthetic processes, form and content in an interactive forum; a conference including papers on how a university theater responds to the three-fold thrust of the university, that is, research, instruction and extension work, and discussions on strengthening theatre network and linkages and the thrust of the university theatre in developing Philippine theatre; and workshops and fringe performances, in which short courses/workshops on the different areas of theater or use of the production as studies for production will be conducted.
This will happen from Feb. 10 to 14 at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Calamba, Laguna.

Visual display
The Committee on Visual Arts will hold the Philippine Visual Arts Festival, which will be a convergence of selected Filipino and international artists from the different regions of the country.

Opening and closing
Book-ending the NAM is the opening and closing ceremonies, projected to be big events in themselves. The NAM is projected to open in three main ways: launching on television via a noontime variety program, at the Sining Gising program of NBN 4 and at the Concert at the Park at Rizal Park. There will also be simultaneously launchings in major sites in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. On the other hand, NAM will close with an appreciation dinner and performance.

Works old and new
Aside from the flagship projects, the NCCA also provided grants to projects all over the country for the celebration of NAM. Some are new ones while the others are remounting or restaging.
The new works include “Kyusi ang Galing” and Alsa Balutan:First Philippine Monodrama Festival in Luzon; An Bugsay ni Jayme in the Visayas; and Ako Ug Ikaw, Kitang Duha: A Festival of Monologues and Tandems in Public Spaces, Kung Aduna Pay Timailhan, Panaghugpong: Xavier Arts Festival, Performing Women: Monologues of Women by Men in Mindanao.
Previously staged productions include Aning Musika sa Bikol, Pegaraw (Da Musikal), “Pagsambang Bayan,” “Viva Marinduque” Ani ng Sining 2009 and Panagbenga: Baguio Poetry Reading for Arts Month 2009 in Luzon; and Ani ng Sining sa Davao Oriental in Mindanao.
NAM also sees to it that works by the country’s National Artists are relived or used or there are tributes to them. This year, “Rio Alma: Buhay at Sining;” Something to Crow About, musical based on Alejandro Roces’s short story; “Saludo!” a tribute to Daisy Avellana and Jovita Fuentes, will be held.

For information, contact Rene Napenas, head of the NCCA Public Affairs and Information Office through mobile phone number 0928-5081057 or Vanessa Marquez, NAM deputy festival director, through mobile phone number 0918-6380412. Also, call 527-5529 or 527-2192 loc. 508, 612 to 615, e-mail or, or log on to or

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