Monday, August 22, 2011

The Attraction of Mother Mary and Cagayan

After two storms that soaked Metro Manila and many parts of Central Luzon, Cagayan felt like another country with a heat that seemed eternal. But the fervor was definitely Filipino. Perhaps it added much to the temperature, the gathering of the people and their collective adoration and supplication. At high noon at the courtyard of the centuries-old Saint Peter’s Metropolitan Cathedral in Tuguegarao, Cagayan’s capital city, twelve images of the Virgin Mary, most of them resplendently dressed, were brought in and lined up near a stage. People thronged to each of them, mounted on trucks, many going to one image after another, praying and wiping any part of the image with their handkerchiefs or letting the images’ custodians do it to the inaccessible parts especially the face. The hankies were now blessed. A mannish and swarthy policewoman, with two female companions, was holding a tiny baby and going to as many images as possible. She gave him/her to a custodian, who seemed to offer him/her to the Virgin Mary and had the child touched by the image.

The twelve images, all coming from northern Luzon, are some of the most venerated and are said to be miraculous in the Philippines, a staunchly Catholic country that has a fondness for the infant Jesus and the Virgin Mary. They were gathered here for the so-called Marian Voyage of Peace and Love, one of the major events of the 428th founding anniversary of the province of Cagayan, about 480 kilometers northeast of Manila, called Aggao Nac Cagayan: Fiesta ta Bannag or Day of Cagayan: Feast at the River, which started on June 23 and culminated on June 29, the foundation day.

A plethora of events and activities were prepared for the week—a dog show, medical missions, cook-offs, a jobs fair, dance contests, quiz contests, sports competitions, an art exhibit, recognitions, a fireworks display, among others. Major events were the street dancing showdown, an agricultural and trade fair and a beauty pageant, all staples of a modern Philippine festival, participated in by the province’s 28 towns and one city.

The agricultural and trade fair was at the sprawling and dusty Cagayan Sports Complex, where the different towns set up their own booths, creatively designed to show off their identities, displaying their unique products and promoting their tourist attractions.

These events were meant to show the different aspects of Cagayan as well as the talents, character and skills of the Cagayanos, primarily made up of Ibanags and Itawes and later Ilocanos. The Marian event is said to make manifest the deep religiosity of the Cagayanos. Cagayan is primarily known as the home of Our Lady of Piat, the designated patroness of the Cagayan Valley Region (Region II), a sprawling area between the Cordillera and Sierra Madre mountain ranges and given life by the mighty Cagayan River, the largest in the country.

“We are very happy. As you know, we Cagayanos are very devoted to Our Lady. We can attest that she has always been protecting us from typhoons, from any calamities. She has been covering us with her blue mantle. So we are very happy that twelve Marian images are here right now in Tuguegarao City,” enthused Blessida Diwa, the petite regional director of the Department of Tourism (DoT), one of the organizers of the Marian Voyage together with the archdiocese of Cagayan and the Cagayan North Conventions and Visitors Bureau.

We were having lunch at her residence in the Alimanao Hills, near the Cagayan Provincial Capitol, a beautiful, airy house with a spectacular view. Diwa is Ilocano, born in Bantay, Ilocos Sur, and was educated as a nurse. But she said her heart is Cagayano, and she takes “tender, loving care” of the visitors and tourists, she quipped.

“What we are offering here in Cagayan Valley Region is adventure tourism, and of course, our very own pilgrimage tourism. Not only that, we also have food tourism and eco-tourism,” the tourism official in her talked.

Indeed, Cagayan Valley has them all. For eco-tourism, one can go to the seven-chambered Callao Cave in the nearby town of Penablanca. The Pinacanauan River that flows nearby leads one to more caves from which thousands of bats fly out during dusk, an amazing sight. The province of Quirino is gearing itself to become an adventure destination, and Santa Ana in northern Cagayan is a known game fishing destination.

The food should not be missed when one is in this region. During our lunch, Diwa served sinanta, a soup of glass and flat noodles and chicken made russet with annatto seeds and the accompanying pinacufu, a flat oval, fried rice cake with sugar crust, much like karioka. But my favorite is the pansit Cabagan from Isabela, which Tuguegarao has a fancier version called pansit batil-patung, and the pawa, steamed rice balls with peanut filling, from Piat, Cagayan.

Diwa also said that Cagayan is unique, being the home of the Ibanag people with its own intriguing language. She taught us a sentence: Mattaki y futu megafu nikau. It felt intense and passionate. It means “My heart is aching because of you.” It struck me and became the first Ibanag sentence that stayed with me.

The staying power of the language among young Ibanags may be diminishing. As we walked among the crowd, we kept hearing Filipino being spoken. I thought there were many visitors at that time. Tourism officer Fanibeth Domingo explained that people here prefer to speak in Filipino because of it is a cool thing to do. Mataki, indeed.

Above all else, Cagayan is primarily known as a pilgrimage site.

The region attracts nearly 700,000 visitors yearly for the last five years. Ninety-five percent of which are Filipinos and the rest are foreigners led by the Chinese, Americans and Koreans. Most of the visitors here are devotees, going to pay homage to Our Lady of Piat. Additionally, the region is studded with wonderful Spanish-era churches made of bricks. One can easily visit many of them, being strewn along the Maharlika Highway.

“Why go to Rome when you can go to Cagayan Valley and visit 18 Spanish-era churches. If you include Batanes, there are 22. Five of these are National Cultural Treasures,” Diwa beamed.

My first visit to Cagayan in 2007 was made up of lovely churches—constructed in bricks from clay sourced from the banks of the Cagayan River—of Iguig, Tuguegarao, Alcala, Gattaran, Camalaniugan, Buguey and Lal-lo.

The building of these churches began when the Spaniards arrived in the province. The occasion is recognized here as the foundation day of the province of Cagayan. It is said that Juan de Salcedo traced the northern coastline of Luzon and set foot on Massi, Tular and Aparri in June 29, 1583. Spanish friars soon followed, establishing mission posts. One of the missions is Nueva Segovia, now called Lal-lo, which became the capital of the Cagayan Valley, which was also called Nueva Segovia, and the Diocese of Nueva Segovia was created in August 14, 1595, by Pope Clement VIII, making the town its seat. Churches began being constructed all over the valley, blending Western and local sensibilities and displaying a design born out of unique circumstances. The material itself is not customary for such edifices, thus presenting a different and remarkable way of how churches look and creating other design idioms.

The Saint Peter Metropolitan Cathedral in Tuguegarao, where the Marian event was held, is the largest church in the region. It started out as makeshift shift when a mission pueblo was founded here by Fray Tomas Villa in May 9, 1604, with Saint Peter and Saint Paul as patron saints. Father Antonio Lobato, a scholarly priest who compiled the first Ibanag-Spanish dictionary and laid out and developed the streets of the town, spearheaded the building of the church in June 17, 1761, and finishing it in 1767. The progress of the town was hastened by the opening of the Cagayan-Manila road in 1738 by Fray Jose Martin. As the town prospered, the capital was moved from Lal-lo to Tuguegarao in 1839. In 1910, Tuguegarao was made the seat of the diocese. During World War II, the church was heavily damaged and was rebuilt by Bishop Constance Jurgens.

At the end of Rizal Street, in Bagumbayan, one can find the ruins of hornos, big brick kilns, used to fire bricks for the church.

In the book Philippine Church Facades, published in 2007, Father Pedro Galende describes the façade of the Saint Peter Metropolitan Cathedral: “The façade of Tuguegarao Church follows a touch of whimsy and playfulness. This is evidenced by its broken and crested pediment, bunches of high relief pilasters that come in threes in alternating display of smooth and solomonic forms, and arched windows that have finialed frames and a triangular pediment. A deeply recessed circular window is the pediment’s focal point.”

He continues: “The brick walls of the church and bell tower are set against the smoothly plastered forms of cornices and pilasters. Layers of bricks molded and laid by local masons and artisans are a symbol of the Christianization of the people of Tuguegarao, which survived the lashes of World War II. Clusters of engaged columns crisscrossed by double cornices define the length of the church’s pointed windows, spiral columns and niches.”

He describes the bell tower as “very tall, rising in five tapering tiers with the same motif of smooth and twisted pilasters and framed windows. The bell tower is quaintly capped by a canopied roof surmounted by a cross.”

But perhaps the most visited is the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Visitation or Our Lady of Piat. What makes this church notable is not its design but its being the home of Our Lady of Piat, a papier mache image that has remarkably survived for more than 400 years.

The image was fashioned in Macau and brought by the Dominicans to Manila and then to Cagayan in early 17th century. Circumstances surrounding the image’s journey from Macau to Cagayan remain mysterious. Once enshrined in Piat, devotion to the image started and spread from Piat to the outlying towns and other provinces. Now, Our Lady of Piat is one of the most popular Marian images that riddle the Philippines. Our Lady of Piat is held in high esteem by the Cagayanos to the point that affiliation with her is integral to their identity.

Since the beginning, Spanish priests were puzzled by the fact that the natives were immediately taken with her. Perhaps the image is “muy morena,” dark-complexioned, that Filipinos easily identified with her more than the blond, foreign-looking ones, especially the Ibanags, who are said to be very dark in complexion. Domingo said you can distinguish the Ibanags from the other people by the color of their skin, a kind of darkness that can be acquired through exposure to the intense Cagayan sun along the river. Ibanag means “river people.”

The Cagayanos’ soft spot for the Marian image is said to have a long history even before the coming of Our Lady. Among the saints and religious images brought in by the Spaniards, Mary is most preferred, a maternal figure of care and comfort, a symbol of benevolent power.

The ready acceptance of Mary among the Ibanags can be explained by the fact that in old Ibanag communities there were and still are women healers and spiritual figures, who are fondly called kako, “grandmother, the wise old woman or the Ancient One.”

“Among the Ibanags, women then and now perform the invaluable role as kavulun na entero tangaravvun-gan (companions of the whole Earth community),” wrote Rosario Battung, a Good Shepherd nun, in her essay “Kako and the Women Healers of Capatan,” included in the anthology Centennial Crossings: Readings on Babaylan Feminism in the Philippines , edited by Fe Mangahas and Jenny Llaguno and published in 2006.

She explained that Earth to them is part of the whole cosmic reality, whose part is connected by one breath or life.

“This contemplative dimension,” she said, “has made it possible for us to adapt Mary, the pregnant mother of Guadalupe, Mary Magdalene and specially Mary, Our Lady of Piat, the Brown Madonna, introduced in 1604. The three continue to be our ‘companions of the whole Earth community.’

“To us, Mary, as Brown Madonna, our compassionate mother, since 1604, is certainly a domesticated Mary. She has become our people’s beloved mother. As the one who answers with haste when the people pray her rosary, and she responds to the people’s version as taught by kakopappakanayun na passervimi ta utun na davvun. Over the centuries she goes out into the highways and byways helping the most needy so we too may continue to serve the tangaravvungan, our Ibanag phrase which literally means one earth community, our cosmic community of all related beings, who share the same inango.”

A great attraction is the miracles. Since the early 17th century until now, numerous miracles attributed to Our Lady of Piat have been reported. Diwa herself experienced such a miracle. After our lunch in her home, she showed us a watercolor painting of Rino Hernandez dramatically interpreting Diwa’s thanksgiving for her miracle, an image later echoed by the policewoman with a baby.

Her son John Paul, then six-month-old, was diagnosed with leukaemia and was rushed to Manila from Cagayan for treatment. The situation was dire, but Diwa kept praying to Our Lady of Piat. There were daily blood transfusions, but the doctor could not promise anything positive. On the seventh day, a miracle happened. Earlier findings turned out negative. The doctors and technicians were puzzled, but the child’s doctor, Gene Purruganan, a devotee of Our Lady of Piat, was convinced it was a miracle. Diwa, her husband and son drove to Piat, and upon reaching the altar she knelt in gratitude.

Diwa has been a fervent devotee of Our Lady of Piat. In her house, there is a prayer room with a large image of Our Lady. Every year, she has been bringing a replica of Our Lady of Piat around Metro Manila. Her promotion of the devotion to Our Lady is also a promotion of tourism in Cagayan Valley. The Marian Voyage of Peace and Love, in which Our Lady of Piat is the star, is a show of devotion as well as a tourism attraction.

“We had meetings with the archbishop Diosdado Talamayan. He wants to promote Cagayan Valley. That’s why we have a good partnership,” said Diwa.

The Marian event has been held for three years now, and it is gaining a following.

This year, the twelve images arrived on June 27 at the Cagayan Provincial Capitol and were welcomed with a Eucharistic celebration at the provincial gym, before proceeding to their host schools. Before, the images were hosted by the Tuguegarao’s many chapels and churches. This year, schools were designated as temporary homes for the images, where people can go to pay homage.

At Linao National High School, along Linao Highway, Our Lady of Badoc from Badoc, Ilocos Norte, stood regal. The resplendent image of Our Lady of Guibang from Gamu, Isabela, drew admirers at the Cagayan National High School, along Bagay Road. The Tuguegarao East Central School at the city center welcomed the golden Our Lady of Charity from Agoo, La Union. Our Lady of Namacpacan was carried from her home in Luna, La Union, to the University of Saint Louis Tuguegarao on Mabini Street. From Valenzuela City in Metro Manila came Our Lady of Fatima, simple in white and blue, and was stationed at the Medical Colleges of Northern Philippines on Caggay Highway.

The Nuestra Senora del Mar de Cautiva of Santo Tomas, La Union, was designated to Tuguegarao Northeast Central School, while the Nuestra Senora de Caridad (Our Lady of Charity) from Bantay, Ilocos Sur, to Tuguegarao West Central School on Luna Street. The famous Our Lady of Manaoag from Manaoag, Pangasinan, was given to the care of the Cagayan State University, and Our Lady of Immaculate Conception from Malolos, Bulacan, to the Tuguegarao North Central School.

Our Lady of La Naval from Santo Domingo, Quezon City, which stars in an annual grand procession in Manila, was at the St. Paul University Philippines on Mabini Street, while the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, another famous image, from Antipolo, Rizal, was at the University of Cagayan Valley. On the other hand, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary from Piat, beloved by the Cagayanos, was very special that it was housed at the city’s main church, the Saint Peter Metropolitan Cathedral.

The following day, devotees flocked to the schools and attended forums which included historical backgrounds on the images, testimonials, lectures on the role of Mary and special devotions. Confession sessions were also held.

On June 29, the images were brought to the cathedral where a concelebrated mass was held. At dusk, a grand procession of the images livened up the city’s main streets. It culminated with fireworks.

The following morning, the Marian images were set to be brought to home to their respective churches. Some of the images accompanied Our Lady of Piat as she was escorted home to Piat in time for the town’s Sambali Festival and her feast day on July 2. We joined the caravan, traversing an undulating landscape and crossing rivers, 33 kilometers northwest of Tuguegarao, passing by the town of Solana.

In Piat, there were groups of people waiting along the highway to welcome Our Lady. Some brought out small tables with religious images, lit candles and flowers. Some threw flowers on Our Lady’s path. As we near the town proper, school children lined both sides of the street, waving flags as the Marian images passed by. The images momentarily stopped by groups of dancers for the Sambali Festival, depicting the Christianization of the native Sambali people in dance dramas. At the church, the images were installed in front of the altar, near the original image of Our Lady of Piat, mounted on a small replica of a ship garlanded with flowers.

I went up to Our Lady, touched the hems of her scintillating blue gown and prayed for love, offering my heart like a sickened child. Before the homecoming mass began, we left for Tuguegarao to catch a flight back to Manila. As we sped along the highway, the radio played Madonna’s iconic song “Like a Virgin,” a puzzling thing, so apt yet so inappropriate. It was also about love anyway, and we sang along: “I made it through the wilderness/Somehow I made it through/Didn't know how lost I was/Until I found you....”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Energy to the Youth: EDC Lets Students Experience the Summer of Their Lives

Peals of laughter and shouts bounced off the trees, echoing through the ravines and valleys of the upland sitio of Ticala in Caidiocan, Valencia, 21 kilometers west of Negros Oriental’s capital Dumaguete City. They did not disturb the moths, amazing in its variety, that thrive in the still forested and bucolic area in southeastern Negros Island, where Cuernos de Negros mountains dominate the horizon.
Clad in bright orange, 14- and 15-year-old students were cheerily competing in an Amazing Race-type race. Grouped into six teams with amusing names—Amazing Jaguars, Orange Stallions, Nightingales, etc.—48 teenagers had to make twelve pit stops where they had to tackle challenges, putting to test the survival training, such as orienteering and basic map reading, basic mountaineering, basic rope techniques and rappelling, they were taught the previous days. Almost everyone’s favorite was the Slide for Life, a zip line. The V bridge, made entirely of ropes with a single big one to walk on, made many quiver.
A few meters from the campsite, there is a view deck, which affords a panoramic view of the Southern Negros Geothermal Production Field (SNGPF) which constantly releases billows of steam like clouds that float among the jagged and verdant mountains then dissipate into the air. Somewhere, streams are gurgling through forests and villages. One stream has a high iron content that made the rocks and pebbles red in a barangay called Pulangbato.
The race was the culminating activity before graduation at the Energy Camp or E-Camp of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), the Philippines’ leading geothermal energy company.
Melanie Vineles, 15, and Jeffrey Naceg, 14, of Balugo National High School had heard many good things about E-Camp and said they were happy being part of this year’s summer youth camp. Children of farmers in Valencia, they counted discipline and being independent as the important things they learned, and the Slide for Life zip line and wall climbing as their memorable activities.
From the other side of the island, Lara Felisa Concepcion, 14, from Ramon Torres Louisiana National High School in Bago City, Negros Occidental, was equally delighted to be part of the camp. Being the associate editor of Filipino of their school paper Pagbubukang-liwayway, she said she did not get homesick because she had been away before—for a school publication conference—but the first thing she said she will do upon getting home is to hug her parents, a utility man and a canteen worker at the school she is attending.
From the same province, Nadia T. Repoyla of Minoyan National High School in Murcia, echoed the sentiments of the batch in a testament she delivered at the graduation rite: “I and my fellow campers had truly experienced the enjoyment that we haven’t felt before. We enjoyed all the activities we’ve done. And all of these made a very big impact in ourselves. It developed our socialization [skills] as teenagers. [The camp] aided us on how to improve our skills with the many different activities such as dancing and the sports activities. I had also experienced being tired, and sometimes [there were] ‘lifeless’ moments due to lack of communication with my family and friends, but still the enjoyment and excitement were there.”
Every year, the EDC hold summer camps in its five geothermal project sites in Leyte, Negros, Albay-Sorsogon and North Cotabato for the scholars it is supporting in these communities and some of the employees’ children, all incoming fourth-year high school students. Before there were two separate camps for the Northern Negros Geothermal Production Field (NNGPF) in Negros Occidental and the SNGPF in Valencia, Negros Oriental. Of recent, there is only one camp for both sites.
This year, the E-Camp, which happened from April 12 to 18, has 48 scholars—24 scholars and eight children of EDC employees of SNGPF and sixteen NNGPF. The SNGPF participants came from Pulangbato National High School, Balugo National High School, Valencia National High School and San Pedro Academy Recoletos, all in Valencia, while the NNGPF participants were from Lopez Jaena National High School in Minoyan, Murcia; and Ramon Torres Louisiana National High School in Bago City.
The E-Camp is part of the corporate social responsibility programs of EDC, which has projects in three main areas—environment, education and livelihood—mostly for the benefit of the communities around its sites.
EDC’s projects in education include scholarships, a technical-vocation school in Leyte and the E-Camp, a brainchild and pet project of former EDC president and chief executive officer Paul A. Aquino.
“We envision a program where teenagers can learn as they all have fun. Campers are asked to do simple daily tasks such as fixing their own bed, preparing breakfast, even washing their own clothes and dishes—skills that they will find useful in life. All these we hope that they will pass on to others when they go back to their families and communities,” he explained.
The seven days of the camp are packed full of activities and lectures. There are outdoor activities such as hiking, rappelling, dancing, basic martial arts and survival training. They are taught personal hygiene, fine dining and table etiquette and personality development. They are also taught the importance and benefits of geothermal energy as well as enabled to do their share in conserving the environment through tree-planting activities and making compost pits. They also get the chance to learn livelihood skills such as making beaded accessories with the help of SNGPF’s Community Partnerships team.
They also learn to get along with different people. The group from the two provinces, each with its own languages—Hiligaynon in Occidental and Cebuano in Oriental—are made to intermingle and interact through the many activities. The participants had difficulty understanding each other and used Filipino to communicate, but they got along fine, forging friendships along the way.
Aquino said that the E-Camp was born because of the threat of the leftist rebel group New People’s Army (NPA), which is present in most of the EDC sites. The camp is aimed to lure kids away from being recruited or indoctrinated by the NPA.
Aquino related that the E-Camp started in 2004 in Valencia with children of employees to find out how to do a summer camp. The following year, it was conducted in other sites and with children from the communities.
“In the first three summer camps, I was very hands-on. I wanted to make sure there were no idle moments. There cannot be an idle moment. Masisira ang summer camp ‘pag may idle moment,” Aquino said. “Maraming lecture time just to make sure there were no idle moments. Then there were sports and physical activities.”
He further said: “The camps have metamorphosed into other things and have become one of our signature corporate social responsibility programs now…It has become a community thing for us already.”
He has gone to most of the camps and said that most of them were very successful. He remembered: “The most successful camp we have was the one in Bicol after typhoon Reming, participated in by students from the whole of Albay and Sorsogon. We gathered all the potential valedictorians and salutatorians. They spoke English well and were all cooperative.”
Reming devastated the Bicol Region in November 2006. The following year EDC decided to open the Bacon-Manito E-Camp to students in the whole of Albay and Sorsogon.
On the other hand, “the least successful are those with parents who forced their kids to attend the camp…Not all kids are into camps. One kid like that can destroy a camp,” Aquino said.
The E-Camp is managed by the company’s Emergency Response Team (ERT), composed of volunteers from different departments of the company. This year, an ERT member, Julius Teves, who works at the SNGPF’s human resources office, is the camp commander for Valencia. Though involved in other aspects of camp operations in previous years, it was his first time to be camp commander.
With the help of the local Barangay Emergency Response Team (BERT), the volunteers from the ERT set up some of the facilities of the camp and ready it for the campers. Before the camp, the present site was once a parking lot. Now, there is a bungalow with 48 beds and toilets for the campers. The ERT team also mans the facilities to be used by the campers.
Since the work for the camp is voluntary, Teves said that it is getting harder for them to get volunteers because their schedule won’t allow them to leave work for a week. They don’t receive extra pay. He was not able to go home in the duration of the camp because he felt responsible to the kids.
“I act as their mother and father at the same time,” he added. “Kasi wala silang choice eh. Ako lang nandito. They are not allowed to contact their parents. Their valuables and cell phones are confiscated before the camp.”
Despite the sacrifices, seeing the impact of the camp on the students was worth it.
“I think ang pinaka-goal ng camp is to be independent,” Teves said. “They are taught to wash their own clothes, to wake up early, to be independent, disciplined, and also they have fun with fellows. What’s nice about it is that during the first two days nagkakailangan ‘yan. Medyo kasi nahihiya…Eventually, especially when we are near closing, they feel close to each other.”
At graduation, many would be crying.
“The success of the camp is gauged by the amount of tears shed during graduation,” Aquino said, who have attended many camp graduations. Like a ninong, he would banter with the campers, play games and award money to those who correctly answered his quizzes. He would inquire about the students’ crushes.
Aquino has just retired on August 2010 and is now an advisor to the company. This year’s graduation was his last. He wants to enjoy his grandchildren, he said. He is already doing that. In a sense, the happy campers have become his grandchildren.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Art so Fair

The local visual arts scene has recently garnered attention because of Mideo Cruz’s controversial works in the “Kulo” exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, sparking discussions and debates on the nature of art and the freedom of expression. This attention to art is a good thing in a country that can be negligent of its arts and culture. It is something hoped for by the organizers of ManilArt 2011: The Third Philippine International Art Fair, but this time more celebratory and perhaps unifying.

The National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Bonafide Art Galleries Organization (Bago) is presenting the third mounting of what is deemed the largest gathering of visual arts in the country from Aug. 25 to 27 at the NBC Tent, Bonifacio Global City, in Taguig City.

According to Imelda Loste, head of the NCCA’s National Committee on Art Galleries, ManilArt primarily aims to raise awareness on the country’s visual arts, to put it in the mainstream consciousness of the Filipino. Although it is also trade fair, the sale of art is only secondary to the intention of showcasing of Filipino artistic talent and making it known to a wider public.

NCCA executive director Malou Jacob affirmed that the country has a wealth of talent in the visual arts that we need to recognize and celebrate. She also said that the creative industry is something to be taken seriously and tapped for its economic potential.

According to the organizers, ManilArt has become a “vessel to open more possibilities for [the Filipino contemporary artists]. It has also served the public as another horizon that promotes art and encourages appreciation for the local art scene.”

The NCCA is the government’s agency for the arts and culture, primarily giving grants and funding assistance to projects and endeavors. It has been supporting ManilArt from the start, making it a collaboration between the government and the private sector.

Loste said when ManilArt started in 2009, it was conceptualized to be like the art fairs of Hong Kong and Singapore, a major event which people anticipate and attend. Thus, ManilArt not only features large gathering of artworks; it also includes other activities aimed to engage the public.

This year, ManilArt has 24 exhibitors, fewer than the previous years’. This is because of the smaller venue, said Jonathan Siy, Bago president.

The participating galleries include Art Circle, Art Informal, Art Verite, Artes Orientes, Blanc Art Space, Blue Line Gallery, Boston Gallery, Finale Art File, Galerie Francesca, Galerie Joaquin, Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill, Galleria Duemila, Galleria Quattrocento, Gallery Big, Leon Gallery, Gallery Nine, Looking For Juan, Manila Contemporary, Pablo Gallery, Paseo Gallery, Renaissance Art Gallery, Silverlens, Village Art Gallery and West Gallery.

Despite the number, ManilArt 2011 is promised to be more interesting, a sign that organizers is taking more consideration on quality than quantity.

“We promise a more diverse and vibrant art exposition, and viewers shall witness a groundbreaking launch — the simultaneous opening of various art exhibitions during gala night,” said Delan Lopez Robillos, ManilArt 2011 project director. “Exhibitors will not simply be showcasing the works of artists they represent but each gallery shall be presenting a conceptualized art exhibit.”

Robillos singled out Elmer Borlongan’s digital works. They will be viewed though the iPad in an interactive booth.

There will also be a host of lectures and other activities, starting with the gala opening.

The by-invitation gala opening on Aug. 24 will show the organizers’ desire to link visual arts with other disciplines. Elmer Borlongan’s work Batang Edsa, which is the featured painting in ManilArt 2011’s poster, will be interpreted in modern dance by premier contemporary dance artist and Dance Forum founder Myra Beltran. It is interesting to note that Batang Edsa is inspired by another work, this time in music — Dong Abay’s song “God Bless Our Trip,”

The Filipiniana-themed opening will have writer, magazine editor and TV personality RJ Ledesma as host, and Banda Malaya and Fatima University Chorale performing.

After the opening, people will get the chance to see a program featuring visual artists and performers from the University of Santo Tomas, through The Varsitarian, the official student publication of UST, on Aug. 26. This is in participation in the celebration of the university’s 400th anniversary.

The ManilArt lecture series this year includes “How we Turn Paintings into Bicycles: Lessons in Art, Law and the Internet,” by Gigo Alampay, the executive director of Canvas, a non-stock, non-profit organization that promotes Philippine art, culture and the environment and who teaches contemporary legal and policy issues in information and communications technology at the University of the Philippines’ College of Law; and “Semiotics in Visual Art” by Dr. Oscar V. Campomanes, a permanent panelist at the annual Jerry Elizalde Navarro Workshop on Arts Criticism in Baguio City and who teaches critical theory and cultural studies at the Ateneo de Manila University, and semiotics, media criticism, and culture theory at the UST Graduate School.

National Hero Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary will also be celebrated with a talk by poet and performance artist Vim Nadera titled “Visuals on Rizal Today.”

Artists in Residence (AIR) founders Jojo Ballo, Cathy Lasam and Jill Arwen Posadas will also give a lecture on basic sketching and drawing for kids.

There will also be storytelling sessions for children. RepubLikha executive director and former preschool teacher Carisse Escueta will read the book The Rocking Horse which features paintings by Elmer Borlongan. VJ Chino Lui Pio of Myx and Ramon Bautista have also been invited to read Message in the Sand, with artworks by Roel Obemio, and Sol: A Legend about the Sun, with images by Farley Del Rosario, respectively.

From the start, ManilArt has live sketching sessions, serving as one of the highlights of the art fair. The event not only aims to foster fellowship among the artists, but gives the audience the chance to witness how they are able to render the same subject through different styles from scratch. The live sketching session also serve as an interactive experience between the artists, the subjects, and the spectators, allowing art enthusiasts a glimpse at how artworks are brought to life.

This year, the live sketching sessions serve as preliminary activity for ManilArt 2011. It started on July 9 and is held every Saturday after that at Mercato Centrale at Bonifacio Global City.

Every year, ManilArt chooses one artwork to be the face of the fair. In 2009, Onib Olmedo’s iconic jeepney painting served as the image of the first ManilArt while Andres Barrioquinto’s Crystal Gazer was the face of last year’s art fair. This year, ManilArt has Elmer Borlongan’s Batang Edsa, which shows a boy selling cigarettes and candies and a girl selling leis of jasmine.

Art is not just an issue that we talk about from time to time. With ManilArt, it is hoped that people will see art as part of everyday.

ManilArt 2011 is co-presented by Allied Bank and Contemporary Art Philippines with the support of Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa, The BusinessMirror, BusinessWorld, Colleen and Derwent Art Supplies, Crown Fine Arts, La Creperie, Las Casas Filipinas de Azucar Heritage Resort, The Manila Bulletin, Mercato Centrale, Midas Hotel, Oakwood Premiere Suites, Pebeo Art Supplies, Ronac Art Center, Secret Fresh, Sustain Pro Complex, Uno magazine and Uratex Premium.

ManilArt 2011 is open to the public from Aug. 25 to 27. For lecture series registration, call 531-6231 or 0917-8511333 or e-mail Visit