Monday, January 26, 2015

NCCA Celebrates National Arts Month with Events that Highlight Localities

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is gearing up for the celebration of National Arts Month (NAM) the whole month February, with the theme “Pride of place,” placing emphasis on localities and local arts and artists.
Instead of holding the Philippine Arts Festival, a grand event of the committees of the NCCA Subcommission on the Arts which the NCCA has been holding for several years now, the national government agency for arts and culture is spurring local government units, schools and non-government organizations to mount events in their communities for the celebration of NAM, promoting “local culture and arts scene and featuring the talents, performances and creativity of the many artists and arts groups in the seven arts.”
Early December of last year, the NCCA called for project proposals for possible funding assistance. Twelve projects were given the nod. The activities and events are spread out from Luzon to Mindanao, comprising performances, exhibits and workshops. Several projects are festivals of different art forms, involving several activities.
In Manila, the Lyceum of the Philippines (LPU) is holding the Kultouravan: The Lyceum of the Philippines Cultural Caravan involving students and artists. Several cultural activities will be held in Intramuros and Rizal Park on Jan. 25, Feb. 2, Feb. 4 and Feb. 9 to 14.
In La Union, the Saint Louis College of San Fernando will hold the Tawid Taoid: Bridging Cultures on Feb. 9, 10 and 20 to promote arts and culture to students. Performances will include local culture while exhibits will feature the works of visual arts students. Launching in campuses, the works will tour the province for wider audience.
In Burgos, Ilocos Norte, the local government will mount Panagkaysakaysa: Ti Umili Ti Kultura Ken Sining from Feb. 16 to 21 promoting the town’s heritage through different art forms.
For the whole month of February, the town of Liliw in Laguna, which is known for its slipper-making industry, will hold the Sining Tsinelasan sa Liliw. The event aims to tell legends and stories about the local industry through theatrical presentations and an exhibit at the Plaza Gat Tayaw Covered Court.
In southern Luzon, the Ligao National High School of Ligao City in Albay will have Hablon: Habi ng Sining sa Paaralan at Komunidad comprising forums, workshops and a theater performance by selected students from Feb. 21 to 26.
The Kanlaon Theatre Guild recognizes the artistic contributions of artists and cultural groups and institutions in the province of Negros Occidental through Ani: A Harvest of Traditional and Contemporary Artistic Expressions in Negros Occidental on Feb. 18 and 19. It will include the performance of Circulo, a “breakdance theater” with the members of Critical Breakdance, a Bacolod-based hiphop/break dance crew; the sarsuwela Gugma nga Indi Mapunggan; a musical by Armin Paredes on the 1898 Al Cinco de Noviembre event; the play Baganihan, Si Iska nga Permi Handa and Pedro Kalungsod; a fashion show focusing on the local wraparound skirt patadyong; and a monologue by an Ati group. Also in Bacolod City, “Ani Dos” will highlight the harvest of creative works of the Maskara Theatre Ensemble, Santermo Writer’s Group and the La Salle Chorale with the special participation of the Jean Baptiste Dance Company. The performance will feature poetry of Filipino writers and Visayan folk songs. It will on Feb. 19 and 20, at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m., at the Gallaga Theater of the University of St. La Salle.
Farther south in Mindanao, Xavier University of Cagayan de Oro City will hold Panaghugpong 7: Xavier Arts Festival from Jan. 30 to Feb. 25. This year’s edition of the school’s annual arts festival will feature a visual arst exhibit, theatre performances, dance, choral music, string and wind instrument ensemble performance and lectures.
For cineastes, there will be the second Singkuwento Internasyonal Short Film Festival in Manila, organized by MPJ Entertainment and Triple MP Productions, from Feb. 6 to 14, showcasing short works of Filipino and foreign filmmakers.
Two literary events will happen in Bulacan and Camarines Sur. The town of Baliuag in Bulacan will pay tribute to one of its most prominent writer, fictionist, playwright and poet in Filipino Pedo S. Dandan, who was born in Baliuag. His works will be showcased in musical and dance performances in different parts of the town in a program called Linagin ang Ugnayan ng Bayan at Pamayanan para sa Likhang Sining ng Mamamayan.
On the other hand, Bikol literature will be spotlighted in the fifth mounting of the Pintakasi Kan Literaturang Bikolnon on Feb. 20 in Pili, Camarines Sur, spearheaded by the Altamarino Clasio High School. The event will include the Aklat Ani Bikol Book fair, a creative writing workshop, and a poetry reading and literary performance session in an effort to promote Bicol literature and hone the skills of Bicol writers.
In Paombong, Bulacan, 13 local visual artists will be highlighted in an exhibit. Meanhile, Angono in Rizal, which is known for the abundance of visual artists, will put the limelight on an icon of Filipino music — National Artist Lucio San Pedro. On the occasion of San Pedro's 102nd birth anniversary, there will be performances of music, poetry and different art forms on Feb. 11.

Ani ng Dangal
The NCCA's NAM celebration will be highlighted by the Ani ni Dangal awards, which will happen on February 12, 2015, at 6 p.m., at the Old Senate Hall of the National Museum of the Philippines. It will be headlined by iconic actress and politician Vilma Santos, who won the Best Actress trophy at the 2014 Dhaka International Film Festival for the Jeffrey Jeturian film Ekstra.
The Ani ng Dangal (meaning, harvest of honors) Awards recognizes artists, cultural workers and works that have earned international awards and accolades during the past year. Santos lead the more than 50 2015 awardees including Leonardo Katigbak of ABS-CBN and GMA News TV's Bayan Ko in the broadcast arts; Siege Ledesma's Shift, Jun Lana, Ronnie Quizon, Mikhail Red, Pamela Reyes's Rekorder, Patricia Evangelista's The Barber of Guiuan, Lav Diaz, Will Fredo and Ida Tiongson's In Nominee Matris, Hazel Tapales Orencio, Jake Cuenca, Joel Lamangan's Kamkam, Liza Diño, Allen Dizon, Diane Ventura, Mark Justen Aguillon, Nerissa Picadizo, Francis Xavier Pasion's Bwaya, Roberto Reyes Ang's TNT, Carlo Obispo's Purok 7, Sandy Talag, Eduardo Roy Jr.'s Quick Change and Miggs Cuaderno for cinema; Halili Cruz Ballet Company, A Team, Xtreme Dancers, Johnny Sustantivo Villanueva, Kayleen Mae Ortiz and Margaret Chua Lao, and Miguel Leopoldo Ignacio for dance; Sophia Marie Lee for the literary arts; Lloyd Edisonne Judilla Montebon, Novo Concertante Manila Choir, Saint Louie University Glee Club, Alvin Paulin and Aleron Choir for music; and Ronnie Dayo, Robert John Cabagnot, Glenn Isaac, Mario Cardenas, Kenneth Cobonpue, Jophel Botero Ybiosa, Gina Meneses, Phoebelyn Gullunan, Jamille Blanca Aguilar, James Singlador, Danilo Victoriano, Ruston Banal, Trisha Co Reyes, Justen Paul Tolentino, Jamia Mei Tolentino, Jesus Ramos Tejada and Maria Angelica Tejada for visual arts.
The awardees' trophies, clippings and ephemera will be featured at the Ani ng Dangal exhibit, which will be unveiled at the event. The exhibit will be mounted at the SM North Edsa from Feb. 13 to 20, SM Megamall from Feb. 21 to 27, and at the Rizal Park at Feb. 28. Also, selected awardees will give performances around Metro Manila-Halili Cruz Ballet Company on Jan. 31 at 3 p.m. at the SM Mall of Asia; A Team, Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company and Aleron Choir on Feb. 8 at 5 p.m. at the Rizal Park; the Xtreme Dancers, the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company and Novo Concertante on Feb. 15, at 5 p.m., at the Rizal Park; Halili Cruz Ballet Company, Novo Concertante, SLU Glee Club and The Crew on Feb. 20, at 5 p.m., at SM North Edsa; and the A Team, UPSA, SLU Glee Club and the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company on Feb. 21, at 3 p.m., at the SM Megamall.

Opening and closing programs
Aside from the Ani ng Dangal Awards, the NCCA will retain the opening and closing ceremonies of the Philippine Arts Festival. This year, the opening program will be held the whole afternoon of February 1, 2015, at the Rizal Park's Open-Air Auditorium in Manila.
It will be a fiesta-like event where people partake of food as well as imbibe different art forms. Visitors can join the pocket workshops on drawing and caricature making organized by the NCCA National Committee on the Visual Arts. Short films and documentaries on Filipino architecture will be shown. People will be able to watch performances of Novo Concertante, Sinukwan Kapampangan Performing Arts, Xtreme Dancers from South Cotabato and Halili Cruz School of Ballet. An excerpt of a komedya, an old Filipino theater form, will be mounted as well as a balatagsan, the Tagalog poetic "joust," and a modern rap session.
On the other hand, the closing ceremony will also be at the same venue on February 28, 2015, at 6 p.m. featuring performances by Novo Concertante, Sinukwan Kapampangan Performing Arts, Xtreme Dancers, A Team and guests representing the different arts.

Once again, the month of February will be full of events to feed the senses and soul. The NCCA has been leading the celebration of NAM since the signing of Presidential Proclamation 683, in 1991 declaring February as National Arts Month. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tondo Throbbing: Fiesta at a Manila District

The sky was ashen gray on the afternoon of January 17, 2015. A storm was coming, Mekkhala (locally called Amang), which brought rains on Pope Francis’ visit to Leyte that day. But the strip of sky over F. Varona Street in Tondo was brightened with varicolored buntings, fluttering in the occasional cold gusts. Aside from the makeshift stores selling snacks, from deep-fried fish balls to repackaged J. Co donuts, the street was lined with statues of Santo Niño, the infant Jesus, a popular religious icon in the Philippines. The statues came in many sizes and dressed in every imaginable costumes—from the traditional princely attire in velvet and gilt embroidery to uniforms of different professions.
Every year, the residents of Tondo bring out their Santo Niño statues for his feast day, every third Sunday of January. The Santo Niños were already out on the streets on the bisperas, or eve of the feast day. Residents were already receiving guests, who partook of the food and were anticipating the Lakbayaw Festival parade, which was due to start at 1 p.m. starting at the Tondo Church. It was slated to go through the streets of Ylaya, Claro M. Recto, Asuncion, Zaragosa, Wagas, J. Luna, Pritil, Herbosa, Velasquez, Ugbo, F. Varona, Perla, Santa Maria and J. Nolasco. The route only minimally changes every year, and every year it passes through F. Varona. What if it doesn’t?
Magpoprotesta ang mga tao. Pupunta sa simbahan, lalo na ang mga matatanda (The people will protest. They will got the church, especially the old ones),” said literature professor and long-time resident Ferdinand Lopez.
At past five, the parade did arrive, bearing a multitude of Santo Niño statues in karosas or other vehicles, some made to dance as a sign of devotion, and full of dancing groups. In recent years, the fiesta has imbibed the festival elements, especially the street dancing, that have been in trend in the country. They dispensed though with the gaudy costumes and opted for uniform T-shirts and modern, popular Western dances and music, perhaps befitting the vibe of the Manila district, the most densely populated in the country. Most of the participants were young people, who have the endurance to dance and parade for more than five hours. Recently, the all-male group from Willie’s Gym has become popular for taking off their shirts to show their chiselled bodies while dancing. The parade was perhaps one of the longest in the country, ending at about past midnight. In the early days, the fluvial procession was the one that attracted many visitors.
On L. Chacon Street, Tondo Church began celebrating masses when the parade ended. Its present structure was built in the mid-nineteenth century. This is where the old Santo Niño statue is housed. It is said that the statue came from came from Acapulco, Mexico. A rich merchant gave it to the Archbishop of Manila, who later gave it over to the parish priest of Tondo in 1572. There are several folk stories about the image. One of the most popular is the account of its theft. The image was stolen on July 14, 1972. During this time, people say it rained incessantly, flooding most parts of Tondo. Three days later, the statue was found but dismembered. It is partly made of ivory with gold and silver embellishments. The image was brought to the Malacañan Palace to be repaired and was returned to Tondo on Aug. 2 via a procession led by then First Lady Imelda Marcos. Upon its return, the rain stopped and the floods subsided. The procession on January 18 was more solemn and traditional. Karosas and makeshift floats bearing the Santo Niños assembled by the church as early as four in the morning. The procession went through a more circuitous route, going to more streets as the sky slowly began to light up.

Along F. Varona Street

Willie's Gym contingent
The Santo Nino de Tondo Church

The Santo Nino de Tondo

All photographs by Roel Hoang Manipon

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Expanded Views: A Bigger and Better Art Fair Philippines Highlights the Best of Contemporary Art

Roberto Feleo’s Tao-tao ng Aklasang Basi-Ang Hanay ng mga N, lacquer over acrylic on sawdust and eggshell mix over paper on aluminum expander, 2014-2015 (detail of installation piece)

Art Fair Philippines returns for the third time and promises to be bigger and better. It is a trade fair to market artworks, as well as a platform to showcase the best in Philippine contemporary visual art as well as a tool to foster wider appreciation for contemporary art, said one of the organizers, Lisa Periquet of Philippine Art Events Inc.
Art Fair Philippines will be mounted from February 5 to 8, 2015, in Makati City. As with the previous two fairs, it will again transform the car park building in Ayala Center, called The Link, into a venue where the country’s leading galleries gather and exhibit artworks. This year, more galleries are participating at 33, the biggest number so far. There were 24 during the maiden event, occupying 2,780 square meters, and 28 last year. Aside from local galleries, the 2015 fair will also include eight participants from around Southeast Asia.
Spread out over two levels, the participating galleries this year are 1335 Mabini, Altromondo, Archivo, Arndt, Art Cube, Artesan, Art Informal, Art Verite, Avellana Art Gallery, Blanc, Boston Gallery, CANVAS, Crucible, Edouard Malingue Gallery, Equator Art Projects, Finale Art File, Galeria Duemila, Galerie Michael Janssen, J Studio, MO_, Nova Gallery, Nunu Fine Art, Pablo, Paseo Gallery, ROH Projects, Salcedo Private View, Secret Fresh, Silverlens, TAKSU, The Drawing Room, Tin-Aw Art Gallery, Vinyl on Vinyl, and West Gallery.
At the heart of fair is a cluster of special exhibitions of selected artists, which the organizers consider the most exciting names in Philippine contemporary art. According to organizer Dindin Araneta, selected are those making important works, who have achieved both commercial and critical success, and have been invited to exhibit here and abroad. Also, they also want to highlight “neglected” artists such this year’s focal artist Roberto Feleo.
Feleo, professor and mentor to many artists, will be at the central exhibit space in The Link’s sixth level. The exhibit will include life-sized pieces tackling a pivotal point in Philippine history. Feleo will be joined by artists Mike Adrao, Poklong Anading, Annie Cabigting, Buen Calubayan, Mariano Ching and Yasmin Sison, Kawayan de Guia, Alfredo Esquillo Jr., Geraldine Javier, and Maria Taniguchi, who will be at the seventh level.
The special exhibits are curated in consultation with Dr. Patrick Flores, who was selected to be the curator of the Philippine pavilion at the upcoming 56th Venice Biennale. Art Fair Philippines again collaborates with prominent furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue and his team to fine-tune the fair’s layout.
Auction house Christie’s will return this year as sponsor and it will run Art Fair Philippines’ lecture series called Christie’s Art Forum. Art Fair Philippines welcomes a new sponsor, prominent local clothing brand Bench. Food and beverage partners for this year are Kai Restaurant, The Straits Wine Company, and Coca Cola.
Art Fair Philippines is included under the campaign “Make It Happen. Make it Makati” of Makati City, which projects itself as enclave that promotes art, culture and history, as well as urabn innovations and other developments. To entice more visitors, Makati has partnered with MasterCard for its Priceless Makati Staycation promo. It offers clients the chance to stay in one of the four hotel brand in the area, Raffles Makati, Fairmont Makati, InterContinental Manila, and Holiday Inn and Suites Makati. Those availing of the promo this February can get two complimentary tickets to the Art Fair.
Art Fair Philippines is one of the two major visual art fairs in the country. The one being ManilArt, organized by the National Committee on Art Galleries of the National Commission for Cultural and the Arts, which is on its sixth year. Over the years, Art Fair Philippines enjoyed increasing attendance. About 6,000 visitors attended in 2013, while about 10,000 visitors were at last year’s event. Organizers hope to exceed the 10,000 mark.

Geraldine Javier’s Let's  Talk About Art (detail of work in progress), using embroidery, fabric, foam,  (2014-2015) 
Annie Cabigting’s Girl in Red With Twins at the MOMA, oil on canvas, 2014-2015
Mike Adrao's Study for Elegant Beasts Beautiful Decay (Snakes), pen and ink on paper, 2014
Poklong Anading’s Road to Mountains, recycled tires, 2015
One of the featured artists, Kawayan de Guia
Maria Taniguchi
Alfredo Esquillo, Jr.

Buen Calubayan
Mariano Ching and Yasmin Sison
Tickets are available at the reception area located at the sixth floor of The Link. Art Fair Philippines is co-presented by Ayala Land Premiere, Alveo, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Globe Telecom, Volkswagen, and Bench. It falls under the Make It Happen Make It Makati initiative. For more information, visit and Email or Call phone number 831-0953.

Photographs courtesy of Art Fair Philippines

Thursday, January 15, 2015

In the Last Papal Visit

Pope John Paul II at the University of Santo Tomas in 1995 (Photo from UST)
The past days in Metro Manila have been a bit of a frenzy. It began late last year at the onset of the holiday season, a much anticipated time of the year for Filipinos. The already terrible traffic was aggravated by the holiday rush. A few days after the revelry to celebrate the new year, the feast of the Black Nazarene drew hundreds of devotees to Quiapo and nearby areas, one of the most fervent and chaotic shows of religiosity. A week after, a major event was set to take place, something special for a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines. The church's highest official and spiritual leader, Pope Francis, is in the country. In the last few days, Metro Manila had a dry run of its traffic scheme for the visit, creating jams in many parts. Vehicles were rerouted. The glass walls of offices along the "papal route" were boarded up, anticipating large crowds. It seemed like an extension of the holidays. The normal flow of work has been disrupted, and there has been a nebulous feel of anticipation, as well as uncertainty hanging in the air.
The last time a pope visited the country was a good two decades ago, in January 1995, when Pope John Paul II arrived in the Philippines. The Catholic youth festival World Youth Day 1995 was also held here from Jan. 10 to 15, 1995, the first time in an Asian country, along with the International Youth Forum (IYF), which was held at the University of Santo Tomas.
I vaguely remember now whether I had actually seen the pope in person, who is a saint now, or not. I remember spending the night out in the open at the Rizal Park, together with fellow staff members of The Varsitarian, the UST student paper, and hundreds of others, the day before the pope arrived. I fell asleep on newspapers laid on the ground and woke up surrounded by a multitude of legs. People had poured in overwhelmingly. There were groups of youth from different countries arriving, waving their flags. That proved exciting for me. I had a strong childhood fascination for different countries and cultures. That's why I watched beauty pageants, and the Parade of Nations was my most favorite part.
The next encounter with the pope was at UST. As a tradition, popes visit the pontifical university when they go to the Philippines. I remember the huge crowds.
What I remember most about the last papal visit were the IYF delegates from different countries. As a member of the school paper, I had easy access to them. They were housed at the university. Even though classes were suspended, we were there every day, welcoming the delegates, waiting for them after their sessions, and making friends with them. It delighted us no end. We met young people from as far as Burkina Faso, Venezuela, the Netherlands, Norway, Lithuania, Russia, Lebanon, Paraguay and Swaziland, as well as from nearby countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. They also gravitated towards us, one of the few young people still in school. We acted as guides, touring them around whenever we could. We learned from each other.
The day some of them arrived we took them all the way to SM Megamall, then the best mall in the country. We were teenagers and knew no better. The African delegates shopped, from buying a Santo Nino image, which was a novelty to them, to CDs of pop stars. Norwegian Gunnell Sandanger though didn't explore much and later explained that they had malls back in Norway. The next time, we took some delegates to the nearby palengke, the smell of which nauseated a couple of delegates. Generally, we had fun. We talked and went around the campus. At night, we sang songs under the trees. We learned from one another, and we shared stories, curious of one another, of the littlest of things, of the places where we came from. There was genuine openness and offer of friendship.

In the end, I think, it is not whether you have seen the pope or not. It is how we interact with others and the friendships we form with other peoples. The pope has become a way to understanding and a desire to be a better us, to build a better world.  

Pope John Paul II waves to the huge crowd inside his Popemobile during the 1995 World Youth Day in Manila (Photo from UST)
A World Youth Day 1995 souvenir postcard
A special issue of The Varsitarian on the visit of Pope John Pal II in January 1995
The author’s papal visit media and IYF volunteer IDs