Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Words Rendered Live: Cultural Center of the Philippines Holds Second Performatura: Performance Literature Festival

Traditional chants, a costume play or cosplay and spoken-word performances are some of the events included at the Performatura 2017: Performance Literature Festival, to be held from March 31 to April 2 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Pasay City.
            A prelude to the celebration of National Literature Month in April, the festival celebrates the richness of Philippine literature, underscores the connectedness of the written and the performative, as well as entices more people to appreciate literature.
            Filipinos, generally, are not much of a reading people, but can be eager audience of shows, and performances are ways for them to know the works of Filipino writers. In the last couple of years, spoken-word performances became quite popular in the country. Poems and monologs on love, recited and acted out on stage, found avid audiences, most of them young, in theaters and bars.
            Literary performances are not recent development though. Many literatures in the Philippines started out being performed, and a prime example is the number of epics, which are chanted from memory. And throughout history, poetry readings and performances based on texts have been put up. The traditional performances, as well as the latest trends are featured in Performatura, which is organized by CCP Intertextual Division, formerly the CCP Literature Division.
            Performatura was first held on November 6, 7 and 8, 2015. It was called Performatura Festival: Performing Literatures, to celebrate National Reading Month. Its aim was to highlight Philippine literature and its interconnections with other forms of arts, as well as the connection of artists to their audiences, according to writer Herminio Beltran Jr., who was one of the brains behind the festival.
            The title was coined by the festival director Vim Nadera, a poet who is known for his performance art. It combines the words performance and oratura. Oratura was derived from orature, a term coined by Ugandan linguist Pio Zirimu, who wanted to raise oral literature to the level of written literature. In Performatura, the intersections of the written word and performance and intertextuality are emphasized.
            The three-day biennial this year will be filled with poetry readings, cultural performances, film showings, marathon readings, a book fair and forums with artists and writers all day long, from nine in the morning to nine in the evening. It will showcase numerous artists—writers, performers and writer-performers. While entrance to the festival will be practically free, the organizers will be requiring attendees to donate a book as admission ticket. Each donation will go to the CCP’s partner libraries.

Balagtas. Boom!
            This year’s Performatura takes on the theme, “Sa loob at labas ng bayan kong sawi” (In and outside my forlorn country), a line from Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar’s most famous metrical romance, Florante at Laura. While featuring works commenting and contemplating on the state of the country, the theme is really an homage to nineteenth-century poet Baltazar, widely considered the greatest of Filipino poets, and his immortal contributions to Philippine literature.
            Performatura wants to make Balagtas, Baltazar’s penname, and his works perennially hip, especially among millennials. Thus, it will be holding a cosplay or costume play based on his life and works called Franciscosplay. It is a contest where participants must dress up as characters from Florante at Laura and recite at least three stanzas of the character they are portraying. The cosplay event will happen in afternoon of April 2, the 229th birth anniversary of Balagtas, at the CCP’s Little Theater.
            Participants will be judged on characterization (how well the cosplayers act or embody the characters they’re playing), costume design, audience impact and delivery (how well the cosplayer delivered the lines they’ve chosen from Florante at Laura). Winners will receive cash prize (as much as P5,000) and gift certificates from Microtel Puerto Princesa and Santo Tomas, Batangas. The audience is also encouraged to be in costume, for they can bag a special prize for being the most creative.
            Aside from Franciscosplay, other Balagtas-related activities include marathon readings of his works at the CCP Promenade the whole afternoon. The series includes La India Elegante y el Negrito Amante on March 31 by the children from Dagdag Dunong Reading Center, a civil organization that promotes literacy; the komedya Orosman at Zafira on April 1 by members of the Pinoy Reads Pinoy Books Club; and of the Braille version of Florante at Laura on April 2 by the students of the Philippine National School for the Blind.
            In morning of Balagtas Day, April 2, National Artist for literature Bienvenido Lumbera, CCP officials and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) director general Roberto Añonuevo will lay a wreath at his shrine in Pandacan, Manila, where the poet lived part of his life. The program will include performances by Pandacan-based Teatro Balagtas and the past winners of KWF’s Makata ng Taon, Christian Rey Pilares (2015), Louie Jon Sanchez (2006, 2009 and 2011) and Mark Anthony Angeles (2016). This will be followed by a short cultural tour of the district, called “Lakbay-Kamalaysayan,” led by Samahang Sining at Kultura ng Pilipinas.

The Opening
            Performatura Festival will open on March 31 at nine in the morning at the CCP Little Theater, where National Artist for literature Virgilio Almario, who is also the chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and KWF, will deliver a message. The opening program will also be graced by CCP vice president and artistic director Chris Millado and Beltran, and will have performances by Jean Ariane Flores, the winner of the seventh Maria Carpena Kundiman Song Festival; Anino Shadowplay Collective; and Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino (Kontra-Gapi), the ethnic music and dance ensemble of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Arts and Letters.
            The opening will also see the launch of Akdang Buhay, a project of the UP’s Institute of Creative Writing which will come out with biographies of National Artists for literature and other major Filipino writers. It will be led by writer and professor Dr. Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo.
            This will be followed by opening of the book fair of National Book Development Board (NBDB), Ex Libris: NBDB Book Fair, at the Little Theater Lobby, and will be open until six in the evening of the duration of the festival.
            The second day of the festival on April will also have an opening program in the morning called “Paghahasik” (the act of sowing) at the CCP Promenade to be graced by National Artist for literature F. Sionil Jose and highlighted by performances of Sanghabi, a group focused on the use of indigenous musical instruments, and the popularization of the Old Tagalog syllabary and Tausug dance pangalay; poet Nerisa Guevara; and Tupada Action and Media Arts (TAMA), known for “ambush” performances in public spaces.

            Festival attendees will also get a chance to hear artists talk on their crafts and interact with them in a series on Gawad CCP awardees, happening from two to three in the afternoon at the CCP’s MKP Hall for the three days. The first day will feature actress Nora Aunor, while writer Leoncio Deriada, who is a leading promoter of Western Visayan literature; and veteran screenwriter Ricardo Lee will be featured on April 1 and 2 respectively.

Learning About the Craft
            The festival also provides a venue to learn more about the different aspects of literature and performance with its “Literaturo” series, every ten-thirty in the morning until noon at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute. The sessions are “Poetry is Our Second Language” on March 31; “Bukanegan” on April 1; and “Sarsuwelang Sangang Nangabali” on April 2. Additionally, the forum “When Writing Contest has Hidden Agenda and Other Horror Stories for the Millenial Writers” and another on the rights of young writers will conducted at Silangan Hall, from nine in the morning until noon, on April 2.

Text to Screen
            At the Dream Theater, selected films will be shown at the section called “Peliteratura.” The opening day will showcase films by artists Sari Dalena—Ang Kababaihan ng Malolos (2 to 3:45 p.m.) and Komikero Chronicles (4 to 6 p.m.). Giancarlo Abrahan’s Dagitab will be shown on April 1 (2 to 4:30 p.m.) and Jim Libiran’s Tribu on April 2 (2 to 4:30 p.m.).

Knowing Cultural Roots
            Performatura will also showcase traditional literatures and performances from selected indigenous ethnic groups of the Philippines in the series called Orature Overture, held every day from three to five in the afternoon at the CCP’s Tanghalang Huseng Batute. On March 31, the Visayan folk song called balitaw will be performed in Cebuano, while the next day, T’boli chants will be performed by chanters from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Orature Overture will move to the Silangan Hall on April 2 with performance of the rajji, the Itbayaten version of the Ivatan lyric song called laji, by performers from Itbayat, Batanes.

More Performances and Readings
            During the Performatura, poet, teacher and dancer Nerisa Guevara will debut her performance art piece, Elegy 5, at the CCP Aquarium on April 1, 3 to 7 p.m.
            On the other hand, the popular spoken-word trend will be presented in the Hugot Monologues series every afternoon (5:30 to 6:30 p.m.) at the Tanghalng Huseng Batute. The title refers to the “hugot,” from the Filipino expression “may pinaghuhugutan,” which refers to emotions drawn out or extracted from past experiences, something bottled up and then let loose. Spoken-word performances have become popular in the country mostly because they focus on “hugot” that often the two—the form or format and subject—are almost one and the same.
            The first day will showcase Jann Altea, also known as Binibining Beats, from Zamboanga City, while second day will showcase Ampalaya Monologues by Theatre in Alternative Platforms, a contemporary theatre company based in southern Metro Manila. Ampalaya Monologues is TAP’s popular play composed of a series of monologues, mostly on “hugot.”
            The last day will feature Juan Miguel Severo, who is credited for being one of those who popularized recent spoken-word performances, especially with his appearances in the popular television series On the Wings of Love in 2015.
            The Women Playwrights International will mount the Never Again Script Reading session or “readathon” at the Silangan Hall, 1:30 to 4 p.m., on March 31, featuring Duyan Ka ng Magiting and Princess Lili.
            Also at same time and venue the next day, there will be a storytelling session by Pinoy Storytellers Group and MAFIA (Mars and Friends in Action), a volunteer group of mountaineers and teachers promoting the love of reading.
            Every evening, from seven to nine, poetry reading and musical numbers in a bar setting will be put up at the Trellis, Figaro area, near the CCP Asean Park. The first session of Park Poetry@Sev’s Café is called “Between Our Legs,” hosted by Kankanaey writer Dumay Solinggay (Florenda Pedro). It will feature Alab, a volunteer group of artists and cultural workers; White Wall, a poetry and performance group; hip-hop artist and rapper Abra; and Words Anonymou, a spoken-word performance group.
            Folk and rock singer-songwriter Heber Bartolome will perform on Park Poetry @ Sev’s Cafe on April 2.Billed “From North to South” and hosted by the Batutes, this session will feature the Baguio Writers Guild; Bukambibig, a group who is into multilingual poetry performance; Gunglo dagiti Mannurat nga Ilokano iti Filipinas (Gumil Filipinas), the Ilocano writers group; Nagkahiusang Magsusulaat sa Cagayan de Oro (Nagmac); and members of The Little Boy Productions from Cebu.
The last session on April 2 is titled “Kay Ka Kiko,” hosted by Cheska Lauengco of Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (Lira). It will showcase The Makatas; Happy Mondays; Kilometer 64 Writers' Collective; Voltes ViM; and Lira, the group of poets in Filipino.
        Each session will have an open-mike portion for audience to participate.
        Performatura prides itself for the eclectic nature of its featured artists—from the established to the emergent, from the refined to the radical, from the traditional to the avant-garde. All of them will be gathered to celebrate literature and art and connect to audiences.
        “Not everyone can say they have performed at the CCP. It’s a privilege that National Artists and our best crafts-persons share,” said Nadera. “Now, it is an honor we are giving to those who are practicing both new and ancient forms of performance literature in the margins. Filipinos may not have heard of them, but their work is just as important.”

For more details, check the CCP Intertextual Division Facebook page or contact Markus Aserit at e-mail ccpintertextualdivision@gmail.com, telephone number 551-5959 or mobile number 0919-3175708. 

Anino Shadowplay Collective
Dumay Solinggay
Jann Altea
Jean Ariane Flores
Nora Aunor
White Wall
Words Anonymous
Leoncio Deriada
Nerisa Guevara 
Pinoy Reads Pinoy Books
Theater in Alternative Platforms
Juan Miguel Severo

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