Economic, culture, and arts blending

Published October 31, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Fil C. Sionil
Fil C. Sionil

LILING CITY, Hunan Province, China – Banks and financial institutions are on a paradigm shift in contributing to the preservation of Mother Nature. Going green and growing awareness on the degradation of the environment has become a centerpiece of their corporate social responsibility programs.

This is what I observed when I joined a team of five Filipino artists – Manuel “Manny” Baldemor, Phyllis Zaballero, Rico Lascano, Norberto “Lito” Carating, and Jonahmar Salvosa, in the second leg of a cultural exchange program led by Bank of China-Manila (BOC-Manila) in collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (MET), the Chinese Culture and Arts Association, and the China Daily Asia Pacific.

Going around Liling, one can’t help but notice the flurry of construction, which for most economists is a good sign because of its trickle-down effect on essentially all sectors of the economy. Liling is part of the Hunan province in Central China. “This used to be a quiet place. Now, it’s bursting with domestic activities,” my tour guide, BOC-Manila Country head Deng Jun. Coming here, though, is not that simple. It’s almost half a day of travelling – a three-hour train to Changsha, then close to two-hour bus ride. I am green with envy at the expanse of its train terminal, even bigger than our gateway. And they have their own version of the bullet train.

Located at the bottom of the mainland, it’s known as the ceramic capital because of its rich and high quality of clay, one of the main ingredients in pottery making. Our hotel is located in the ceramic valley with buildings shaped like tea or coffee cups. The buildings are lighted at the stroke of dusk – a sight to behold! There are over 50 ceramic factories here, all of which are thriving. Foreign tourists are still a handful but local authorities here are positive they will grow by leaps and bounds in the near future.

To get the feel and absorb the local color that will be incorporated in their paintings, the team visited the Weishan Lake up in the mountain, the site of the oldest dragon kiln and the source of the best clay. The lone restaurant, frequently patronized by the locals, serves fish from the lake. Delish! Although, spicier than Szechuan.

For the first time in their illustrious careers, the visiting artists tried painting on ceramic plates, incorporating the sites and sounds of this place. The old Chinese homes, the mountains, the lush greenery, the blue sky, the cool weather and rich environs at the gallery of Kuku “Bukuk” Chai, described as a “patriot of China.”

As a business journalist, my focus on the “One Belt, One Road Initiative,” a global development scheme of the Chinese government involving 152 economies, including the Philippines, is infrastructure development and of course, investments. Little did I know that there’s a segment in the strategy that involves arts and culture.

Now that the tone has been set, Mr. Manny, Lito, Rico, Jonah, and Ms. Phyllis with guidance from Ms. Tina Colayco, MET president, collaborated on their artwork based on the theme “In Harmony with Nature.” The end result, superb – both the ceramic plates and the collaborative art piece.

The wheels of the One Belt, One Road initiative churned to strengthen the bilateral connectivity between PH and China, not only on the economic front but also thru artwork masterpieces.

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