For the love of art

Published February 6, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Jules Vivas

Celebrating arts month in the most interesting of times

QUEEN OF ARTS NAM 2021 officially opened with a short program involving arts ambassador Catriona Gray, NCCA chairman Nick Lizaso, and other NCCA executives at the Metropolitan Theater

British philosopher Bertrand Russell once said that “speech, fire, agriculture, writing, tools, and large-scale cooperation” are what sets humans apart from animals. In a nutshell, it is creativity as well as its application and expression, the arts, which separates man from the wild.

One of the most important aspects of life, art connects and empowers people from different social, cultural, and political backgrounds. Whether material or intangible, art forms transport and integrate the traditions, practices, and history of one country to another. It is used to create awareness and inspiration, for us to ultimately accept one another. In our highly globalized world, art is a vital instrument to give our identities and cultures due recognition. 

Countries that take pride in and promote their unique arts and culture are arguably some of the most recognized and progressive people. South Korea has its performance arts. K-pop and K-drama are widely supported all over the globe, making its entertainment sector a driving force for South Korea’s economy. Japan’s anime, a form of visual arts, has also penetrated the international market. In fact, it is a 19-billion-dollar industry. Still at the pinnacle of arts and culture, Europe has the greatest number of countries considered to be the most tolerant, developed, and environmentally friendly, namely the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, and France, to name a few. One could say that the more we are immersed in art, the better humans we become. And while the Philippines has a lot to learn from these countries, we are not too far behind with regards to cultural expressions, except maybe in the areas of recognizing, nurturing, supporting, propagating, and marketing them. 

Through Presidential Proclamation no. 66 in 1991, the Philippines commemorates the National Arts Month (NAM) for the entire February. Despite the troubled times, arts and cultural events are pushing through thanks to the National Commission of Culture and the Arts (NCCA) led by its chairman, Nick Lizaso, and executive director Al Ryan Alejandre.

In our highly globalized world, art is a vital instrument to give our identities and cultures due recognition.

The forefront of this year’s celebration is NCCA’s Subcommission on the Arts (SCA), which is headed by Dr. Rolando Tolentino. The theme is “Alab-sining, Alay-sigla,” and like its previous installments, the goal is to preserve and promote local arts, integrate them into the community life, and harness them as catalysts for values education.

NAM 2021 will yet again revolve around the flagship projects of SCA’s seven national committees Architecture and Allied Arts, Cinema, Dance, Dramatic Arts, Literary Arts, Music, and visual Arts, all of which will be convened online. And as an art-loving nation, these events extend beyond the month. Here is what’s about to go down.

The National Committee on Architecture and the Allied Arts is having local and international planning and design professionals, academicians, to discuss how the country has managed and adjusted the interior and exterior, public and private spaces to adapt to quarantine life. The blended event called SPACE|D: Multi-modal Discourse on Reshaping the Built Environment for the New Normal is comprised of webinars with workshops, roundtables, virtual exhibitions, and competitions. As a blended event, there will be a physical component.

AND THEN THEY MET NCCA executive Al Ryan Alejandre, arts ambassador Catriona Gray, chairman Nick Lizaso, and assistant secretary for operations of the Presidential Communications Marie Rafael

Meanwhile, the 13th edition of the Cinema Rehiyon, expected to be the biggest in scope this year, will be mounting its first-ever online film festival from March 26 to 30. It is a platform for shaping and redefining Philippine cinema, through a gathering of regional filmmakers and featuring narratives from the culture of the regions. Aside from the regional films coming from Luzon to Mindanao, Cinema Rehiyon includes online talkbacks, filmmaking webinars, and forum dealing with the same concerns. The festival, this time around, also highlights works by and for women and the LGBTQIA+ community. Two omnibus films, Eksena 1 and 2 will premiere. The movie is a collaborative project of 16 filmmakers all over the country, detailing the exploration of ideas and experiences in confined spaces amid the health emergency.  

The longest-running dance concert Sayaw Pinoy will take place digitally, and will feature dance groups from around the Philippines, as it ceremoniously has since 2009. The National Committee on Dance managed by Dr. Shirley Halili-Cruz has had various local government units, schools, private institutions, and commercial enterprises as part of this decade-long flagship program.

Reading the Regions 2: An Anthology and A Literary Conference on Philippine Folk and Oral Traditions will happen via Zoom and Facebook streaming from March 30 to 31. The banner program by the National Committee on Literary Arts (NCLA) follows through the conversations from its first installment that started with an anthology of essays on teaching literature as well as a literary conference that talks about literature, cinema, and art from the regions.

NCLA chair, Dr. Juliet C. Mallari, hopes this event will help reinforce the value of folk and oral traditions in the country, which will inspire the creation of works that reflect the Filipino experience.

This second version of the Reading the Regions would likewise explore the ways how folk and oral lore manifest in varied forms of literary and other artistic productions in the digital era.  The project will recognize the “Father of Modern Research on Philippine Folklore” and “Mother of Philippine Folklore,” E. Arsenio Manuel and Damiana L. Eugenio, respectively. Several anthologies, including the pandemic-centered Agwat-Hilom and Ubod, written by new and emerging authors, will be launched.

Listen to the different beats and see the musical cultures of the country with Musikapuluan Pintigan:  Serye ng Konsiyerto para sa Buwan ng Sining. The online concert by the National Committee on Music, in collaboration with St. Paul University Manila, will be showcasing musical performances of living cultures of the Philippines, based on a study conducted by Felipe de Leon. Every Sunday, two music subcultures will be featured. These living cultures are Kultura ng Padidiwata, Kultura ng Pag-uuma, Kultura ng Pag-uukir, Kultura ng Pamamanata, Kultura ng Pananahan, Kultura ng Paglilining, Kultura ng Pag-aaliw, Kultura ng Pagtutol, and Kultura ng Pagkabansa

ART MOVEMENT Binhilan performing arts guild performing the western courtship dance Alcamfor for NCCA’s online program called the Dance Xchange on Air currently live on their social media page

In partnership with the Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts, Inc. (YATTA), the National Committee on Dramatic Arts (NCDA) conducts Tampok 2021: E-Turo Dula and e-Pasundayag.

This program will provide continuity to the ongoing initiatives of Tampok 2020 to find models of theater training. This fourth Tampok is composed of e-Turo Dula, which offers five 18-hour specialized online theater courses that will run for six weeks, and e-Pasundayag, documentaries, and digital presentations that celebrate the rich legacy of theater-making in the country.

Last but not the least, the National Committee for Visual Arts (NCVA) has Bagong Biswal. This program is about finding a new visual language in the current Covid-19 setting. Artists are adapting to the so-called new normal in terms of modes of production and expression. Bagong Biswal is composed of video documentation contributed by artists nationwide. The gathered video material will be collated into categories that represent the wider visual arts spectrum from painting to sculpture, illustration to graphic art, fine art photography to performance art. It will be staged through the NCVA Facebook Page, with live discussions by resource persons and guests broadcast via Zoom.