By Susan Claire Agbayani

TEN years ago, as the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) was preparing for the celebration of its 40th year, then CCP President Nestor Jardin approached former First Lady Imelda Marcos at the CCP ramp and asked her, “Where did you bury the time capsule?”

D’yan (there),” Mrs. Marcos said, pointing to the front lawn. But she couldn’t remember exactly where. “It was impossible for us to start digging the whole front lawn. We’ve lost it, unfortunately,” Mr. Jardin (now a member of the CCP’s Board of Trustees, he is, in his own words, “The longest, continuously serving official of the Cultural Center,” having been directly or indirectly involved with CCP over the last 46 years, starting as an apprentice and scholar of Ballet Philippines in 1973) told reporters during a press conference announcing the celebration of the CCP’s 50th anniversary.

Mr. Jardin said that buried with the time capsule were “Scores of some of our National Artists, dance notes from Francisca Reyes Aquino, sketches from one of the very precious, priceless works.”

Luckily, this will not be the case today thanks to advances in technology.

During the press conference, current Vice-President and Artistic Director Chris Millado announced, “We are launching the digital time capsule project, which is a participative, interactive way of involving our publics who have shared memories of the CCP, to contribute photographs, videos and a profoundly larger number of mementoes [which will] be digitized, and archived, in a time capsule. Everyone is enjoined to contribute to it.”

Mr. Jardin recalls that at the time he joined the CCP, it “was merely a performing arts venue; it did not undertake many programs.”

He is gratified that “50 years hence, the CCP has transformed itself into a purposeful and important arts and cultural institution in the country. And now, we celebrate all the outstanding and wonderful productions that were created and conceptualized in this theater.”

He wants to celebrate the outstanding artists — both local and foreign — who have graced its halls: prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, pianists Van Cliburn and Cecil Licad, singer-actress Leah Salonga, and the Royal Shakespeare Company, to name a few.

Mr. Millado noted that the first “17 years (of the CCP) were the founding energies, efforts, breakthroughs of the tandem of the founder, Ms. Imelda Marcos and our beloved Lurecia Kasilag. Thirty-three years after, (it) was a series of artistic leaders, cultural managers, and administrators who, with their own expertise and contributions to what we now know as CCP, that brought it to a sort of rebirth: reborn in people’s cultural expressions; reborn in a whole milieu that recognized and embraced not only the culture of Manila, and what was then known as international artists, but the culture of the greater archipelago, including several endeavours.”

“I’m proud of the fact that the CCP has been instrumental in promoting Philippine arts and Filipino artists all over the world. That thousands and thousands of artists, young artists, cultural workers, teachers have been trained by CCP, not only here, but all over the country; and that our Outreach Program (initiated in the 1970s) has reached the hinterlands in many regions of the Philippines,” Mr. Jardin said.

The year-long celebration will kick off this September. “We will have the anniversary gala,” said Mr. Millado. “We will have the formal version, which will be an opportunity for fund-raising; and the People’s gala, which will be open to the public at popular ticket prices.”

That month will also see the unveiling of Ginintuang Sining (Golden Art), a large-scale life and sound installation at the CCP’s façade. “It’s a wonderful collaboration between installation visual artist Toym Imao and Arwin Liwag who represents the whole family and clan of lantern makers in Pampanga,” said Mr. Millado. The collaboration will “tell the story of the CCP’s contribution to excellence nurturing Filipino aesthetics, and nurturing the next generation of artists.”

To be inaugurated in October is the Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez — also called the Blackbox Theater — a new, multi-purpose space “for artists to develop, showcase, and further refine their works,” said Mr. Millado. He added that the new theater’s acoustics were done by one of the best acoustic designers of the world. Part of the new theater’s design will eventually merge with the new facility, the New Performing Arts Center.

The CCP will also host the Manila International Performing Arts Summit (MIPAS), “a multi-platform event that will train a spotlight on our performing arts content creators in the field of Music, Dance, Theater, Multi-media, Experimental, Spoken Word,” among others.

MIPAS includes the Conference and Federation of Asian Cultural Promoters, which will bring promoters from all over the US, Europe, and Asia looking into Asian content to bring to international festivals; the MIPA Market which will have booths, pitching sessions, B2B meetings, and networking sessions for traditional, regional, professional groups and international arts markets; and, the Conference of the Association of Asia Pacific Performing Arts Centers, an association of executives who manage major art houses and venues in the region who will talk about the changing role of art institutions in relation to the academe, emerging technology, audience development, and philanthropy.

The CCP will also bring together thought leaders, teachers, artists, legislators, and LGUs to talk about arts education and how important it is for the development of national life via the forum “Imagine Nation.”

Meanwhile, after selling the latest edition of the Encyclopedia of Philippine Art at P50,000 for a set of 12 volumes, and giving it “completely free to all public schools, universities and colleges,” the CCP will now make the Encyclopedia of Philippine Art available online at “Spotify price levels,” said Mr. Millado.

Other things to watch out for throughout the year-long festival:

• The First Arts and Social Media Festival which will bring together bloggers, social media influencers, and professional public relations specialists for mentoring the next generation of Arts advocates;

SiningKwenta, a series of selected shows with tickets at only P50;

• CCPLibre: 50 shows at P50;

• The expansion of key festivals, tour of shows and resident groups to cities and municipalities nationwide; and

• Anniversary publications including a photographic almanac, coffee table books, and a magazine about the history and contribution of the CCP.

Mr. Jardin’s wish list for CCP’s 50th year: “The completion of the CCP Complex Development Plan; and for CCP to be financially self-sufficient, and free from political interventions.”