COVID-19 can’t stop NCCA’s celebration of National Arts Month

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NATIONAL Arts Month kicked off via Facebook Live last Monday with a glimpse of the glittering lobby of the Metropolitan Theater, newly restored and awaiting its reopening in April. The program announced dances and films, theater programs, lectures, talks, and more that will be held throughout the rest of February and March, mostly online because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual celebration of National Arts Month started with the signing of Presidential Proclamation 683, in 1991, declaring February as National Arts Month. Over the years, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), as well as other government agencies and private organizations, has been organizing events and activities to highlight the artistic brilliance of the Filipinos.

The NCCA announced the programs lined up for National Arts Month on Facebook Live, kicking things off with a Demsu, a T’boli ritual for protection and guidance for special occasions and ceremonies. This was followed by a number of performances, including a preview of the regional dance contest “Sayaw Pinoy,” featuring local dance troupes in various settings such as a fishing village breakwater, a port, and a mountain highway. Singers Sarah Geronimo, Denise Barbacena, and Gloc 9 also premiered a music video for a theme song celebrating Filipino art.

The celebration of Arts Month is mainly composed of the flagship projects of the NCCA’s seven national committees — Architecture and Allied Arts (headed by architect Zenaida DC. Galingan), Cinema (Dr. Rolando B. Tolentino), Dance (Dr. Shirley Halili-Cruz), Literary Arts (Dr. Julieta C. Mallari), Music (Dr. Felipe M. De Leon, Jr.), Dramatic Arts (Felimon B. Blanco), and Visual Arts (Geraldine B. Araneta) which this year, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, will mostly be held online.

ARCHITECTURE AND ALLIED ARTS
In celebration of the National Arts Month, the National Committee on Architecture and the Allied Arts — in cooperation with CulturAid, Inc. and the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), Philippine Institute of Interior Design (PIID), Philippine Association of Landscape Architects, and Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners — is inviting planning and design professionals, academicians, students, and the general public, both local and international, to engage in a conversation that will highlight how we have managed and reshaped our spaces, both interior and exterior, public and private, to adapt to life in quarantine.

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These activities are mostly talks: “Agile Cities, Urbanism, and Reevaluation of Philippine Living Spaces,” to be held on Feb. 26, 2-4 p.m.; “Wisdom of Indigenous Filipino Architecture,” March 5, 2-4 p.m.; “Transforming Educational, Cultural and Commercial Spaces Post Pandemic,” March 12, 2-4 p.m.; and, “Inclusive Design Innovation and Future-Proofing Our Spaces,” on March 19, 2-4 p.m.

The Architecture committee will also hold a live build, running from March to April, and a design competition called Saan Ka Lulugar: The search for future-proof design solutions.

CINEMA
The National Committee on Cinema (NCC) is expecting the 13th installment of its annual Cinema Rehiyon film festival to be the biggest in scope and reach as it mounts its first online festival from March 26 to 30. Cinema Rehiyon, as its name implies, focuses on film from the regions outside the commercial center of filmmaking. It gathers regional filmmakers as it celebrates the National Arts Month and the centenary of Philippine Cinema. This time, however, the festival will also highlight works by and for women and the LGBTQIA+ community.

The festival will also present the best of more recent regional films coming from Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, and NCR; online talkbacks, filmmaking webinars, and forums dealing with the same concerns.

Two omnibus films, Eksena 1 and 2 will also be premiered. Eksena is a collaborative project between 16 filmmakers from all over the country, detailing exploring big ideas and experience in confined spaces amidst the pandemic.

DANCE
Sayaw Pinoy, the flagship program of the National Committee on Dance, is the longest running dance concert program for National Arts Month. It highlights various dance forms like folk dance, traditional dance, contemporary dance, neoclassical dance, ballet, modern dance, and hip hop. Since its inception in 2009, different local government units, schools, private institutions, and commercial enterprises in different parts of the country, have been part of the decade-long journey of Sayaw Pinoy.

The Committee on Dance is also holding the International Conference on Dance Research, running from Feb. 16-19, live streamed on the Facebook and YouTube pages of Dance Xchange Philippines and NCCA.

LITERARY ARTS
The National Committee on Literary Arts (NCLA) will celebrate National Arts Month with its banner program, Reading the Regions 2: An Anthology and A Literary Conference on Philippine Folk and Oral Traditions on March 30 to 31 via Zoom and Facebook live streaming.

Reading the Regions 2 will continue the conversations and discourses generated from the first installment of the Reading the Regions project, which began with an anthology of essays on teaching literature and a literary conference that delved into literature, cinema, and art from the different regions. NCLA chair Dr. Mallari hopes that the insights from the event will help reinforce the value of folk and oral traditions in the country which will inspire the creation of various works that reflect the Filipino experience.

In addition, the second installment of Reading the Regions will explore the ways in which folk and oral lore manifest in varied forms of literary and other artistic productions in the digital age. The event will also give recognition to acclaimed anthropologist and folklorist E. Arsenio Manuel and Damiana L. Eugenio, known as the Father of Modern Research on Philippine Folklore and Mother of Philippine Folklore, respectively.

The NCLA will also launch several anthologies, including the pandemic centered Agwat-Hilom and Ubod, featuring works written by new and emerging writers.

MUSIC
Meanwhile,, NCCA’s National Committee on Music, in partnership with the St. Paul University Manila, will hold an online concert series that highlights the musical cultures of the country — from the indigenous, to the contemporary, to progressive music — in a program dubbed Musikapuluan Pintigan: Serye ng Konsiyerto para sa Buwan ng Sining. Inspired by the musical landscape of the Philippines as an archipelagic country, Musikapuluan Pintigan seeks to capture the different beats and musical cultures of the country.

For four consecutive Sundays, Musikapuluan Pintigan will be showcasing musical informances of the eight living cultures of the Philippines as based on a study conducted by Dr. Felipe de Leon, Head of the National Committee on Music. Two music subcultures will be featured each Sunday in online concerts: Kultura ng Padidiwata, ng Pag-uuma, ng Pag-uukir, ng Pamamanata, ng Pananahan, ng Paglilining, ng Pag-aaliw, ng Pagtutol, and Kultura ng Pagkabansa.

DRAMATIC ARTS
The National Committee on Dramatic Arts (NCDA), in partnership with the Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts, Inc., spearheads the 4th year of Tampok with Tampok 2021: E-Turo Dula and e-Pasundayag.

Tampok 4 is composed of e-Turo Dula and e-Pasundayag. The first is a program that offers five specialized online theater courses of 18 hours each course, running for six weeks, three hours per week combining synchronous (via Zoom) and asynchronous sessions.

Meanwhile, e-Pasundayag, a celebration of the rich legacy of theater making in the country, will premiere video documentaries and digital presentations that will be followed by a talkback from each production’s key artistic team leaders. These include screenings of a Dulaang UP documentary on Feb. 19, and a screening of Kaboronyongan kan mga Artsitang Bikol’s play Impersoneytor, then Tanghalang Artikulo ng Sorosogon’s Santiguar. Feb 20 will see a screening of 1896, and Feb. 21 features the Alyansa at Guro sa Sining ng Bayan’s Special Showpow Sarap. It ends on Feb. 28 with a show by Teatro Mulat, Pamana ni Lola Amel, a tribute to their founder and National Artist for Theater Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio.

VISUAL ARTS
The National Committee for Visual Arts (NCVA) presents the Bagong Biswal program, which is all about finding a new visual language brought about by circumstances that Filipino artists find themselves in during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Times have changed, and artists are adapting to the new normal in terms of modes of production and expression while staying true to their individual concerns.

The program will feature video documentation contributed by artists nationwide which the NCVA will screen and select. The gathered video material will be collated into categories that represent the wider visual arts spectrum (i.e., painting, sculpture, illustration, graphic art, fine art photography, performance art, etc.). Bagong Biswal will be staged through the NCVA Facebook Page, with live discussions by resource persons and guests broadcast via Zoom.

NCCA chair, Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso said in a speech during the opening, “Sa pangangalaga ng ating mga sining, tayo ay makakakuha ng lakas upang makapagpatuloy sa makabagong mga hamon. (In taking care of our arts and culture, we get the strength to continue on through new challenges). As the primary government agency mandated to promote and protect Philippine arts and culture, the NCCA enjoins everyone in the harvest of the fruits of Filipino creativity.

“This year’s theme, Alab Sining, Alay Sigla perfectly captures our passionate commitment to reignite our arts and culture sector as we brace towards a hopeful future. Being an artist is not just about putting pencil to paper, nor brush to canvas. An artist is an individual compelled to create meaningful art and help his peers blossom into better individuals.” —  J.L. Garcia

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