Art and Angono.
Photos by Faith Yangyang
Vibrant, lifelike higantes stood out to welcome enthusiastic visitors. Many art galleries and museums seized the eyes of art buffs, and even newbies to art. Whispers of tunes and melodies could be heard, as soft delectable whiffs lingered around--if one's senses were only as strong as the creative juices of legendary Filipino artists from the animated town of Angono in Rizal province. Considered as the "Art Capital of the Philippines," Angono was fittingly chosen as the host by the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) to jumpstart the regional celebration of the 2018 National Arts Month (NAM) this February.
An information campaign launch called "Kapihan and Media Tour" was held in early February at Inangbina's Arts & Events Venue in Angono to kick off the month-long nationwide celebration of arts. In partnership with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), NCCA launched this year's arts month under the theme, "Ani ng Sining, Alab ng Sining (Harvest of the Arts, Flame of the Arts)." The celebration aspires to highlight the great deal of creative ventures in the Philippines' artistic industry and the "passion of Filipino artists and cultural workers."
Teddy Co, NCCA commissioner for Subcommission on the Arts (SCA), reminded the press that the NAM had been implemented in 1991 through a presidential proclamation, and recalled this year's opening celebration at the Rizal Park with workshops and a concert. Workshops included baybayin writing, creative writing, storytelling, portrait sketching, dance, music, smartphone filmmaking, basic silkscreen printing, paper crafts, kite making and flying, interior design and decoration, basic photography, and graphic design. Likewise, aside from Angono for Luzon, NAM will also have its opening ceremonies in Roxas City, Capiz for Visayas and Cagayan de Oro City for Mindanao.
Being the head of NCCA's national committee on cinema as well, Co reiterated the seven committees under SCA and their respective flagship projects that will go around spreading artistry in the country. Architecture and Allied Arts has "Loob at Labas: Talakayan at Pagpaparangya;" Dance, "Sayaw Pinoy;" Dramatic Arts, "Tampok;" Literary Arts, "Maartext;" Music, "Musicapuluan;" Visual Arts, Philippine Visual Arts Festival; and Cinema, Cinema Rehiyon Film Festival. Each flagship project is headed by experts from each field who will cater to the interests of Filipino artists from different provinces to which the projects will visit. On Feb. 26 in Intramuros, Manila, the NAM celebration will culminate in the Ani ng Dangal (Harvest of Honors) Awards to recognize the artists who have won international awards abroad.
Exigency to elevate
Having been in existence for 30 years, NCCA used to be known as the Presidential Commission on Culture and the Arts in 1987 with the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports at that time, according to Rene Napenas, head of the Public Affairs and Information Office. "After five years, by virtue of R.A.7356, we became the National Commission for Culture and Arts under then President Cory Aquino," he said. He stressed the great efforts that the agency has exerted through the years to push for the development of culture and promote the importance of arts in the country.
"For this year, we are very blessed na kami po ay (that we) maging (become) Department of Culture na ng Pilipinas (of the Philippines)," he announced to an applause from the audience. He mentioned that Senator Loren Legarda, the proponent of the bill, has had hopes for the proposed bill to be passed in the upper house before the end of the March 2018 sessions. "There is a need because there are only 30 employees serving the whole country. There is a need because we don't have regional offices and regional branches," Napenas said. He added that the 30 employees are only supported by over 250 non-plantilla personnel.
The proposed new department would raise awareness and address issues on cultural heritage like century-old churches, unauthorized demolition of buildings that violate the National Heritage Law, and promotion of culture and arts, which he referred to as the "soul" of the nation. With regards to the expected outcome of NAM celebration, Napenas told me, "We hope that more LGUs, more academic institutions, more social, civic organizations will celebrate the arts month even without funding from the NCCA."
Cradle of craftspeople
"Kung sinasabing art capital ng Pilipinas ang Angono, ang lalawigan ng Rizal po ay isa namang duyan ng mga malilikhaing mamamayan (If Angono is considered as the art capital of the Philippines, Rizal province on the other hand is the cradle of creative citizens)," claimed tourism officer Bernard Laca Jr. He then promoted the "Edge and Proximity" art exhibit at the Angkla Art Gallery that will run until the end of February when pieces of visual arts are displayed by not only artists from Angono but also those coming from as far as Mindanao. Other places he endorsed for the media tour were the Botong Francisco Studio, the Angono Street Murals, and the Blanco Family Musuem.
Representing the local artists of Angono, artist Orville Tiamson suggested another reason as to why Angono is called the art capital. "There's a certain oneness in a certain cultural activity within the community," he stressed. He affirmed that not all people in Angono are artists or painters, but their involvement in the community contributes to the rich culture of Angono that can be seen through the creations of legendary National Artists Carlos "Botong" Francisco and Lucio San Pedro. He also advised budding artists to not feel discouraged or downhearted if ever they encounter and experience rejections. He said that, with prayers, the right person or people who will support their art will come as long as they trust themselves in doing their art.
We know Angono as the festive town of artistic legends in the country, but other towns, cities, or even entire provinces in the country can also emerge as homes of decorated and well-known artists. With more widespread and vigorous promotions of artistic endeavors and cultural appreciation in the Philippines, all Filipino people will value, respect, and honor not only the Filipino arts and culture but also our own roots and history. If that happens--and with hope, it will happen, National Arts Month will not just be celebrated in February but in all months of the year.
ARTISTRY ON DISPLAY Angkla Art Gallery showcases the works of visual artist Jesse Esplana among others
SAVIORS OF ART From left: Bernard Laca Jr., Rene Napenas, Teddy Co, and Orville Tiamson
STREET ART The Angono Street Murals exhibit the mural replicas of the paintings by National Artist Carlos "Botong" Francisco