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Everyone’s a-okay at the Philippine Visual Arts Festival in Isabela. PHOTO BY VIRGILIO LABIAL FROM THE PVAF FACEBOOK PAGE

Celebration of National Arts Month

Philippine creativity and the arts are front and center this February as the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) celebrates National Arts Month (NAM).

Last February 3rd, the country’s prime cultural agency, headed by its chairman National Artist Virgilio S. Almario, executive director Rico S. Pableo and deputy executive director Marichu Tellano, jumpstarted the celebration with a grand opening ceremony at the Rizal Park in Manila. Opening ceremonies were also held in the different island clusters of the country: in Angono, Rizal, the country’s Art Capital, for Luzon, in Capiz, Roxas City for Visayas and in Cagayan de Oro for Mindanao.

At the grand opening ceremony of National Arts Month in Rizal Park in Manila

With the theme of this year’s celebrations being Ani ng Sining, Alab ng Sining” (Harvest of the Arts, Flame of Art), NAM emphasizes the bountiful artistic endeavors of the country and recognizes the passion of its artists and cultural workers. NCCA’s Subcommission on the Arts (SCA) commissioner Teddy Co echoed this by gleefully sharing that “NCCA’s NAM celebration will offer a wide array of events and activities that will show the diversity and richness of Filipino creative expressions”.

The SCA’s seven national committees – Architecture and Allied Arts, Cinema, Dance, Dramatic Arts, Literary Arts, Music and Visual Arts – will headline NAM events all over the country by showcasing their own flagship projects.

Seven Committees

The National Committee on Visual Arts had an early start to their celebration. The committee, headed by Mr. Edgar Talusan-Fernandez, successfully mounted the Philippine Visual Arts Festival in Santiago City in the province of Isabela from February 1-3. The PVAF held street art exhibitions, art workshops, art appreciation talks, all of which highlighted the works of different visual artists around the country.

Meanwhile, the National Committee on Architecture and Allied Arts, headed by architect Rogelio D. Caringal, will conduct a traveling exhibit and forum entitled “Loob at Labas: Talakayan at Pagpaparangya”. It aims to heighten appreciation for and create awareness of Philippine architecture. It will be held in Ilocos and Baguio on February 15-17, Nueva Ecija from the 19th-23rd, Batangas on February 26-March 2, Ilo-Ilo in the first week of March, and in General Santos on the second week.

Cinema Rehiyon will be the National Committee on Cinema’s banner event. Already on its tenth installment, this non-competition film festival aims to highlight the progress of filmmaking in the country’s different regions, providing a platform for filmmakers and their films to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience. Usually held in different parts of the country, this year, Cinema Rehiyon venues will be the various universities of Metro Manila. Catch the films in schools near you from February 25-March 1.

The National Committee on Dance will have its long-running touring dance concert series as its flagship project. Sayaw Pinoy will have 40 dance groups perform in 40 venues all over the country. Committee head Shirley Halili-Cruz said that they made sure “every year, the performers and the performances get bigger”.

Sayaw Pinoy is the most-attended NAM event and it sees the country’s top dance companies performing with the talented local dance troupes of different regions. Find Sayaw Pinoy in schools, town plazas, public parks, malls and even your local town halls as they make their way around the country.

Meanwhile, the National Committee on Dramatic Arts, headed by Rossana Palm, will hold Tampok. For three days there will be convergences across the regions to gather and document the pioneers and key theater practitioners from many different localities. Expect workshops and performances in Baguio on February 15-17, Bacolod from February 23-25 then NCR and ARMM from February 26-28.

Then there is MaARText, an interdisciplinary arts festival that connects artists with audiences through spoken word, dance, music, poetry and theatrical performances. The National Committee on Literary Arts, headed by Hope Yu, calls this “Philippines with Maartext: National Arts Month Celebration”. They will hold writing workshops, lectures, exhibits and many more.

The public is encouraged to join in on the MaARText conversations that aim to celebrate and further boost the artistic spirit of each and every Filipino. MaARText events will be held in the Bicol Region, Baguio City, Tacloban City in Leyte, Pampanga, Cebu, and Aklan, all throughout February.

Lastly, we have Mauricia Borromeo and the National Committee on Music’s “MusiKapuluan: Music of the Philippine Islands”. The music festival will feature serenatas or dialogues between bands of different styles. MusiKapuluan will also conduct lectures and workshops that celebrate and highlight local music.

Catch MusiKapuluan at Quezon City Memorial Circle on February 25; in Catbalogan, Cebu and Silliman University in Dumaguete on February 22 and 24; and Davao City at the end of February.

As is tradition, the NCCA’s NAM celebration will close with the Ani ng Dangal Awards. The Ani ng Dangal (Harvest of Honors) Awards recognizes artists who are recipients of international awards and accolades during the previous year.

The signing of Presidential Proclamation 683 has marked February as National Arts Month since 1991. The NCCA, along with other government agencies and private companies, has been in charge of organizing events and activities that highlight and showcase the artistic brilliance of the Filipinos.

National Arts Month benefits not only the public, but also the artists involved. Joey Ayala, a proponent of Filipino ethnic music and a well-known singer said that “the celebration of an official Arts Month validates me as an artist.” And we can correctly surmise that he is not alone in that sentiment .

Even if National Arts Month comes but once a year, let us try to celebrate it every day. As the former Polish Prime Minister and pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski said, “the culture of any country is gauged first by its progress in art.” We must enliven our love for our country’s different art forms to ensure the longevity of our beautiful culture.

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