Because of his professionalism and love for theater as well, Ricky Davao was chosen by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) through its president Arsenio J. Lizaso—also known as Nick Lizaso in the arts world—to direct the virtual art show on the classic verses of noted Filipino poet Jose Corazon de Jesus.
Nick’s pet project, “Sining Sigla,” a compendium of various arts and artistic traditions presented virtually in time of the COVID-19 pandemic will carry the presentation of de Jesus, famously known as Huseng Batute. “We intend not to be deterred by the pandemic. Arts and culture must always prevail even in such a health catastrophe,” said Lizaso in an interview.
Not only because Huseng Batute was an uncle of Nick (his middle initial J stands for de Jesus where his mom was brother to Huseng Batute) that he gave importance to the celebrated poet but because Jose is a literary hero who is considered the original Hari ng Balagtasan (King of Joust) at the turn of the twentieth century. As a matter of fact, one of the function halls, a theater at the CCP was named after him, the Tanghalang Huseng Batute.
Whenever Lizaso has the opportunity to pay homage to his kin, he just keeps on mounting productions for Huseng Batute to keep the poet’s spirit and legacy alive. About three years ago, Nick put up a birthday anniversary gig for de Jesus at the Manila North Cemetery where the late literary artist’s tomb is located. There were songs and poems rendered right there before Huseng Batute’s grave. Cecil Guidote-Alvarez declaimed one of de Jesus’ poems while Atty. Salvador Panelo sang “Pakiusap,” originally composed lyrics of the kundiman by Huseng Batute. There were participation from local lyre bands and folk dance troupes to give tribute to the late jouster.
Featuring Huseng Batute virtually has been a challenge to Ricky the moment he accepted its berth for “Sining Sigla.” “Marami akong iniisip na gagawin para sa mga tula ni Huseng Batute. Inspirado ako dahil mahusay siyang makata. Dakila siyang panitik (I have thought of many things to do to interpret the poetry of Huseng Batute. I am inspired because he’s an excellent poet. He’s a great literati),” beamed Davao who is directing a virtual art show for the first time.
“This is challenging. We film the declamation of Huseng Batute’s poems while interpreting it visually. It’s a way of creativity,” added Ricky. “Anyway, nand’yan naman si John Arcilla para bigyang-buhay si Huseng Batute. Isa lang si John sa mga artista na kasama sa show ko. Marami pa (John Arcilla will be around to breathe life to Huseng Batute. Anyway, John is one of the many actors in my show. There will be others),” assured Davao.
“Sining Sigla” has started livestreaming on CCP and Office of the CCP President Facebook pages in September with a jazz music festival to roll in the program.
Ricky’s Jose Corazon de Jesus’ tribute will be aired in November in the same FB pages.