Do we celebrate Arts Month in Negros?

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

TO SOME Negrosanons, the answer is “Yes!” Bago is trying to revive the “babaylan” artists through their rituals. Bacolod is giving a push to its cultural council to come up with something. The visual artists have demonstrated in the streets and in galleries some kind of “de l’art brut” to popularize art for art’s sake. Silay gave way to Indigenous People Festival (Bukidnon Tribe) and sent its Kabataang Silay Rondalla Ensemble to perform at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

February is Arts Month and it calls for a celebration of life using varied art forms to express a belief that the formal qualities of a work of art were more important than its subject matter. Dorothy Neville said, “The real art is not only to say the right thing in the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” We have to bear in mind that all great art is the expression of man’s delight in God’s work, not his own. That could also be the reason why the Diocese of Bacolod came up with a Museo Diocesano de Bacolod to promote religious tourism. This is an additional museum to remind us that God promotes tourism for salvation.

There are tourism officers (or designates) in all towns and cities but not all LGUs have cultural affairs officers. We hope that those who are assigned to handle cultural programs are also cultural workers… not just choreographers, dancers, carpenters, visual artists, and music teachers. To be a cultural worker, one needs to be a “jack of all trades and master of all.” A cultural worker is a researcher, a program planner, an implementer, a creator… and a dreamer. Dreams should end up in reality not in nightmares.


Msgr. Guillermo Gaston is correct when he said, “We must have a cultural center in Negros Occidental where we can hone artists and showcase their talents regularly.” Probably Msgr. Gaston would want to replicate the activities and programs of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCAA). Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. has a very strong program for the culture and the arts but we collectively showcase them only during Panaad Sa Negros Festival. The dream of Msgr. Gaston deserves a second thought. The leaders of Negros can always consider this.

We have to restart. To celebrate art and culture, we have to find a meaning to answer how our art might function and for whom. The art should not just be a demonstration of what fascinates the artists but it should have the power to change lives especially the Negrosanons who wallow in poverty. An art piece should be a manifestation of artist’s struggle towards something important and relevant. Arts and culture must teach us to be creative in overcoming fear and burden.

Our art should not be a work of a mediocre. It should emphasize rehabilitation and rebuilding, especially of areas that suffered the wrath of nature. Artists should go beyond their comfort zones. How can cultural workers be at their best in times of crisis? What should be the task of the cultural workers in rebuilding damaged communities and battered souls? Our art has reached an edge. There is no turning back. Artists and art organizers can no longer afford to be stereotype. Their commitment and dedication should be geared towards spiritual, social and physical liberation.

All those should be in the heart of the National Arts Month celebration and we call it the “Philippine Arts Festival.” The NCCA created seven sub-committees in 2007 to handle the flagship projects: architecture, cinema, dance, literature, music, theater, and visual arts. The NCCA has the mission that these should reach the farthest province. Negros Occidental is not that far from Metro Manila. Have we been reached? Are we aware? What have we done?

The 2014 theme is “Art on the Edge.” It is about challenging cultural workers and artists to step out of their comfort zones, to go beyond what they are used to, towards helping out a nation in its time of need, and engaging with a task of rehabilitation and rebuilding, and in the end proving the value of art and the critical role it plays in change and renewal.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 25, 2014.


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