Culture for the people – Filipino Abroad

Culture for the people

Cultural Center of the Philippines

By Lorna Patajo-Kapunan
(Vice-Chairman, Cultural Center of the Philippines)
Global FWN100(tm) 2016


The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) is the lead agency in the Philippines in Culture and Arts.

CCP is a Government-Owned and Controlled Corporation (GOCC) established under Executive Order No. 30 (1966) by then President Ferdinand Marcos. Its mission is “to be the leading institution for arts and culture in the Philippines by promoting artistic excellence and nurturing the broadest public in art-making and appreciation.” Since 1969, the CCP has been producing and presenting music, dance, theater, visual arts, literary, cinematic, and design events from the Philippines and all over the world.

CCP by day

The CCP has nine Resident Companies: Ballet Philippines, Philippine Ballet Theater, Tanghalang Pilipino, Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company, Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Symphony Orchestra, Philippine Madrigal Singers, National Music Competition for Young Artists Foundation (NAMCYA).

The CCP has four Departments: Arts and Education Department, Outreach and Exchange Department, Production and Exhibition Department, and Cultural Content Department. CCP’s first major building, the Theater of the Performing Arts (now Tanghalang Pambansa), had a project cost of P15 million in 1966, which ballooned to P50 million or around US$35 million in 1969. It was formally opened on September 1969 and had a three months long inauguration. Then First Lady Imelda R. Marcos was elected by its first created Board of Directors (under Executive Order No. 60) as its chairperson and was authorized to raise money to complete the construction project. Opposition Senator Ninoy Aquino remarked then that “you do not develop Culture by putting up a P50 Million building on the Bay… CCP is being built for the elite rather than for the ordinary people of the Philippines!”

In 1986, the Marcos Era came to an end, with the installation of a new President, Corazon Aquino. A period of democratization, decentralization, and Filipinization occurred, with CCP’s objectives rewritten as follows: “The Pursuit of a Filipino National Culture Evolving With and For The People.”

Show at the CCP
Performance at the CCP

Filipino National Culture

Our Filipino National Culture comprises a blend of traditional Filipino and Spanish Catholic traditions, with influences from America and other parts of Asia, and likewise, foreign traders intermingling and gradually intermarrying with native Filipinos. Filipinos are family-oriented and often religious with an appreciation of Art, Fashion, Music, Food. Our sense of National Identity and Pride emerged out of our struggles for Philippine Independence. However, loyalties remain foremost with one’s family and place of birth. Family is the basic and most important aspect of Filipino Culture.

Our Filipino Customs and Traditions is an exuberant story of our long journey throughout the centuries. It reflects our faith, our likeness with others, our affinity for nature and the celebration of life. A Filipino scholar says of the Filipino, “The Joy of Being is in being with others.” The blending of indigenous, colonial, and external influences is very evident in the historic arts and traditions of the country.

CCP’s 50th anniversary

Is culture still relevant today

Since 2010, Culture is considered the Fourth Pillar of Sustainable Development by Unesco. The 7 Elements or parts of a single culture are Social Organization, Customs, Religion, Language, Government, Economy, and Arts. Culture is both a driver and enabler of sustainable development, well-being of all. Its goal is to contribute to policies and programs targeting inclusive social and economic development, environmental sustainability, harmony, peace, and security. The challenge in recent years is striking a balance between modernization and conservation of national Culture and heritage. We live in a “transcultural” world where nation-states are no longer relevant against the backdrop of convenient travel across borders, activities of multinational corporations and networking possibilities (such as Facebook), continuing globalization, modern digitization and expansion of virtual space across continents. Culture is influenced to a great extent by the institution which disseminates information within that Culture — which by and large is still “National Media.” National media is crucial in maintaining continuity, enabling the reproduction of existing ideas, and sustaining the “cultural memory” of the population.

CCP lobby

Culture at the time of Covid

Amidst this backdrop, what is the role of the CCP?

I was under the Arroyo Administration, a member of the Board of Trustees of the CCP and was recently reappointed under the Duterte administration. We are ably led by our Chair Margie Moran-Floriendo and our President Arsenio (Nick) Lizaso. The Board in July this year elected me as vice-chairman.

Oath-taking at the Palace.

President Nick Lizaso concurrently Chairs the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA). The NCAA is considered the “de facto” Department of Culture. In August 2001, Republic Act No. 9155, the “Governance of Basic Education Act” renamed the Department of Education, Culture and Sportsas Department of Education (DepEd). No Department of Culture nor Department of Sports was created to absorb Culture and sports concerns in the country.

Recently with this pandemic, our policymakers have underscored the value of Arts and Culture in the life of Filipinos. To quote Senate President Tito Sotto. “In this crisis, we need writers, poets, and creators to help us make sense of what is happening in this world.” In the Lower House, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said he was seeking the creation of a Department of Arts and Culture “to support the creative and performing arts and industries.” The creation of this department has been a long-time advocacy of the CCP as there is indeed a need for focus on the development, marketing and promotion of Philippine Arts and Culture in the country and abroad. To quote our CCP President Nick Lizaso, “for too long we have allowed arts and culture to be treated as a nicety — the first budget cut and the last investment made. Sadly, our artists are neglected resources. Most, even the awards winners and most respected, end up impoverished at the end of their lives.”

The CCP, long before South Korea’s huge gains from its popular entertainment/”k-drama” industry, has advocated for the opening of academies or schools dedicated to the training of Filipino talents in the performing arts as well as in the craft of animation. In Primary Schools, the Arts and Humanities have been relegated to being club activities. In College, Arts and Humanities (and sadly even history) are now merely elective subjects and elevated to major status are technical and practical courses that are more marketable such as culinary arts, nursing, IT, merchant marine and other newly invented courses.

“Walang pera sa sining” (there’s no money in the arts) is what parents counsel their children. This is a false claim. Culture and the Arts are now acknowledged as major drivers of national economies around the world. Sources estimate that cultural and creative industries generate $250 billion US dollars in revenue a year, creating 29.5 million jobs worldwide. This is true of the United States, Japan. Britain, South Korea, and many other countries. The CCP envisions a more active role in advising government and policy makers to pay more attention to the development of our vast organic pool of talents, artists and craftsmen as well as the collateral enterprises related to and supportive of the creative industries.

Another advocacy of the CCP is the passage of a “Magna Carta for Art Workers” which will encompass incentives and safety nets for them so the growth of the creative industry will be sustained for years.

Arts also plays a crucial role in mental health. Among the activities the CCP has undertaken is bringing the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to give free concerts to cancer patients, health professionals, frontliners and the PGH staff. The PPO likewise has “Music for Healing,” which are quarantine pocket performances for CCP’s online platform. During the lockdown, the vast archives of recorded performances in the CCP and the NCCA have been made accessible online so people in their homes can become virtual audiences in their virtual theaters escaping the boredom, ennui and stress of quarantine. The CCP likewise conducts workshops in dance called, Classical Guitar Workshop of the Kabataang Gitarista, Art Online consisting of Arts Play, Arts Talk and Arts Workshop, Musical Appreciation Series for Children, Virtual Exhibits and Catalogs. Online Streaming contents are Sing Philippines Youth Choir and Koryolab 2019, video games contests and photography contests in partnership with the Federation of Photographers of the Philippines.

Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, a joint project of Cinemalaya Foundation and the CCP in August of every year, went virtual this Covid. It claims a breakthrough from being the first online film festival, achieving 7,000 subscribers (compared to the usual 5,000 on site subscribers). The new normal launches Cinemalaya on a global stage with its partnership with Iwant TV, TFC, etc.

To be launched is “Padayon,” an online program that aims to inspire and install appreciation for and love of arts and Culture and inculcate a sense of understanding and pride. This joint NCAA-CCP undertaking will be airing via the NCAA Facebook daily at 3-4 in the afternoon (Manila time). It will feature performing arts, visual arts, literary works, short features about our national artists and heroes among others.

This time of quarantine is a good time to relearn our history as a people and to appreciate the many good traits we, as Filipinos, hold dear. Our resiliency, our optimism, our strong faith, our love for family and fellowmen. Let us look at this crisis as an opportunity to rekindle our love for everything Filipino and to support our own traditions, and Culture. Let us all heal as one nation and come out stronger.

To quote Victor Pinchuk: “Art, freedom and creativity change society faster than politics.” The CCP through art and Culture hopes to be that engine of change!

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