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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

entry arrow6:03 PM | An Affair of Culture

Last of two parts. Read part 1 here.

Last weekend, to mark a surge in this art and culture renaissance in Dumaguete City, we did a national media launch for the 50th anniversary of the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee. This is perhaps the best-organized cultural body in the city today, distinguished by the fact this may be the only university standing committee that takes in the full participation of the community, as well as other sectors—the church, the alumni, the faculty, the staff, the students, aside from kindred spirits from the community of artists in campus.

The media in the Edith Lopez Tiempo Library of Antulang Beach Resort. Photo courtesy of Annabelle Lee-Adriano.

They came from all over to witness the promises of the upcoming 50th Cultural Season, to start June 2012 all the way until May 2013—media representatives from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, Business Mirror, Cebu Pacific’s Smile Magazine, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay Magazine, Esquire Philippines, Good Housekeeping, ABS-CBN, Visayan Daily Star, MetroPost, and KillerBee among them. We got the help of Florentina Homes and CocoGrande to house them, and KRI, La Residencia, and Lab-as to give them an idea of the culinary culture of Dumaguete. The Silliman Campus Ambassadors gave them a cultural tour of the campus, while the Province of Negros Oriental, Sidlakang Negros, and the City of Dumaguete gave them a cultural tour around town. By the weekend, Antulang Beach Resort hosted them for a fortnight, complete with a spectacular sunset view of Tambobo Bay off artist Karl Aguila’s residence. By the end of it all, Ballet Philippines artistic director Paul Alexander Morales pronounced it “one of the best weekends” he’s had, which Philippine Opera Company’s Karla Gutierrez and the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Raul Sunico readily agreed to.

Taking a bow during curtain call at the Luce Auditorium for Handulantaw. With Yvette Malahay-Kim, co-director Leo Mamicpic, and director Dessa Quesada-Palm. Photo by Aris Ramiro.

We gave them as well a performance of select cultural groups and artists in campus—including young pianist Alexis Pal, the Kahayag Dance Company, Kwerdas, the COPVA Rondalla, the Silliman University Gratitude and Goodwill Ambassadors, the cast of the current Godspell, among many others—in a show at the Luce Auditorium titled Handulantaw. Director Dessa Quesada-Palm wrote of the show in her program notes: “Sensorial hints of an island-terrain. Unearthed pages from decades past. Scattered texts of poetry, songs and dances. Beloved artists and mentors who left an indelible influence. Memories, musings, and insights. Handulantaw constitutes a collective act of remembering. It has fragments of the past fifty years and more, a cultural mosaic of the locale that continues to shape, instruct and inspire this generation of artists and cultural workers in its own being and becoming. It is a necessary conversation that invites retrospection and looking forward. Hence the deliberate connection of handum/handumanan (‘reminisce/keepsake’) and lantaw (‘looking forward’). And that is the grace of a rich history, that in putting together and making sense of its parts, what may seem so disparate, belonging to distant contexts of time and space, are brought together in a narrative that becomes accessible, real and meaningful to the present.”

Dessa continues, with a more somber note: “We asked ourselves whether there is wisdom in organizing the Silliman University’s 50th Cultural Season at the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Sendong in our communities. Disasters bring a raw sensibility that is so urgent, so troubling, so compelling. It was a self-interrogation, which led us to the past again, on periods of strife and suffering, when artists did not succumb to despair and hopelessness, but instead resolutely created arts that healed, that probed, that tamed the chaos, that lifted spirits. This is what we are celebrating. That intractable yearning in each of us to sustain life and creativity come what may. It is, indeed it is, a powerful and irresistible covenant with the Divine.”

What are we celebrating? Since Silliman’s founding in 1901, a very important part of campus life has been its cultural fare. Every week, there is always a concert, a literary workshop or poetry reading, a play, a dance, an exhibit, a film showing, or some other cultural activity taking place in a number of exhibition halls and performance spaces, such as the Luce Auditorium and Foyer Gallery, the Woodward Little Theater, the Guy Hall Music Sala, the Silliman Hall Gallery, the Amphitheater, the Robert and Metta Silliman Main Library, the Gymnasium, the Audio-Visual Theater, the End House Gallery, the Silliman Church Catacombs, and others. Before the Luce’s completion in 1975, Shakespearean plays were regularly presented in the Amphitheater, and prestigious performing companies such as Le Grand Ballet Classique de France and such musical luminaries as pianist Susan Starr have performed in the Gymnasium.

In 1962, the Cultural Affairs Committee was formed under the able chairmanship of Prof. Miriam G. Palmore, who was the former director of the School of Music and Fine Arts (now the College of Performing Arts). Among the famous artists and performers in those early years (before the building of the Luce) included the Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance Company, Taipei Children’s Choir, French concert pianist Nicole Delannoy, German violinist Denes Zsigmondy, American soprano Julia Finch, Swiss pianist Nicole Wickihalder, Filipina pianist Cecile Licad, American violinist Stanley Plummer, and popular local singers such as Pilita Corrales who was then a singing superstar in Australia. With the Luce finished by 1975, culture and the arts had a permanent home in Silliman.

Silliman’s own artists and performers also dominated the cultural landscape with unique contributions to the world of arts, including the National Writers Workshop founded by Edilberto and Edith Tiempo the Men’s Glee Club founded by maestro Albert Louis Faurot, Kwerdas and the Silliman University Campus Choristers founded by Priscilla Magdamo-Abraham (the latter co-founded with Emmy Luague and Ruth Imperial-Pfeiffer), the Silliman Young Singers and the Luce Choral Society founded by Isabel Dimaya Vista, the Silliman Dance Troupe (now the Kahayag Dance Company) founded by Lucy Jumawan-Sauer and Shona Mactavish, the Aldecoa Family Ensemble, Musika Sacra founded by Elmo Makil, the Portal Players founded by Amiel Y. Leonardia.

The Cultural Affairs Committee, under the leadership of chairpersons including Prof. Miriam G. Palmore, Prof. Isabel Dimaya-Vista, Prof. Ruth Imperial-Pfeiffer, Mrs. Vienna Silorio-Jumalon, Dr. Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez, Dr. Laurie Hutchison-Raymundo, Prof. Eva Rose Repollo-Washburn, Prof. Joseph B. Basa, and Prof. Diomar Abrio has continued its mission to bring to Silliman University and the Dumaguete community various cultural representations aimed at exposing them, especially students, to all the arts—with a subsidized fare, perhaps the most generous of its kind in the country, allowing students and the Dumaguete community to see cultural presentations by such national companies and cultural organizations as Ballet Philippines, Philippine Educational Theater Association, the Manila Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Manila, Dulaang U.P., the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Repertory Philippines, Tanghalang Pilipino, the Bayanihan National Dance Company, the Ramon Obusan National Dance Company, the New Voice Company, Philippine Opera Company, Little Boy Productions, British Council, Japan Foundation, and others.

It is a heady undertaking—and often rocky, too—but it is a mission. Among us members, this is a responsibility we don’t take lightly, passionate as we are about the need for a sustainable celebration of culture and the arts here in Dumaguete. As we look forward to the Golden Anniversary, we aim higher with the full knowledge that what we are celebrating in fact is the human spirit.

With Little Boy Productions' Hendrison Go, Silliman President Ben S. Malayang III, and Ballet Philippines' Paul Alexander Morales after the Handulantaw show. Photo by Darrell Rosales.

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