Saturday, April 10, 2010

Can't buy me love

Our theatre group, Open Space, merited a one liner in an article in a national daily about local talents. It’s been months since our last production (KAFAGWAY our musical on the history of Baguio was last performed at the Rose Garden, Burnham Park last December), so I decided to reprint here an article I wrote about the group some time ago hoping it will get us fired up enough to once again tell a story onstage.

CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) Complex – a sprawling haven for culture and the arts located along Roxas Boulevard that includes several world-class theaters, museums, galleries and home to the country’s supposed best arts and culture companies.

CCP Complex - Also a psychological condition that makes the afflicted believe that any artistic output that comes from beyond the boulevard and the breakwaters of Manila Bay is inferior.

I must admit I too once had the aforementioned condition, until I stage managed a production that toured the whole country for a whole month and got exposed to the artworks in the regions, from Baguio to Marawi. I knew then that I would get out of CCP soon after the tour. And I did. And I moved to Baguio , around (15) years ago.

Last night a colleague informed me of a group’s interest to feature our productions in a local institution that’s being re-packaged as a cultural and educational destination – they’re interested because it would be much more cost effective to hire a local group to stage a play rather than bring a whole production from Manila . Though I’d rather hear that they’re interested because they believe in what the local artists can deliver, beggars can’t be choosers. And this is among the reasons why I left Manila more than a decade ago to live in Baguio – I just couldn’t stand the arrogance of Manileños in their belief that the best things in this country can only be found in Manila , and everything that comes from beyond the toll gates of both the North and South Expressways are inferior. You patronize artists in the regions only when the budget can’t afford the Manila variety.

They probably haven’t heard the compositions of Ethan Andrew Ventura, and the way he plays his guitar. His work, setting Rizal’s Me Ultimo Adios to music, to me is a classic. Or perhaps they haven’t been to a jazz jam session at Overtones, one of many places in the city that houses exceptional local talents. Too bad, most of them never get to sit down and listen to Emerald Ventura, Ro Quintos, Jef Coronado, Cholo Virgo, Yoshi Capuyan, Arkhe Sorde Salcedo, Ramirr Grepo, Jenny Cariño, Sunshine Gutierrez, Mary Raquel, Ron Ruiz, Patchi Viray, SLU’s Glee Club, the reggae bands in Baguio, or the folk, rock and rock ones in nearby La Trinidad, and many others whose music can blow you away.

Perhaps they’ve never been to an exhibit by the Tahong Bundok group at the Baguio Convention Center – watercolors of a beautiful city that hypnotize, or an ongoing exhibit at the Café by the Ruins – coffee on paper, different shades of sepia that calms the spirit, or the photography of local lensmen on Multiply.com that can rival those that hang on Manila’s expensive gallery walls, or the VOCAS group’s multimedia explorations that challenge and provoke the mind.

They’ve never sat in a local writers’ group’s open mic session. They’ve never been to an SLU musical. They’ve never seen Tropang Paltok’s street theater performances. One pays good money to hear the now Manila-based Pinikpikan perform something one could normally hear for free at the steps of La Azotea or the Dap-ay of Café by the Ruins. Manila charges hundreds to thousands for what one could get into on less than a hundred bucks’ ticket price, or in most cases on a complimentary pass, as in most local theatrical presentations.

And the sad thing is, the community encourages the discrimination against local artists whenever it turns to Manila for most major artistic or cultural outputs in the city. But maybe that’s precisely the reason why the local artists continue to produce great art despite the situation: the main thing the fuels them is passion, and just like love, all the money in Manila can’t buy that.

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