My one-month presence in Bulacan has validated the culture and arts programs of the Provincial Sports, Youth, Employment, Arts and Culture Office of the Provincial Government of Bulacan. Headed by the veteran artist and community arts organizer Armand Sta Ana, the Arts and Culture Division has encouraged the widespread projects all over Bulacan. Armand told me that some of the projects are artist-initiated already. The Provincial Government was just there to spearhead and implement culture and arts projects in the past. But now, artists start to create their own projects in partnerships with the office. With my visits, interviews and meetings with local arts groups in different places in Bulacan, Armand commented that he didn’t realize how much his programs have reached to artists groups.
It is good to note that the Provincial Government of Bulacan has really allotted budget for culture and arts development in Bulacan. Hence, one could really feel the active culture and arts scene in the province. In my one-month stay in Bulacan, only few days where I was vacant – I always had events to watch or to observe.
The immersion program has enriched my community arts work. It gave me more knowledge and inspiration to better my community arts organizing works in my home base.
As a performing artist and head of arts group in my area, I am so inspired to hear stories such as :
1. a community theater group that rehearses in the middle of the streets – and is still surviving until now
2. a community theater group that starts production process with zero in the production budget – and still able to manage and stage the production
3. a community theater group that work and create projects in two distant towns – but still able to manage the two areas
4. a community theater group that continues to stage experimental and controversial performances without getting paid and working on their own budget with the belief of changing society – and is still existing until now
5. a folk dance company that has outreach programs teaching folk dances to prisoners, giving free performances and workshops to remote barangays
6. a folk dance company that was able to record an instructional video materials of their dance repertoires
7. a loosely organized visual arts exhibit group that provide venues for young artists to showcase their works amidst the huge pool of veteran painters in Bulacan
There are still so many stories that has touched and inspired me to improve my own work in my own community.
Hearing the story of Barasoain Kalinangan Foundation, Inc (BKFI) has inspired me also. Their success story of being a struggling theater to being a professional theater now has given me the hope that with better visions, directions and planning professional theater can really be achieved in my area.
My immersion would not be complete without mentioning the four meetings that I had with Joonee Gamboa. Listening to his concept of actor’s training method has given me the idea of how to create an actor’s training for a theater company. I would say that he has influenced me somehow in terms of visioning and planning for an actor’s training module.
NON-VERBAL THEATER WORKSHOP
The immersion has also given me the opportunity to work on the initial development of the Non-Verbal Theater Theater Workshop that I am currently trying to develop. My short workshop sessions with my host group, BKFI, has given me the jump off point in making the workshop model.
I was also able to create a 15-minute Untitled non-verbal play with the Uhay members of BKFI. That for me was a good test and try of the workshop model that I am developing. I am only saddened that I didn’t have more time to explore this model with BKFI, as they are also busy with the regular Theater Laboratory sessions.
ISSUES AND CONCERNS
I still think that a one-month immersion is not enough to fully understand the whole community. An immersion grantee cannot fully implement or do a project in a span of one month, unless, the interest of the program is just for artist to be an observer of the cultural and arts scenario of the community.
But, I strongly feel that for the grantee to have a good grasp with the community, he/she will be given really the chance to work in a project. In this way, he/she will be able to be really a part of the community, understand the process and learn from it – and not just an observer or visitor to the area.
MY ASSESSMENT OF THE PROGRAM
Ugnayan sa Sining is a wonderful community arts immersion project. It gave opportunities for both the artist and the community to learn and share skills and knowledge in arts and community organizing. It became a platform for the artist to learn how other artist groups and communities run and managed their cultural and arts programs. It is a good opportunity to also share skills and techniques to the visited community.
The immersion gave me good source of inspiration in cultural and arts programs. Having experienced the vibrant culture and arts scene in Bulacan, I went home to Zamboanga del Sur – Pagadian City with a huge inspiration and rich experience. Thus, in a span of one month after returning from the immersion, I was able to formally establish the kaZAulogaN – Zamboanga del Sur Artist Network, a network group that I started conceptualizing since February 2006 – but could not just put a focus to it. Now, it is now a solid network of artists in the province that had created projects already.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND HOPES FOR THE FUTURE
I recommend that this program should continue, so that many region-based artists can also benefit from this program.
I also recommend to make the immersion period longer – say for a period of 2 months.
I also hope that the CCP will give me the opportunity to further develop the non-verbal theater workshop module that I started during my immersion with BKFI.