Major cultural and arts news and events of 2018 take spotlight in Sanghaya 2019: The Philippine Culture and the Arts Yearbook, published by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
Headlining Sanghaya 2019 are the seven National Artists and the three Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (Gamaba) awardees or National Living Treasures honored at the Malacañang Palace in October 2018.
The National Artists are Lauro “Larry” Alcala (for Visual Arts), Raymundo “Ryan” Cayabyab (for Music), Eric de Guia or Kidlat Tahimik (for Cinema), Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio (for Theatre and Literature), Francisco Mañosa (for Architecture and Allied Arts), Resil Mojares (for Literature) and Ramon Muzones (for Literature) while the National Living Treasures are Ambalang Ausalin, Yakan textile weaver from Basilan; Estelita Bantilan, Blaan mat weaver from Sarangani; and Yabing Dulo, Blaan textile weaver from South Cotabato.
Alcala, known for his “Slice of Life” cartoon series as well as the comic strips Islaw Palitaw and Kalabog en Bosyo, among others, was described by writer Ruben de Jesus as the “master of simplicity.”
“Creating crowds is a visual skill that, if not masterfully handled, results in clutter and imbalance. Rhythm is the key to his execution, grouping similar elements in horizontal or diagonal succession,” De Jesus said of Alcala.
De Jesus added that “Filipinos from all levels of society can appreciate Alcala’s art” and that “his galleries are the dailies in which his images have varied messages.”
On Cayabyab, musicologist Jose Buenconsejo of the University of the Philippines describes the former’s works as playful in nature.
He said, “Cayabyab is a cosmopolitan nationalist open to foreign influences, but he is able to transform these into extraordinary expressions that are close to the lives of ordinary Filipinos.”
Cayabyab’s distinctive mark, according to Buenconsejo, is that “his music is similar to a ritual process.” Some of his works are “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika,” “Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka” and “Bakya mo, Neneng.”
“All of his music,” said Buenconsejo, “moves the listeners as each piece has a felt continuity — a directed movement — driven by the music itself.”
Kidlat Tahimik, the filmmaker widely known for his 1977 film Mababangong Bangungot, touted to be the first Filipino indie film, was described as an exemplar in his activist works. +
Film critic Patrick Campos said, “His ‘imperfect’ films, wrought out of junk, represented the avant-garde values of personal filmmaking and served as an exemplar of activist filmmaking that was critical of neocolonial exploitation and state oppression.”
Tahimik, who also did movies such as Sino’ng Lumikha ng Yoyo? Sino’ng Lumikha ng Moon Buggy? (1978), Memories of Overdevelopment (1980), Turumba (1983), and Bakit Yellow and Middle ng Rainbow (1994), is a pioneer in independent filmmaking in the Philippines.
Campos explained Tahimik’s works and “his quest for true national independence at home contributed a unique Filipino inflection to an international cinema movement.”
The father of Neo-Vernacular architecture in the Philippines, Mañosa was hailed as a truly Filipino architect for using indigenous architectural forms in his works.
Mañosa got his inspirations from the bahay kubo, bahay na bato and even the Banaue Rice Terraces for his projects and for these, he is described by journalist Eric Caruncho as a “champion of Filipino design.”
Caruncho said Mañosa “is a key figure in the development of modern Filipino architecture, not only because of his ground-breaking designs, but more so because of his peers.”
His works include the Coconut Palace and the Tanghalang Pilipino located at the Cultural Center of the Philippine Complex, EDSA Shrine in Quezon City, San Miguel Corporation building in Mandaluyong City, and a number of resorts and residential projects across the country.
Luna Sicat meanwhile paid homage to the dramatist and playwright Bonifacio whom she described as the “Filipino Aesop” since fables are the primary source material and inspiration of her works.
Sicat said Bonifacio’s “plays opened new directions because they reinforced the idea that dramatists are never removed from their audience.”
“She elevates theater through incisive interpretations/readings of historical factors from the distant past or the present. Sometimes her ideas become oracles. In this theater, the people and the community are the real protagonists,” Sicat further explained.
Sepang Loca, Rooms, and Abajeda: Ang Ating Sinderela are some of Bonifacio’s works.
Two other literature luminaries — Resil Mojares and Ramon Muzones — were likewise hailed in Sanghaya 2019.
Erlinda Alburo writes that Mojares’s writings are varied — on education, history, folklore, political science, geography, arts and crafts, popular culture, language and communication and religion.
“These topics,” she said, “overlap in his papers and are informative of the interdisciplinary orientation of his scholarship and the motivation to think outside the box.”
“One may observe that in all these fields Mojares exhibits a predilection for the historical, and a special concern for ideas on identity formation and the making of public intellectuals,” Alburo further explained.
The books he wrote include but are not limited to The War against the Americans, Waiting for Mariang Makiling, Isabelo’s Archive, Brains of the Nation, and various works on Cebu.
Muzones, the champion of Hiligaynon literature, was known for his historical allegories such as Margosatubig, Amurukpok, and Maratabat.
Maria Cecilia Locsin-Nava writes: “Given his achievements, his talents are too vast to be contained in a region” that “he belongs to the nation.”
National Living Treasures
The three Gamaba awardees were also hailed not only for the intricacy and creativity of their works but for safeguarding the traditional crafts in their respective areas.
Earl Pasilan said that “Ambalang (Ausalin), as an expert weaver, affirms their identity as a people who continuously weave the threads of culture, interlacing past, present, and, hopefully, the future, in becoming a cultural treasure for the new generation of Yakan, for all Filipinos, and all humankind.”
Marian Pastor Roces said Estelita Bantilan’s “serenity and poise clearly show in her person as fundamental to the artistry she exercises.”
“Her remarkable artistic and personal attribute is her ability to vanish into her community -even as she shines out,” said Roces.
Roces likewise hailed Yabing Dulo for her expertise in making of the fine warp ikat textiles of the Blaan ethnic group of Polomolok, South Cotabato.
Balangiga Bells and Others
Other big events in 2018 were the return of the three Balangiga Bells taken as war booty by the American troops in 1902 in Balangiga, Eastern Samar, and the opening of the National Museum of Natural History in Manila where preserved remains of Lolong, then the biggest saltwater crocodile in captivity, are displayed.
Another very important items displayed at the museum are the fossilized bones and tooth of a Rhinoceros philippinensis, which was dated 709,000 years old and could drastically change prehistory in the country.
Also featured in the Sanghaya issue are the Bantayo Wika monuments erected in 15 areas in the country, the exciting discovery of the Homo luzonensis, the buklog ritual of the Subanen nominated to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, and other cultural events and issues of 2018.
The recent Sanghaya issue was edited by Delfin Tolentino Jr. and filled with articles written by Alburo, Buenconsejo, Campos, Caruncho, De Jesus, Locsin-Nava, Pasilan, Roces, Sicat, Rolando Borrinaga, Alma Cruz Miclat, Edilberto Larin Jr., Roel Hoang Manipon and Eileen Narvaez.