Most people celebrate February as the month of love. But for artists and art lovers in the Philippines, the second month of the year is also the National Arts Month. So the love fever comes with the spread of art activities and both aim for the heart of the Filipino. It’s still a few days before February ends but already my calendar is marked with a lot of arts-related activities.
My first art feast this year came on February 10 at the Redemptorist Church, when I joined the panel that judged Cebu’s entries to the First Mother of Perpetual Help international short film competition, which will be held soon in Manila. There were only three entries coming from students in the University of San Jose-Recoletos and Cebu Normal University. But one of them struck me for its poetic imagery, an avant-garde approach at religious cinema one rarely expects to see in the back rooms of a church.
Three days before Valentine’s Day, on February 11, my artist daughter Celina and I were invited to join the Arts Festival that was organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and held at the Robinson’s Galleria. Amid staging of “spoken word” (that’s performed poetry for millennials), live music, and even a screening of an award-winning Cebuano documentary film, we sat there on a desk that was assigned to us and sketched everyone that lined up for a free caricature or portrait until the end of the program.
My daughter and I have never sketched as many people literally in one sitting. But it made us happy to see the smiles on their faces as they received their portrait, perhaps their first artwork, as most of those who lined up were college students. It was fun having a little chat with these strangers as we try to capture their likeness in a few minutes using pencil on paper.
They asked the usual questions about art; and we were just glad at the opportunity to help these millennials learn a little bit and have an experience that apparently, as they were taking selfies with us, they also shared on social media.
In February 13, I was in the University of the Philipines – Cebu to be one of the judges for this year’s Joya Awards, the annual art competition of the students of the school’s fine arts program. This was the third time that I was part of the Joya Awards jury. The first time was many years ago when the contest still had two categories: representational and non-representational. I am glad that they later removed such distinction, which was a vestige of the old debate during the postwar years between the so-called modernists and conservatives in the Philippine art scene.
My daughter and I attended the opening of the Joya Awards exhibit in UP on the night of February 15. I was glad to be able to mingle with old and new friends in the faculty during the exhibit cocktails. I could still remember many years ago when, although I was a fine arts student from another school, I attended for the first time the Joya Awards exhibit, which was graced by no less than National Artist Jose Joya himself, when he was still alive. I was one of those who took the chance to ask for his autograph on the exhibit flier that unfortunately I could not find now.
Today, UP Cebu has grown so much that it now has another campus in the South Reclamation Project. In fact, tomorrow, February 20 in the afternoon, the university will be launching its program on Master of Arts in Applied Arts and Design.
February 16 found me and Jojo Sagayno, my fellow fine arts faculty in the University of San Carlos, conducting a printmaking workshop at the Plaza Independencia for the first Arts Month Festival there sponsored by the Cebu City Hall. The four-day celebration featured an outdoor art exhibit, stage performances, and culminated with an on-the-spot landscape painting contest on February 17 that was participated in by more than 100 local painters, one of them was my daughter.
There’s still a few days left of February and the art madness continues. As for me, there’s one more event on my calendar: the staging of rakugo or traditional Japanese sit-down comedy on the the 22nd, 6 p.m., at Ayala Cinema One. It’s free admission so I’m bringing my students there. We plan to do fast gesture sketches of the performers while watching it from our seats in the theater.
This will be the second time that I’ll be watching rakugo here in Cebu. The first time took place in CAP Theater many years ago. And like that time, the performance on the 22nd of February will feature famous Japanese rakugo performers. It’s a rare chance to see this unique form of Japanese stage comedy. And a good way to cap my arts month. Unless something else comes up as the fab Feb closes.
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