BY Raz Salvarita
IMAGINE a circle of creative souls telling stories. And then a curious crowd gathering.
Dagit Arts Fest has once again brought together the creative community of visual storytellers, craft makers, musicians and young digital designers based in Negros Oriental—from Dumaguete, Sibulan, Bais, Dauin, Bayawan, Guihulngan, Manjuyod and Siaton—and on this second staging, it included those from the island of Siquijor.
Held in line with the National Arts Month theme “Malikhain. Mapagbago. Filipino.” the arts festival on Feb. 25 to 28 at the Robinsons Place Dumaguete, was led by the Department of Trade and Industry–Negros Oriental as part of the Kisaw Dumaguete Arts activities organized by the City Tourism and the Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA) with collaborations from Gugma Gaia, Bell Tower Project and Foundation University.
“The objective of Dagit Arts Fest is to encourage artists to come up with unique, contemporary and affordable art pieces for selling at the booth area,” said Javier Fortunato Jr., provincial director of DTI. They included paintings and prints, photographic art, ceramic products, sculpture, craft items, music and other creative products and services.
Istorya Isla: Art Exhibition
“Istorya Isla” put the spotlight on the visual stories of artists based in Negros and Siquijor Islands.
The islands have been repositories of these stories— inculcated through folkloric traditions and mixed with the creative imaginations of artists —as illustrative scribes and visional shamans. In the wheel of evolution, art has always been reflective of humanity’s way of living, in peace or in chaos.
The artists came from varied generations—from seasoned artists to up-and-coming ones—all using the same language of pigmented expressions; perspectives which are influenced by their daily lives and also fictional-realities which springs forth from the longing of an alternative field of existence.
The wave of stories continues and the artists are ready to fish them. On the islands of Negros and Siquijor, there’s a bounty of inspiration that goes beyond their landscapes and horizons.
One of the memorable pieces was Babbu Wenceslao’s “Habal-habal,” a terra-cotta sculpture of a motorbike carrying five people—a typical sight in remote villages with rough, steep or narrow roads.
Another was an installation titled “Tower” by Jana Jumalon-Alano, a seven-foot stack shaped like the belfry tower. Incorporated were paper mache objects and collages of photos depicting the artist’s memories and musings.
Over 40 artists participated in the exhibition including Kitty Taniguchi, Alma Zosan Alcoran, Rianne Dawn Salvarita, Danny Sollesta, Sharon Rose Dadang-Rafols, Elle Divine, Hersley Ven Casero, Aziza Daksla, Archie Daksla, Jameel Daksla, Ramsid Labe, Dyck Cediño, Aletheia Elwood Cediño, Jessica Lupisan, Mar Amil, Raul Taburaza, Susan Canoy, Audie Estrellada, Melvin Lomosad, Joven Ansing, Claude Flora, Hope Estrellada, Glory Abueva-Tobias, Emmylou “Empalz” Violeta, Irma Lacorte, Shine Manso, Phoebe Marie Mandi, Novem Amber Tashiro, Tevet Margaret Vanguardia, Karla Jay Villarino, Einstein Schwartz Maulad, Heun Yang, Paul Benzi Florendo, Alfredo Go, Trina Montenegro, David Immanuel Teves, Wilmon John Abiera, Epifanio Mate, Angel Alabastro, Junel Tomaroy, Douglas Balwit, Hermites Caroro, John dela Victoria and Raz Salvarita.
“Istorya Isla” was adapted from the local indie band of the same name led by artist-musician Babbu Wenceslao. Moreover, a music collective called Bell Tower Project provided the evening’s soundtrack of local original compositions.
Filipino toys, handmade accessories, prints, kitsch art, digital works were among the collectibles in the fair, many of them from young designers and fine arts students.
One of the booths, Subida Souvenirs in tandem with Chada Valencia, highlighted toys made from bamboo.
Digital works were presented by Asher Ben, Grape-Ninja and Xteve Abanto. These are young digital artists who keep pushing the envelope to make this form of expression accessible to the community. Incidentally, digital artist Asher Ben Alpay recently won the L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrators of the Future Contest, a prestigious international competition.
He is the first in Southeast Asia to win the award.
As part of the introduction for technological use for crafts and design, DTI held a workshop which featured 3D printing, laser engraving through
a forum with Charles Barrete of FabLab Bohol, the first fabrication laboratory in the Philippines.
In addition, artist Sharon Rose Dadang-Rafols offered terra-cotta workshop to the scholars of the Little Children of the Philippines. It’s a skill-sharing activity which planted inspiration to develop creativity among children and teens.
Exhibiting craft shops were Orient Gifts, Arts Workshop, Chada Valencia/Bliscofa, Shaoi Arts and Crafts, Subida Souvenirs, So Good Gift Shops, Lumago Designs, RCR Needle Craft, JDA Arts and Crafts, Geminas Handicraft, Narima’s Fashion, MJD Handicrafts, Smylen Dream, LGU Siaton, Bayaw-Ani (LGU Bayawan), Nice Ka Productions, ECA Bits and Pieces, Mr. Maestros Design, Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA), Negros Oriental Arts and Heritage (NOAH), DMB Woodpecker Wood and Shell Craft, DTI-Siquijor and Ket’ Craft Innovation.
Creative City Dumaguete City has proven to be a melting pot of creatives because of its “university town” spirit attracting kindred artists to reside and transition.
There are challenges, yes. “…but the artist spirit will die if we don’t do our art… it allows us to find a sanctuary in our brokenness and that it makes us love life and beauty despite the chaos,” said Dessa Quesada-Palm, NCCA Head for Dramatic Arts and Executive Creative Director of YATTA.
Meanwhile, the City Tourism aims to promote the city through art, and according to Jacqueline Veloso-Antonio, “the cultural art of the city must be anchored and rooted in the history of the place, to fully claim the real essence and identity of our community.”
Dagit Arts Fest was opened by Congresswoman Josy Sy Limkaichong together with Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo of Dumaguete City.
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Raz Salvarita is the curator and festival director of Dagit Arts Fest. He is an interdisciplinary artist and founder of Gugma Gaia, an nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education using creative approach for learning.