Text and photos by Christa I. De La Cruz
Performing a dance routine onstage, smearing paint on the canvas, and weaving together metaphors are all part of an ordinary day for the students of a state-run art institution housed in the National Arts Center and tucked away on the edge of the mythical Mt. Makiling in Los Baños, Laguna. After all, the curriculum followed by the Philippine High School for the Art (PHSA) is geared towards the harnessing of their students’ talents in music, theater, folk dance, ballet, creative writing, and visual arts—depending on what each young artist specializes in.
The first week of February, however, is much more art-inspired than a regular art-filled school day for the Ibarangs, a name that the members of the PHSA community fondly call themselves. Homegrown artists came back to the mountain and foreign performers were flown in to kick off PHSA’s celebration of the National Arts Month with their very first Makiling Inter-Cultural Arts Festival, or MAKILINC. Even the Kalatas, Choose Philippines, and Fringe Manila teams hitched a ride on the PHSA school bus if only to catch the latter part of the series of artist talks scheduled on an otherwise Manic Monday behind the office desk.
Filmmaker Raymond Red, the third speaker for the day, couldn’t have said it better: you can always Google one thing and Google another thing but how can you put them together to create something else? A leading Filipino director and PHSA alumnus, Red has used the rapidly changing technology to his advantage—starting from Super-8 mm film format to the ultra high definition digital camera.
Jersey-born artist Amy Klement also captured this highly technological living condition through a series of installation art made from twisted steel wires to reflect life in a wired world, literally. Klement later switched from using wires to crocheting wool/yarns, which she also used for performance art. Her works included the “Sperm Project,” which was inspired by a rhetoric question of how mermaids reproduce, and “Kraft durch Häkeln” or “Strength through Crochet.” The latter included a collective and simultaneous crocheting to dress up the Trümmerfrauen (rubble women) sculptures made by Katharina Szelinski-Singer as a tribute to the German women who played a major role in rebuilding post-war Germany by clearing up the rubble of damaged buildings.
German artist Michael Steger came in from the back of the room wearing a red mask and started his lecture with a peculiar act. Opening with a statement that to become an artist, one must break the rules, he asked his audience to remove their shoes and stand on the chairs—a simple but symbolical way of breaking a directive. His life as an artist has become a double performance: one, as a silversmith, which pays the bills, and second, as a performance artist, which, he jokingly said, costs him a lot. He curated the Cut International Performance Festival 2013 in Berlin where he met PHSA Director Vim Nadera, a performance artist himself.
Writer and 2012 Gawad ng Alagad ni Balagtas recipient Oscar Peñaranda and photography professor Jay Javier delivered their artist talks earlier in the day.
After the plenary, the students and guests gathered at the school theater for a series of performances by Lorena Javier, Amy Klement, Michael Steger, Vim Nadera, and the group Tupada Action Media Art.
As the cold air descended upon PHSA’s patch of land, everyone was beat but left with ideas and inspiration. “Happily tired,” Nadera quipped.
MAKILINC closed the festival week with an exhibition of artworks produced from the three-day workshop and a night of performances on February 7 in Bulwagang Lakambako, National Arts Center; and an educational tour called “Pasyal Aral” around Laguna (Lumban, Paete, Pakil, Nagcarlan, Liliw, and Calamba) on February 8.
*Art on the Edge is the theme of the Philippine Arts Festival (PAF) for 2014. PAF is the flagship project of NCCA’s Subcommission on the Arts (SCA) in accordance to the Presidential Proclamation 683 signed in 1991 declaring that February is National Arts Month.