by Stephen J Pedroza

Art is often reputed to be elitist, inaccessible to the man on the street. Gradually, however, art forms, like paintings and classical music, are being brought to the consciousness of many due in large part to the growth and mainstreaming of art in our time.

In the Philippines’ artistic and cultural milieu, this trend is gaining momentum. We’ve seen an increase in the number of museums, more localized art programs and fellowships, manageable art medium brought about by the new media and more. Efforts of academic institutions, like Xavier University, help bring the appreciation of art closer to the communities, eliciting an inclusive experience.

MORE THAN A CELEBRATION. The Lambago Art Awards honor artists, arts groups, cultural workers and institutions that have contributed to the growth of Cagayan de Oro City’s cultural and artistic milieu. Photo by The Crusader Publication.

Bringing art closer to people

For eight years now, Xavier has been holding “Panaghugpong,” an endeavor to make arts and culture more accessible to the public. The umbrella term for the Xavier Arts Festival, “Panaghugpong” is true to its English definition, “a convergence or coming together.”

“With Panaghugpong, we are trying to converge the seven arts (sculpture, painting or visual art, music, poetry, dance, performance art and architecture). All our arts companies present their creative products as part of our arts program and formation,” says Hobart Savior, director of Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA) and author of Panaghugpong.

“We want to be inclusive; we don’t want to be insular. Although this is Xavier Art Festival, this not exclusive to the Xavier community,” the director explains. “This is really a partnership with different institutions to nurture the culture and arts scene in Cagayan de Oro City and Northern Mindanao. It becomes collective for everyone to consume and partake and interact and engage.”

ELEGANT PERFORMANCE. From graceful and classically inspired choreography to upbeat and carefree movements, Kagay-anon artist Jasmine San Juan-Llenas presents a contemporary dance number at the Lambago Art Awards, launched this year as part of Panaghugpong: Xavier Arts Festival to honor deserving artists, arts groups, cultural workers and institutions based in the “City of Golden Friendship.” Photo by The Crusader Publication.

Given this context, it also means that audiences are integral in keeping art alive.

“There will be no artists if there is no audience who will appreciate, who will patronize our works,” Savior continues, adding that “We are very glad to have institutional support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines.”

Forming part of the National Arts Month every February, Panaghugpong has been a celebration of milestones in the fields of drama, music, dance, literature, visual arts, film architecture and allied arts in this part of the country since its inception in 2008.

This year, Panaghugpong featured Circulo de Arte’s mixed media artworks in “Juxtaphoria,” a blending of juxtaposition and euphoria at the Fr Francisco Demetrio Gallery of Museo de Oro.

SOULFUL SONGS. Members of different glee clubs in Cagayan de Oro City draw together to serenade the awardees and guests at the Lambago Art Awards held on Feb 20 at the Lucas Hall of Xavier University. Photo by The Crusader Publication.

Xavier Philharmonia, XU Glee Club and XU Soundtable wooed the hearts of Kagay-anons with different renditions of love songs in their respective concerts.

Dulaang Atenista staged Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” while The Xavier Stage presented Rody Vera’s “Pinatay si Mayor,” a satirical play on the travesty of Philippine politics.

The VDay Monologues, inspired by the exceptional stories of and interviews with hundreds of women across the globe about their womanhood, also had a successful run at XU.

Other arts companies also took part of the eighth installment of Panaghugpong.

Recognizing home-grown artists

On one hand, the month-long Panaghugpong festival highlights the commitment to make art available for public consumption in hopes of nurturing the Filipino identity.

“We have formed partnerships with communities and organizations to bring art to them — to see, taste, feel, hear, smell, and appreciate the humanities,” Savior says.

On the other hand, it also seeks to recognize local talents and the developments in Cagayan de Oro City’s art scene.

Panaghugpong launched this year its first Lambago Art Awards to honor deserving artists, arts groups, cultural workers and institutions based in CDO. The Awards blossomed from the CDO Arts Forum organized last year to encourage Kagay-anon artists to continue tapping into their limitless imagination, ingenuity and creativity to produce more home-grown art.

Sixty-two personalities and organizations were recognized during the awarding ceremony on February 20. The Lambago Art Awards take its title from CDO’s original name “Kalambaguhan.”

“May these awards make us appreciate more our being artists whose responsibilities are to challenge [the status quo] and to facilitate in building a better community, republic and a better nation. May these awards humble and make us complement, cooperate and collaborate with other artists,” Savior adds.

XU president Fr Roberto C Yap SJ supports Savior saying that art plays an important role in the preservation of culture.

“We need to contribute. We need to remember. And we need to preserve our culture through our arts if we wish to strengthen our identity as Filipinos,” he says.

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