View From The Wings – Philippine Senate
FILIPINO AUDIENCES AND THE PERFORMING ARTS COMPANIES
by Pablo A. Tariman
(Paper submitted to the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture chaired by Senator Pia Cayetano on Wednesday, February11, 2015. The hearing was conducted to discuss the following Senate Bills:
SBN 21 65. SBN 2165 AN ACT DESIGNATING PHILIPPINE NATIONAL PERFORMING ARTS COMPANIES,
SBN 2170 AN ACT DESIGNATING PHILIPPINE PERFORMING ARTS COMPANIES.
Present were CCP President Raul Sunico, CCP Vice-President and artistic director Chris Millado, Ballet Philippines President Margie Moran Floirendo, Ballet Manila director Lisa Macuja Elizalde and many others in the cultural sector. The author was invited as performing arts writer and reviewer.)
I would like to thank the Senate Committee on Education and Culture and the Arts for inviting me to this hearing.
I contribute arts stories and reviews to the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star and also to Vera Files and Yahoo News. Since not all my stories can be accommodated in those media outlets, I write for the blog, Arts News Service on a regular basis.
As you can see, I am not a member of any of those performing arts companies but I am a fervent follower and supporter of all of them. My work allows me to be in touch with them before and after opening nights. After covering the arts for almost four decades, I know the dreams and visions of the Filipino performing artists. While interacting with them, I became aware of their frustrations as well.
Thus, I support them in my own little way by being around during opening nights and writing about those performances. When artists are recognized in writing, when you let them know that their performances actually moved you, you actually pay tribute to Filipino artists and their rare brand of artistry.
Apart from critics and reviewers, the other sources of the artists’ gratification and inner strength are their audiences.
Audiences are usually quick to react to good performances.
They applaud and if the artists deserve it, they gave you a standing ovation.
But after the good reviews and the standing ovations, artists and their organizers face a common concern.
Artists also figure the month’s domestic bills.
Organizers and artistic directors worry on how to sustain the season performances, how to give artists better pay, how to reach out for excellence and hopefully with body and soul still together.
Before opening nights, artists and performing arts directors and administrators cope with huge expenses on rehearsals, marketing, printing expenses for posters and souvenir programs, venue rentals and expenses, meals and transport for the artists.
After the good reviews and the standing ovations, both artists and arts administrators face a common concern: how can they last even as ticket sales can hardly finance productions?
I am not a stranger to this predicament as for a while, I wore another hat as part-time impresario. I know how it is to get a good review for your production and how it is to survive even as those standing ovations didn’t translate into good income.
By experience, I know for a fact that standing ovations don’t address production deficits. They are balm to the spirit but they are of no value when venue rental and printing bills start coming.
With these scenarios in mind, I can only commend these two bills of Senator Sonny Angara and Senator Loren Legarda.
Unfortunately, I only saw copies of the bills a few hours before the hearing. I will submit a clear position paper later.
At first glance, I know the bill will not totally solve the predicaments of the artists and performing arts administrators but they are one big source of relief for the artists and administrators — if only to acknowledge the fact that the local performing arts scene needs big help not just from its audiences but from the government as well.
Since this bill addresses many existing arts companies, it is imperative that this body look into their track records and how they had become an indispensable part of the arts diet of the Filipino audiences.
Because when you help one at the expense of the other equally viable company, you inevitably recognize one at the expense of the others.
What I am very sure of is that they all deserve to be helped because they address all facets of the artistic needs of artists and audiences.
The sponsors of the these bills will just have to find a way to help all artists and performing arts companies without overlooking the others.
I must say that I had my share of memorable moments with these Filipino artists and indeed it is about time the government do its share of helping them and the performing arts companies they belong to.
It must be tough selecting which symphony orchestra, which theater company, which dance company will get the bigger share of the benefits of these bills.
They have all done their best for their craft, they have done their best to make the Filipino audiences proud and like it or not, they deserve the best from the government.
For this reason, I would like to express a few sentiments as one voice of the performing arts scene.
These bills will be a big boast towards boasting the morale of the Filipino performing artists.
It will be a big help to performing arts administrators who continue to struggle for more sponsorships and bigger audiences and positive results in the box office.
Government support need not mean financial help all the time. When you see public servants in opening nights, both artists and audiences are rewarded with the thought that the government cares for them. It is my hope that after this hearing, senators will find time to be present during opening nights and the see the result of the struggles of the Filipino performing artists. Only by watching these performances will you see the heart and soul of the Filipino artists and how Filipino audiences reciprocate their efforts.
Beyond appeals for quick passage of these bills, I also would like to communicate a few things.
Public servants – senators and the President alike – should connect with performing artists as one important sector of society.
It may be noted here that it took the President took all of eight months to proclaim National Artists and did so by dropping one living legend in the cultural sector.
As of this day, the President has not officially honored the new National Artists he proclaimed last June 2014. One of them – National Artists for Music Francisco Feliciano – died without getting official honors and the medallion due him.
The rest have yet to get the official honors promised by the Presidential spokesman.
I know that this is not the concern of this body but I am hoping that one of you might be close to the President. A friendly call — to remind him that he has yet to honor the National Artists he proclaimed eight months ago — will be highly appreciated.
Here’s hoping that after passage of this bill, the country’s performing artists will have better deal from the government where it hopes to get viable support.
As arts writer, I have supported them by writing about their life and art and more importantly, about their struggles.
It is now the turn of the government to help them in any way it can.
This bill can do a lot.
Because these artists don’t get pay-per-view privilege, they don’t get the income of noontime shows and they don’t always get Malacanang courtesy calls when they bring home medals after winning arts Olympics abroad.
But the truth is they are the heart and soul of a nation.
The role of artists in nation-building has been done to death. I leave that to the orators to repeat time and again.
In conclusion, I would like to commend Senators Sonny Angara and Senator Loren Legarda for coming up with these long-overdue bills.