Two of the resident theatre companies of the Mindanao State University System (MSUS) are performing virtually during the 27th Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) on November 30 and on December 6, 2020, respectively.
For their vibrant and dynamic promotion of culture and arts in the regions, both groups were honored recently by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Kaisa sa Sining Gador Awards.
It is auspicious therefore, that the MSUS performing groups lend their prestige to the workshop by performing excerpts of two renowned epics, the Meranaw Darangen and the Sanskrit classic, Ramayana.
The MSU main campus’s Sining Kambayoka Ensemble (SKE), one of the oldest theatre groups in the country is performing “Kalimbay”.
The performance depicts the indigenous manner of feminine walk ”kinikini”of the epic’s noble women dressed in their finery, or in the best Malongs in traditional colors, their hair arranged in the fashion called “pinalot” that shows, at a glance, if the woman is married or not.
The SKE has performed around the country and abroad promoting the folklore of the Meranaw. The Meranaws are known as the people of the lake referring to Lake Lanao, one of the country’s deepest and coolest lakes.
In 2015, this ca.14th Century Darangen was hailed as a UNESCO Intangible Heritage for Humanity. The MSU main campus Folklore Division, with grants from the Toyota Foundation, has re-published a series of the Darangen, in handsome volumes available for sale.
On the other hand, the MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) Resident Theatre Company, Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG) performs an indigenized version from the Indian epic, Ramayana dubbed “Sita: Ramayana Revisited” that premiered during the 2015 Asia Pacific Bond Festival in Singapore. This IPAG production has been performed to much acclaim in festivals such as the ASEAN-Indian Summit in New Delhi, the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, in Kolkata, Mumbai, and highlighted the significant Diwali Festival in Ayodhya, the birthplace of the kingdom’s hero Rama.
MSU-IIT Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Dr. Polaus M. Bari welcomes participants that include four international writing fellows from Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, and India as well as three Senior Writing Fellows, 12 regular Writing Fellows, and 11 panelists including two from abroad.
Workshop Director Dr. Christine F. Godinez Ortega opens the workshop with a reminder of a writer’s freedom and professionalism and creativity as human resource that opens many doors.
On December 1, 2020, the National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose delivers his keynote lecture to workshop participants.
The Iligan workshop opens on November 30, 2020 by Zoom conference and ends on December 6. The Zoom conference is to be facilitated by the MSU-IIT MICEL. — INWW
The Institute’s resident theater company, the Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG), and its artistic director, the recently retired Prof. Steven Patrick C. Fernandez, DFA, are among the eight Mindanao awardees to receive the first Gador Awards given by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
The Gador Award, named as such in reference to the famed Maranao brass jar, Gador, recognizes Mindanao’s outstanding artists, cultural workers, and arts organizations who have done admirable works and services in artistic and cultural endeavors for 10 years or more.
The Gador Award is a good way for IPAG to open its 43rd season. It is also one of the many accolades that IPAG received this year. Recently the guild was shortlisted by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) for Gawad Para sa Sining Award, the highest distinction awarded to Filipino artists in the country.
For Prof. Fernandez, the Gador Award is but another feather on his cap. He has been the recipient of various other honors including the Palanca (first prize), CCP Gantimpala, UP Likhaan, CCP Pilak, and the Francisco Balagtas Award from the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL).
The Gador Award, which was two years in the making, was conceived by the CCP’s Kaisa Sa Sining (KSS) program through its Cultural Exchange Department headed by Ms. Carmencita “Chinggay” Jasareno-Bernardo, the Department Manager.
Aside from IPAG and Prof. Fernandez, the other Gador Awardees were Maria Todi of Lake Sebu Cotabato; Nestor Horfilla of Davao City; Agnes Locsin of Davao City; Sunny Noel of Dipolog City; Joey Ayala of Davao City; and Sining Kambayoka of MSU-Marawi. All of them were awarded for their exemplary works in research, development, preservation, education and promotion of arts and culture in Mindanao.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gador Awards Ceremony was conducted virtually, and broken up into a series of small ceremonies taking place on different dates and at different locations in Mindanao, with one even conducted in Manila.
The awarding ceremony for IPAG and Prof. Fernandez, which was live streamed, was conducted at Homestay Ilihan in Iligan City on July 7, 2020. A separate ceremony was held the day before for Sining Kambayoka of MSU-Marawi.
The awarding ceremony was attended by guests of the awardees: MSU-IIT Chancellor Sukarno D. Tanggol and Dr. Christine F. Godinez-Ortega, Board Chair of the Mindanao Creative and Cultural Workers Group (MCCWG). Chancellor Tanggol and Dr. Ortega provided the testimonies for both IPAG and Prof. Fernandez. Their pre-recorded messages were played at the ceremony.
Sita: The Ramayana Revisited premiered at the 2015 Asia-Pacific Bond of Drama Schools in La Salle College of the Arts in Singapore. Since then, this Philippine version of Asia’s most widespread epic from Sanskrit origins has performed to acclaim to large audiences in Bangkok, New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Iligan, and now Ayodha in Uttar Pradesh. Ayodha is King Rama’s royal enclave where he built his palace.
Sita highlights Dipotsava 2019, the Ayodha festival, at the Ramkatha Park, 6 p.m. on Oct. 26.
The same Sita performs for more Indian events next year as IPAG’s performance represents India’s influencing presence in Philippine culture. Philippine languages, lore, values, religion, and Filipino creative cultural expressions embed significant influences from India in the Philippines’ long relationships with this sub-continent.
Sita has received much acclaim in its road shows, its glowing reception coming from the most avid Ramayana scholars in the region. The Philippine embassy has revealed that Sita’s popularity in India has been due to its proximity to the spirit and form of the original Indian Sanskrit. IPAG’s Sita has been contemporized to capture social issues in today’s modern society.
This version inspired by the Valmiki original is attributed to Steven P.C. Fernandez who also directed and composed the music with Geejay Areola Langlois.
In the Ayodha cast are Marc Andrew Pasanos (Rama), Xela Ubalde (Sita), Kenn Erwin Velasquez (Hanuman), Joe Mar Lacasan (Lawana), Psymon Flores (Sugriva), MacMarvin Palomares, Joshua Valenciano, Joshua Sanchez, Jane Allyson Dantes, Lochelle Therese Dano, and Lilybeth Maraon (Stage Manager).
Liaison is Hermi Dico, designs by Tres Cantera and Vicmar Paloma, and Dico, with live music performed by Meshaq Dangel, Victor Arlan, and Fernandez.
In related events, Sita drums up the International University Theatre Association (IUTA) when the Philippines hosts this in August 2020 at the CCP. Opening salvo has been set in February at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
THE MSU-IIT Integrated Performing Arts Guild enhanced its growing international reputation with its sixth participation at the Asia-Pacific Bond (APB) of Theatre Schools Festival in Hanoi, Vietnam. IPAG performed Tighod (Tide of Times), a devised piece that narrates the odyssey of creatures born from water.
Besides the performance, IPAG facilitated a workshop on its performance pedagogy and collaborated in a culminating recital piece.
The APB reputedly the dominant organization of elite universities with theatre programs has been the venue where major IPAG works premiered. International acknowledgments have been heaped on Sita: The Ramayana Revisited, The Orpheus Trilogy, Suhi, Uwahig, and Suhi, all produced in as many cities in the Asia-Pacific.
Tighod presents images, actions, and sounds whose representations are non-realistic. The piece well-received in this international premiere imaged the proverbial cycle of mankind’s history. It was conceived by MSU-IIT visual artist Jan Pagarigan and History Assistant Professor Neil Azcuna. Giving life to the piece were Junah Lucasan, faculty at the Department of Physical Education, dancers Jane Allyson Dantes, Psymon Flores, Jacob Togonon, and IPAG Associate Kenn Erwin Velasquez who together with Leilani Fernandez facilitated the choreography. Music was composed by Roy Matthew T. Bongalo and Fitzgerald N. Torralba. Dramaturg is IPAG Director Steven P.C. Fernandez.
The 2019 APB, foreseeing the consequent challenges of a growing conglomerate of performing arts institutions, elected a new set of leaders. IPAG Founder Fernandez was elected to the Board of Advisors while Ateneo de Manila Professor Ricardo Abad took the helm of incoming President, two Filipinos among seven officers. The APB has expanded to a growing network of 27 universities to date since IPAG was invited to join in 2012 upon the nomination of theatre luminary Aubrey Mellor.
This edition opened more opportunities for IPAG to collaborate, projects set up with the State University of San Diego, Chulalongkorn University, and Taipei National University of the Arts. Meanwhile, the Asian League of Institutes of Arts (ALIA) where the MSU-IIT is a charter member has proposed a joint project among other institutes. IPAG is also a member of the International University Theatre Association (IUTA), among others, which holds its world festival in Manila next year.
The IPAG has performed its diverse repertoire in over a hundred cities worldwide.
In the last week of October, IPAG highlights the Dipotsava Festival in Ayodha, Uttar Pradesh, India, with its Sita. Ayodha is the city where King Rama built his royal palace. The various invitations to India and Asia of IPAG’s Ramayana evidence how its version has been well received by the nations where the epic is a heritage. It last performed Sita to critical acclaim at the Mumbai festival in February this year after performing in New Delhi, Kolkata, Bangkok, and Singapore.
MSU-IIT’s resident theater company, the Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG), once again staged its widely-acclaimed production called “Tales From Mindanao” for two days at the Institute Gymnasium.
IPAG’s landmark production ran from Sept 16-17, 2019 and wowed an eager crowd composed mostly of high school and freshmen college students who packed the venue, especially during its last full show.
Tales from Mindanao, a well-curated medley of dances derived from the traditional cultures of the region, has been staged in over 100 cities in Europe, Asia, North America, and the Hawaiian Islands.
It is arguably the Philippines’ most toured show. In fact, just in August, the production was taken north and staged in Quezon City at the SM North Skydome and in Calamba, Laguna.
Tales from Mindanao encapsulates – in fluid movements and music – the lives of the tri-people of Mindanao – the Lumad, Moro, and Settler groups, providing them with a platform, albeit in theater form, to expose their plight and the richness of their culture and heritage.
During the last full show at the Institute Gymnasium, IPAG Director Steven Patrick P.C. Fernandez opened it by addressing the millennial-dominated audience, introducing the show to them and letting them know what’s in store.
However, Fernandez pulled a surprise when what followed was a skit of a company call that featured a boom box-playing, Harvard varsity jacket-wearing dancer in Ken Velazquez who looks helplessly out of place when he shows up in front of a stage full of serious ethnic dancers.
The show proper then followed, starting off with the vignette, “Earth, Wind, Water and Fire”, a series of rhythmic dances that mirror the cosmic elements that pervade the creation of Man.
The ethereal Legend of the Maria Cristina Falls comes after. It is the enchanting tale of unrequited desire of a Rajah for a fair maiden, played by Leilani Fernandez, the wife of the IPAG Director. Leilani moved the crowd with her poignant depiction of the maiden’s tragic fate.
The Pangalay, which followed, saw a group of dancers entering the stage with such majestic grace. Their flamboyant display of bold colors and mask-like expressions kept the audience watching with bated breath, following every slow, fluid movement after fluid movement that evokes images of a seafaring community and a close connection to the sea.
Added to this year’s roster is the “Subanen Suite”, a composite of well-choreographed dances and music offering a glimpse of the proud Subanen Peninsula that culminated into a heart-stopping harvest dance on bamboo poles that enthralled the entire Gymnasium.
The crowd’s interest was piqued by the Pigagawan, a play adapted from the Talaandig, where a group of women competes with each other for the attention of a man. This caught the audience’s attention mainly because it shattered notions of courtship being solely a man’s enterprise.
When the Unggoyan took center stage, the crowd became ecstatic. The Unggoyan depicts a jungle book-like tale of a mischievous monkey in Philippine Folklore. Unggoyan kept the crowd entertained with its comic wit and acting.
And for the finale, the production showcased the familiar Kalilang, a montage of Maranao tradition where dancers wear colorful traditional costumes and bantings.
The Gymnasium was filled with applause at the end, and many stayed after and took pictures with the dancers and musicians on stage. The show ended on such a high note that it took a while for the crowd that went up the stage to dissipate.
This staging of Tales from Mindanao marks IPAG’s 42nd year of delivering exquisite performances.
TWO PAINTINGS by the late Iligan artist and former MSU-IIT employee Denis Francis Reyes Orellana were turned over by their previous owner to the Iligan City Ethnic Center & Museum in Buhanginan Hills on September 4, 2019.
Director and Curator Dr. Christian TN Aguado received the paintings for the museum.
The subjects of the oil portraits are the Higaunon couple Datu Mansumayan and his wife Humot, personalities who were brought to public awareness by Prof. Ricardo Jorge S. Caluen with his “A Preliminary Ethnographic study on the Higaunon, Rogongon, Iligan City” published in the MSU-IIT journal The Technician.
The turnover of the paintings was initiated by former faculty of the MSU-IIT Political Science Department Caluen who owned the works, and who was Orellana’s classmate at La Salle Academy in Iligan City.
Orellana promoted ethnic art, particularly Maranao art motifs like the okir and niaga, an influence from his late father Dionisio Orellana, a graduate of the University of the Philippines’ College of Fine Arts. The elder Orellana was considered the expert on Maranao art. One of Dionisio’s early paintings about the Maria Cristina Falls done in 1956 is displayed in the National Museum in Manila.
Denis worked as artist-illustrator in MSU-IIT’s Center for Research and Development, today known as the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Extension.
He likewise worked as artist-illustrator of the IPAG, illustrated its official logo and was resident set designer for many years. He put up an art shop Ethnikology with wife Felisa “Fely” Sanchez-Orellana of MSU-IIT’s Human Resource Management Division.
Denis was one of the pillars of Sidlak, an Iligan based Artists Group. He died on June 1, 1996 at age 40. He is survived by his wife Fely, three children, two grandchildren, and three siblings.
Among those who came to the simple turnover ceremony at the Iligan City Ethnic Center & Museum were friends and former high school classmates among them Eric Mendoza Obach, Franklin Quijano, Rod San Luis, Jose Buenaventura, Christine Godinez Ortega, and Steve Fernandez. (Christine Godinez Ortega)