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My journey as an ‘Artvocate’ continues

By ARSENIO J. LIZASO, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 08, 2022 5:00 am

My term as CCP president and NCCA chairman ended on June 30, 2022, co-terminously with President Rodrigo Duterte’s. 

But my term as a promoter, apostle, evangelizer, educator of the arts continues as before.

Then and always, I am an artvocate, a portmanteau I have coined to describe my love and my passion for the arts as an individual.

Thanks to the trust President Duterte placed in me, with the kind endorsement of then Special Presidential Assistant Bong Go, I took the reins of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2017, and later on was elected as chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. All in all, it has been a productive and rewarding episode in my journey, with its set of challenges, of course.

In retrospect, the main highlight of my tenure as steward of our country’s art and culture was bringing the arts closer to the people. “Ilapit ang sining sa mga madla, sa karaniwang tao” was my mantra. If most of our people cannot go to CCP here in Manila, then let’s bring CCP to where they live, no matter how far. 

But how? 

As you well know, the programs of the CCP were already set when I came in and they were good. So, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” My guiding policy was just enhance what is working and if there’s a piece that needs to be taken out, replace it with something new or better. 

Past CCP president and NCCA chairman Arsenio “Nick” J. Lizaso remains an “artvocate,” even as his term ended with the new administration.

To make my goal of achieving “CCP without walls,” I catalyzed the Office of the CCP President into action by way of its own Outreach Program. 

I made all forms of art come alive through free public concerts featuring the PPO, Bayanihan, Madrigal Singers, Philippine Ballet Theater. Even during the pandemic, I brought back the art of kundiman, balagtasan, and puppetry into the homes of Filipino families through the power of streaming media. The newly rehabilitated Metropolitan Theater was inaugurated under my watch and immediately I had a brand new musical (Lapu-lapu, Datu ng Mactan) staged and beamed to digital devices. 

This is what I have been living for as an artvocate all these years. Music, drama, dance, poetry, literature, cinema, paintings, photography — all are a source of spiritual nourishment.

Meanwhile, on the other side of my purview, NCCA launched “Padayon,” an online program to inspire and instill appreciation for and love of arts and culture and inculcate a sense of understanding and pride. It was aired via the NCCA Facebook daily from 3 to 4 in the afternoon. 

The CCP’s Outreach Program facilitated performances in over 23 towns and cities and local communities all over the country.

My trips to the far-flung cities and towns of the country enabled me to discover a wonderful thing: scratch any Filipino and you’ll find, right beneath, a music, dance, or theater aficionado. That’s because art is in our cultural DNA.

Through these trips, I got the enthusiastic support of our leaders from all political leanings: Senators Zubiri, Drilon, Bong Go, Angara, Villanueva, Binay and Hontiveros. Then representative and now re-elected Senator Loren Legarda has always been one of our biggest supporters. Art makes us forget our differences and serves as a bridge that enables people to understand and appreciate each other. 

They all appreciated the idea of democratizing the arts, or bringing the arts within the reach of all people. They all saw, with their own eyes, the transforming experience of people having a taste of the unique joy and upliftment that the arts bring. For, by planting the seed of joy in the arts, only then will CCP’s mandate of “making art matter to the Filipino’s life” begin to gain traction.

As for me, I know deep in my heart that I have been rewarded enough. Whenever the CCP resident companies perform in those free public concerts, I do not look towards the stage; I instead look back at the audience, at the individual faces of the sari-sari store tindera, the talipapa vendor, the tricycle driver, the sales clerk, the kargador, the farmer, the barber and the common tao from all walks of life. For many of them, it was the first time they heard the melodic strains of a philharmonic orchestra or witnessed the world-class performance of our Bayanihan dancers, the pure angelic voices of our Madrigal Singers.

Looking at the pure delight in their faces was enough to make my heart sing. For some brief moments of their lives, their spirits were uplifted by music that seemed to have come from heaven. This is what I have been living for as an artvocate all these years. Music, drama, dance, poetry, literature, cinema, paintings, photography — all are a source of spiritual nourishment. All art forms help nourish our inner life because they are capable of evoking something profoundly important to us — pagpapahalaga sa sarili (self-value).

Mind you, I had been doing it even before I became CCP president. Every Valentine’s month, I would bring the PPO to the Philippine General Hospital to serenade children afflicted with cancer. In my limited way, I organized and facilitated free public concerts by the PPO for local communities. 

 I continued the same practices when I became CCP president and NCCA chairman, only this time with bigger resources and on a wider scope. 

 Indeed, my term as a czar of the arts has ended but my journey has just reached a turning point, and it continues on… and on.