The lives and works of four National Artists of the Philippines are at the heart of Panahon ng Luwalhati, UP Diliman’s celebration of the arts and culture month in February.
The featured artists, all of whom observed their birth centennial in 2015, are: Lamberto Avellana, conferred National Artist for Theater and Film in 1976, the first double awardee in the history of the award; Manuel Conde (Film, 2009), Severino Montano (Theater, 2001) and Nestor Vicente Madali (NVM) Gonzalez (Literature, 1997).
This year, as the University celebrates the beginning of artists’ second century, the festivities draw inspiration from Gonzalez’s novel “A Season of Grace,” which “counters the myth of the Philippines’ lost native past and cultural weakness in the face of foreign dominance,” notes goodreads.com.
The selected works, highlighting the artists’ contributions to the development of Philippine arts and letters, comprise four films, two theater productions and three concerts featuring some of the University’s renowned performing groups.
Film. The films are Conde’s “Señorito” (1953) and “Genghis Khan” (1950); and Avellana’s “Badjao” (1957) and “Portrait of the Artist as Filipino” (1965).
In “Señorito,” a father hires a woman to pose as a rich person and use her charms to change his son’s wild ways. While the ruse succeeds, the two fall in love, which is against the father’s rules. Meanwhile, “Genhis Khan” narrates how Temujin builds an army and conquers many lands to earn the title Genhis Kahn, meaning “king without peer,” but becomes enslaved by his love for his opponent’s daughter.
Acknowledged as the “first intelligent movie to depict a minority group’s traditional customs,” Avellana’s “Badjao” tells how two warring groups, the Badjao and the Moros, come to a conciliation to achieve a peace pact, using the perspective of a newly-married Badjao chief and a Moro lowlander trying to make their marriage work amid pressure from both groups.
On the other hand, “Portrait” is based on what is considered the “most important Filipino play in English” by Nick Joaquin, another National Artist for Literature. Set in 1941 in Intramuros, it is the story of the Marasigan sisters and their father and their efforts to overcome financial setbacks amidst changing cultures and identities brought by new Western ideals.
Conde’s films will be screened at the Dap-ay of the College of Mass Communication at 7 p.m. on Feb 3 and 4, respectively. Avellana’s films will be at the College of Architecture auditorium at 7 p.m. on Feb. 10 and 11, respectively. All films are free and open to the public.
Theater. Montano’s “The Ladies and the Senator” and Gonzalez’s “The Bread of Salt” (1958) will also be staged.
A comedy, Montano’s work relates the visit of Senator Anthony Maripal to the United States, where he is feted by the Filipino Women’s Club of Washington DC, unaware that the ladies had planned to can rob him of the money he has stolen from the Filipino people. Tess Jamias directs the play and stars Kat Castillo, Natasha Cabrera, Krystle Valentino and other UPD alumni. Playdates are on Feb. 16 and 17 with shows at 3 and 7 p.m. at the University Theater. Tickets are at P150 and are available at the Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts (OICA).
Meanwhile, Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas mounts a puppet play on Gonzalez’s short story of a 14 year-old boy infatuated with the niece of a rich plantation owner. Directed by Amihan B. Ramolete with puppets designed by Sig Pecho, the puppet play is slated for Feb. 24, at 3 and 7 p.m. at the Bulwagan ng Dangal. Tickets are available at OICA for p150.
Concerts. Three performing groups will take the spotlight: the UP Dance Company (UPDC), the UP Varsity Pep Squad (Pep) and the UP Cherubim and Seraphim (UPCS).
On Feb. 13, the Pep presents “Utak at Puso: The UP Varsity Pep Squad Honors the National Artists” at 3 and 7 p.m. at the UP Theater. The concert features the Pep’s winning routines in various competitions locally and abroad.
“Wanderer in the Night of the World,” a compilation of Gonzalez’s poems published by the University Press in 2015, is the inspiration behind the dance concert by the UPDC, to be staged on Feb.22 at the University Theater stage at 4 and 7:30 p.m. The concert is directed by Angela Lawenko-Baguilat.
On Feb, 19, the UPCS performs “Konsyerto: Bawat Bata, Artista” at 3 and 7 p.m. at the UP Theater stage. The concert features music by Lucio San Pedro and Ramon Santos, both declared as National Artists for Music.
Concert tickets are at P150, P200 and P200, respectively, and are available at OICA.
Other events. In addition, art scholars and practitioners have been invited to open and enlarge conversations on the lives and the contributions of the chosen artists on contemporary Filipino society in “Usapang Pambansang Alagad ng Sining” at Pulungang Recto at 2:30 p.m. every Tuesday in February for Conde, Avellana, Montano and Gonzalez, respectively.
The lectures are free and open the public.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts will also launch the NVM Gonzalez special commemorative stamp at the UP Theater Lobby at 2 p.m. on Feb. 22.
The public is also invited to Bodabil sa Kampus, the festival’s opening ceremonies featuring Ms. Bituin Escalante, Natasha Cabrera, the UP Dancesport Society and the UP Jazz Ensemble. Living National Artists will also be honored at the event, which will be held on Feb. 1, 6 p.m. at the University Amphitheater. The highlight of the ceremony will be the unveiling of billboard artworks installed around the campus dedicated to Conde, Avellana, Montano and Gonzalez.
“Gabi ng Luwahati” will close the festivities on Feb. 26, 7 p.m. at the University Theater. The event is a reimagined bodabil in the contemporary times, featuring Virgilio Almario, National Artist for Literature and Juan Miguel Severo, PJ Rebullida, JM Cabling, Al Garcia and Jeffrey Hidalgo.
National Artist. The rank and title of National Artist is conferred to a Filipino citizen through a Presidential Proclamation in recognition of his or her significant contributions in the fields of Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Arts, Literature, Film and Broadcast Arts and Architecture and Allied Arts.
Avellana (Feb. 12, 1915 – Apr. 25, 1991), known as “The Boy Wonder of Philippine Movies,” “was the first to use the motion picture camera to establish a point of view, a move that revolutionized the techniques of film narration,” notes the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. He received the Grand Prix at the Asian Film Festival in Hong Kong for his film “Anak Dalita” in 1957 and in 1954, was the first Filipino to have his film (Kandelerong Pilak) shown at the Cannes International Film Festival.
Born Manuel Urbano, Conde (Oct. 9, 1915 – Aug.11, 1985) was an actor, director and producer. He put up his own movie company, Manuel Conde Pictures in 1947 to direct and produce age-old Filipino stories that depict the distinct cultural history of the Philippines such as “Ibong Adarna” and “Prinsipe Tenoso” both in 1941, notes the Commission.
Montano (Jan. 3, 1915 – Dec. 12, 1980) was a playwright, actor and theater organizer. He organized Arena Theater in 1952 at the Philippine Normal College, institutionalizing ‘legitimate theater’ in the Philippines. He also trained and directed the new generation of dramatists such as Rolando S. Tinio, Emmanuel Borlaza, Joonee Gamboa and Behn Cervantes.
Gonzalez (September 8, 1915 – November 28, 1999) articulated the Filipino spirit in rural, urban landscapes. He was UP’s International-Writer-In-Residence in 1988 and a member of the Board of Advisers of the UP Creative Writing Center. His major works include “The Winds of April,” “Seven Hills Away” and “Children of the Ash-Covered Loam and Other Stories.” A UP faculty member for 18 years, Gonzalez was one of two people to teach at UP without holding a degree. In 1987, UP conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.