On their bus ride from Baguio City down to Manila, participants of a recently concluded arts-criticism workshop watched Mel Brooks’ “History of the World” and laughed at the movie’s own version of the critic’s origins.
The scene involves a prehistoric caveman-artist at work who presents his masterpiece, a cave painting of a horse, to eager onlookers. Seconds later, another caveman walks in, inspects the work with an inquisitive stare, stands atop a nearby rock, lifts his Paleolithic garment, and does to the painting what he thinks it deserves—he pisses on it. Thus, the critic is born.
As multifaceted and sophisticated as the National Artist who inspired the annual affair, the fourth annual University of Santo Tomas (UST) J. Elizalde Navarro (JEN) National Workshop on Arts Criticism sought to represent all art forms while fostering appreciation of them through critical discernment.
The workshop was held May 27-June 2 at the Colione hotel in Baguio City.
The workshop had was carried out by 12 panelists and 12 fellows. It was graced not only by scholars and professionals of the country’s arts and literary scene, but also by a descendant of Navarro himself.
Among the lecturers were Robert Diaz Jr. of Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) of Canada, Rebecca Añonuevo of Miriam College and UST Graduate School, Lila Shahani of the Asian Institute of Management, and Allan Isaac of Rutgers University in the United States.
Diaz has been awarded the Andrew Mellon Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellowship by the University of California, Los Angeles, twice and is a professor in WLU’s Women and Gender Studies Program. He shared his insights on film and the notion of queer nationality.
Meanwhile, award-winning poetess and Miriam English Department head Añonuevo gave a lecture titled “Ang Pagbabasa bilang Pakikipag-usap,” which tackled dialogical setbacks in the communication process.
Shahani, who has taught Development Communications at the Asian Institute of Management and is a doctoral candidate at Oxford University, also tackled the failures of communication. She drew from her experiences as assistant secretary and head of communications of the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster, which covers 20 government agencies dealing with poverty and development.
Isaac, the director of the Department of American Studies at Rutgers, gave a lecture titled “Contracting the Senses: The Refusal to Wallow and Other Emotional Investments,” which discussed how overseas Filipinos are able to overcome the limits of their situation in space and time, and how this could be learned from the hit queer musical “Care Divas.”
For the fourth year, the regular panelists of the criticism workshop were respected scholars Priscelina Legasto and Oscar Campomanes. Legasto is coordinator of the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Comparative Literature program and editor of the Diliman Review. Campomanes is professor of the Ateneo de Manila University and is a lecturer at the UST Graduate School.
Other members of this year’s panel were UST professors Ralph Galan, Ferdinand Lopez, Antonio Hila, and Inquirer Arts and Books section editor Lito Zulueta; Delan Robillos of Artery Manila and Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development; and Ateneo de Manila professor Gary Devilles, who has just left the country to pursue his doctorate degree in Melbourne, Australia.
The fourth batch of JEN fellows were John Andrew del Prado, Renato Lucas, and Adrian Romero of UST; Hammed Bolotaolo and Doy Petralba of UP-Diliman; Om Narayan Velasco of UP-Los Baños; Miguel Lizada and Louie Jon Sanchez of Ateneo; Sam Harold Nervez and Kyle Matthew Santelices of University of San Carlos in Cebu; Rabindranath Polito of Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology; and Dennis Elizalde of Mapua Institute of Technology.
The last fellow is the grand-nephew of the late National Artist J. Elizalde Navarro.
Papers under the literary arts were “On Eric Gamalinda’s ‘My Sad Republic’: Repainting a Post-Nationalistic Sentiment” by Santelices; “A Postcolonial Reading of the Eraserhead’s Fruitcake” by Petralba; “How Do We Read Jose Dalisay’s ‘Soledad’s Sister’” by Bolotaolo; “Reclaiming Local Spaces: An Analysis of Selected Short Fiction of Temistocles M. Adlawan” by Nervez; “Filipino Iron Maidens: The Beauty Myth in Five Short Stories by Filipino Women Writers in English” by Del Prado; “Mga Naliligaw na mga Bida: Pag-uusisa sa Kategorisasyon nina Havelaar at Ibarra sa mga Nobelang Max Havelaar at Noli Me Tangere” by Velasco; “Komodipikasyon at Pagpapanatili: Epekto ng Turismo sa Katutubong Sayaw ng mga Ayta sa Subic Bay Freeport Zone” by Romero; “Domestic as Site and Sight: Reading the Works of Cyril Wong and Lawrence Ypil as City Poems” by Lizada; and “Kung Ibig Mo Akong Makilala: Isang Eksplorasyon sa Tekstong Mabanglo at sa Tekstong Mahal na Birhen ng Visitacion sa Piat, Cagayan” by Sanchez.
Under the musical arts was “The Spirit of Harana: Four Instrumental Works by Three Filipino Musicians as Historical Text” by Lucas, while papers under theater arts and visual arts were “Suhi: A Reflection of Hybrid Culture” by Polito and “My Grandfather’s Legacy” by Elizalde, respectively.
The UST JEN National Workshop on Arts Criticism organized and sponsored by the Varsitarian, the 81-year-old official student organ of UST. It is held in honor of the artist and critic J. Elizalde Navarro, who was art editor and critic-poet of the Varsitarian during his student days, and in connection with the Neocentennial celebration of UST, which was established in 1611. This year’s workshop was co-sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.