The CCP at 45: Thriving, or struggling to survive? | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

CCP vice president and artistic director Chris Millado
CCP vice president and artistic director Chris Millado

People have been wondering about those three portentous letters emblazoned on the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) logo: KKK. Is it something secret and revolutionary—as in that secret society of the Philippine Revolution?


Many are not even aware that it is a remnant of the New Society, a stamp of the philosophy of the CCP founder, former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos. The stylized character, derived from the ancient Filipino alphabet baybayin, simply stands for Katotohanan, Kagandahan, Kabutihan (Truth, Beauty, Goodness).


Created in 1966 through Executive Order No. 30 to promote, preserve and develop Filipino arts and culture, the CCP was formally inaugurated on Sept. 8, 1969. It has since expanded into a complex along Roxas Boulevard, between the cities of Pasay and Manila.


The flagship venue, the Tanghalang Pambansa, offers services ranging from venue rentals and theater operations, to consultancy, research, building tours, information services and an art gallery.


Its resident companies include Ballet Philippines; Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company; National Music Competitions for Young Artists Foundation; Philippine Ballet Theater; Philippine Madrigal Singers; Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra; Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group; Tanghalang Pilipino; and the UST Symphony Orchestra.


It is now run by president Raul Sunico and vice president and artistic director Chris Millado, under a board of trustees chaired by Emily Abrera. It celebrates its 45th anniversary next year.


Anniversary blast


On an early afternoon recently, Sunico and Millado, accompanied by media-relations officer Irene Rada, visited the Inquirer office to discuss with Lifestyle their plans for the anniversary blast, the direction the institution is taking, the future of the CCP complex itself.


Most of the structures in the complex were designed by National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin. The flagship venue showcases his concept of “floating volume” as exemplified by the bahay-kubo.


Except for the Francisco Mañosa-designed Coconut Palace, the buildings were done in the Brutalist style of Le Corbusier—very linear, angular and blockish—driving some to criticize the place as projecting an atmosphere of totalitarianism.


It was envisioned as a nearly self-sufficient village for the Filipino people, with an arts center, a Parthenon-inspired film palace, a five-star hotel, well-manicured parks, restaurants and canteens, and a commercial area. But the people stayed on the fringes, biking around in the vicinities, snacking at the food kiosks, dating on the breakwater while gazing at the world-famous sunset of Manila Bay.


The place was seen as a haven of the elite, the culturati, the dignitaries, the wealthy and their foreign visitors. People came in droves only to events of popular entertainment, as during the Menudo concert at the Folk Arts Theater or the rash of penekula (movies with simulated sexual penetration) screenings at the Film Center in the ’80s.


And it wasn’t for lack of efforts of succeeding CCP management after the Marcoses were driven out of the country by People Power in 1986.


Moves to bring the CCP closer to the people were often stalled by questions of ownership of the property. Of 88 hectares of reclaimed lot, the CCP owns 62; the rest is occupied by the Government Service Insurance System, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Privatization Management Office.


It wasn’t until after the Supreme Court ruled with finality in 2000 and granted the CCP ownership of 35 hectares of prime real estate that the management drew a comprehensive master plan for the development of the complex.


The plan divides the area into six clusters: Promenade (retail and mixed-use facilities, dock facilities); Arts Sanctuary (Tanghalang Pambansa, Production Design Center, new performing-arts theater, artists’ center, bandstand); Green Zone (museum, parks, commercial and office spaces); Creative Hub (spaces for creative industries); Arts Living Room (condominiums, residential spaces); and Breezeway (commercial structures with seafront entertainment facilities).


Covered walkways, plazas and bicycle lanes will connect these clusters and buildings. With the expansion, the Locsin-designed Folk Arts Theater (Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas) will have to be torn down.


Excerpts from interview with Lifestyle:


What are your plans for the 45th anniversary celebration?


Chris Millado: The 45th celebrates many milestones. Cinemalaya [indie film festival] will celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Virgin Labfest [new plays] its 10th, the Pasinaya [open-house festival] its 10th. So we’ll really leverage the big events next year with these festivals.


For Pasinaya, we’ll pan out, to spread out to the whole Manila, all the way to Intramuros. We’re working with the Department of Tourism and the local government through Carlos Celdran [DOT consultant of Manila]. He’s working with us to transform some locations in Manila.




Millado: For example, some cafés, restaurants, galleries. We’re talking to different government agencies on arts and culture, that whole Roxas Boulevard area, National Museum, Metropolitan Museum, the Intramuros Administration, to transform their venues. So there will be what we call Manila Open City on a Saturday. And then Sunday it’s CCP open house.




Millado: Meaning, see all you can. All these venues have different arts events going on for two days. Pasinaya has at least 200 shows, but we’ve turned away many because we have no venue. So next year we’ll embrace everyone and distribute them all over the city. At least for two days we’re making Manila vibrant and buzz with arts and culture. We’re moving Cinemalaya to August next year.


We have two other festivals in July, so we’re looking at July-August as festival months. Parang Manila arts festival, almost like Edinburgh festival, when a lot of things happen. Not only film fest, there’s also contemporary, there’s Virgin Labfest, there’s visual arts. May spoken-word festival, which is literature. It’s like there’s a density of festivals in a certain month to attract not only local visitors but also international visitors.


On its 45th year, would you say the CCP is struggling?


Millado: We’ve been struggling since our 30th, since many years ago.


What happened to the endowment? Nabawasan nang nabawasan.


Millado: Because apparently there were debts to be paid. Right after People Power 1986, when the administration took over CCP, there was a great expansion of programs. Nagkaroon ng decentralization, which meant pouring more resources to outreach.


Raul Sunico: CCP had unpaid obligations throughout the Marcos years. When they were building, I think, the PICC (Philippine International Convention Center) or Sofitel Hotel, former First Lady Imelda Marcos borrowed money from Central Bank. They were not charging all those years, I don’t know for what reason—so it accumulated. Now, suddenly, all those obligations would have to be paid. Since CCP didn’t have the cash anymore, they paid in terms of assets. That’s why PICC is not with CCP anymore. Nor are Sofitel, Coconut Palace and Star City.


Right now, is the CCP healthy?


Sunico: Financially? We always have to ask for subsidy from the government because we have a shortfall every year. Our revenue is short by about P200-something million a year. It could have been more than P200 million, because we ask for more than that.


So, more or less, you enjoy a government subsidy of P200-plus million a year. That’s from the Office of the President, right?


Sunico: Yeah.


Other than that, you have an active board that’s able to get the CCP going?


Sunico: If you’re talking about fund-raising, it’s really Nedy Tantoco who is most active, with her Philippine-Italian association, her own connections and her own pocket. She’s the most active in fundraising.


Millado: Of course, besides the fact that the economics in terms of making art has changed through the years. The cost of productions has increased. We cannot increase the price of our tickets that much, otherwise wala nang manonood. Nor can we increase the number of seats in the auditorium.


But renting out CCP to the likes of “Phantom of the Opera,” that helps a lot.


How much percentage does CCP get from shows that use the venue?


Millado: We just get rentals, and we get the commission from the tickets, which is about five percent.


Is that uniform—all shows?


Millado: All shows. Rental of venue amounts to millions, because they occupy the theater for a whole month.


Including painting exhibitions?


Millado: Painting exhibitions, no. Usually you apply to exhibit at the CCP, our curator evaluates if it can be part of the whole program, then you’re assigned a slot.


What’s your most successful production in recent years?


Millado: Cinemalaya is very, very successful. Audience-wise and revenue-wise, Cinemalaya is a very good example. In terms of increase of audiences and new audiences, we have the Virgin Labfest.


Pasinaya, although it’s a non-revenue, open-house festival, has expanded greatly though the years. I think it’s the largest multi-arts festival in the country. Ballet Philippines’ recent restaging of “Ramahari” was very successful.


Sunico: Since the Australian group started with “Cats,” musicals have been continuing, including “Phantom,” “Mama Mia!” and the forthcoming “Wicked.” And then the local productions napunta sa Resorts World, like “Sound of Music,” “King and I.” We want to draw a plan, ’yong sarswela festival sana, kasi the sarswela is the counterpart of opera. Last year we had opera productions, actually the most we have had in years. This year we canceled our opera production and we had the jazz festival instead.


Millado: We had “Katy” open the season, which was hugely successful. There was “Ibalong,” which also did a tour, then came back and was very well-attended. We had a new children’s musical, “Sandosenang Sapatos,” which was sold out, although, of course, it was at a smaller venue. We hosted two sing-throughs of new musicals, ’yong “Maxi,” which recently opened in another venue.

We launched the Triple Threats, those leading-men-and-women solo concerts of Menchu Launchengco, Audie Gemora and Nonie Buencamino. So that’s our push in terms of original Filipino musicals and talents.


How do you fill the gap with corporate donations? Which is your top corporate donor?


Sunico: Baka Rustan’s.


Millado: Of course, Tonyboy Cojuangco’s group Econolink pours millions into Cinemalaya.


What group is actively helping CCP?


Sunico: Johann Strauss. That’s why the CCP façade has been cleaned up. The FCCP (Friends for Cultural Concerns of the Philippines) also donated, so we’re refurbishing the washrooms. Johann Strauss promised to donate again.


Chris, didn’t you go to Lincoln Center?


Millado: Kennedy Center, last year.


That’s for arts management? So what was your learning from your stint?


Millado: I was there every summer, for four weeks, for the last three years. I was mentored by their president, Michael Kaiser, who’s known as the “fundraising king.” He has practically turned around the Center for the Arts, which used to be in the red, into something that has been very viable and now considered among the most successful models for government-run institutions.


What I’ve learned is the idea of creating that whole family that would support the institution in the long term—a family of supporters who actually renew cash gifts every year. Where government subsidy used to be higher, now it’s private money running the whole center.


And Kaiser did it gradually through the years by nurturing this whole group of wealthy, well-placed philanthropists who would renew their gifts every year.


Are you doing the same thing for CCP?


Millado: Yes, slowly. We started the membership campaign about a year and a half ago. It started with 30 members paying P5,000 each. Now we have a group of about 120 or 130, and contribution is nearly P1 million a year.


You have to keep on pushing that, because these people actually upgrade their membership every year because they like being with you. They want to be part of the center, and they’re the ones who actually recruit for you. It takes years, it won’t happen overnight.


At some point there’d be a tipping point, a critical mass na biglang ayun na, marami na siya—but it will take years.


Unlike in the States, we don’t really have strong philanthropy here, but amazingly we do have people who want to help. Case in point is Johann Strauss and the likes of Nedy Tantoco.


How do you take into account increasing competition, like Resorts World and all the other venues?


Millado: We think it’s good. One of our limitations is that we’ve run out of venues. There’s a lot of people who want to book the CCP but we can’t. One year before, or a year and a half before, fully booked na ’yong Center. So we actually need, we welcome these other venues.


If there is interest in the arts in any other place, it also generates interest in the arts at CCP. One thing we always look out for, of course, is the mark of excellence—that anything that goes up at the CCP should deliver in an excellent way.


How’s your visual arts department?


Millado: Our visual arts is interestingly very strong this year because of Boots (Herrera, the department’s curator). Her focus is showcasing our collection. The CCP has an amazing collection, which has just been in storage for years.


How are you storing these works?


Millado: There’s a special place for it downstairs, which used to leak but now it’s been repaired and so it’s safe, 24 hours naka-aircon. So it’s in pretty good condition, that whole storage. In fact, I went around the different museums and looked at their storage. We’re pretty much better off than what they have.


Would you say the Christ controversy (Mideo Cruz’s 2011 media installation “Poleteismo”) in a way did you good?


Millado: Yes. (Laughs) Of course, Raul won’t believe me.


Sunico: No, it was good for whatever it was. It was good in a sense that people knew there was a CCP that was existing. People went to the CCP out of curiosity, and then, hopefully, when they went there, they discovered that there was something good in the CCP, not only the exhibit.


What’s new with CCP lately?


Millado: Iyong nasunog ’yong Film Center—that was news.


What is it exactly now?


Millado: It’s rented out to Amazing Philippine Theater, which is a transvestite show. It’s Filipino.


Sunico: But its clientele is mostly Korean tourists.


Parang Club Mwah?


Millado: It’s not campy, though. They take it seriously. Club Mwah is campy.


Iyong Folk Arts Theater, parang it’s not been heard from, or used. That one daw is condemned.


Millado: Hindi condemned. It’s just that, remember, Folk Arts used to have this stature of being the concert venue, when Manila Bay was still breezy and had nice air. It was really built for that, without air-conditioning, to allow the breeze. Big concerts, international concerts were held there. Now it’s too stuffy in there.


CCP president Raul Sunico



Millado: Nag-iba na ’yong ihip ng hangin, at saka ’yong atmosphere. So now we have a long-term lease for it to this music ministry, which interestingly uses arts and culture as its ministry.


Okay lang sa kanila na walang air-con?


Millado: Kasi it’s used for worship and services. Penance.


What group is this?


Millado: Kaloob. And they have one of the best folkloric ensembles. They’re very good. Their head is so culture-oriented. He sits on different boards on arts and culture. If not for them, none would have wanted to lease Folk Arts.


Why don’t you give it to Smart or Globe, like Smart Araneta?


Millado: They already made a study. It’s going to be very expensive just to install air-conditioning. It will be less expensive to put up a new one. Ganoon kalaki.


Do you have the means to continually renovate the CCP, or at least fix whatever is leaking?


Sunico: We have a complex development plan. It’s about 60 hectares around CCP, owned by CCP. Under this, hopefully, joint venture with whoever is the winning bidder. Anyway, Folk Arts is supposed to be demolished in favor of another edifice.


The first thing people talk about, we hear, is the CCP’s carpet. What can we do about the carpet?


Sunico: We had a prospective donor, but he backed out because of the cost.


How much would it cost?


Sunico: Nag-canvass kami. More or less P5 million.


Five million lang, no takers?


Sunico: No takers.


Is CCP in social media?


Millado: Yes, very much so in the past three years. We established our website, which I think is quite updated. We actually have four websites now, the CCP website, the Cinemalaya website. We have the My CCP, which is the digitized content of CCP. Our library is going to launch its website, its collection and content going online and then automated, so you can check what’s in the library from outside. You can read some eBooks. The biggest push is in 2015, when we’re going to launch the updated version of the Encyclopedia of Philippine Arts. This time it’s going to be a digital, online version.


Do you have a budget for it? How much will it cost?


Millado: It will cost P45 million.


Where did you get that?


Millado: We don’t have it yet. We’ve been getting it per year. We’re already strategizing this year. I was able to corner this year just the right amount to get the research going. So next year I will have to look for P12 million from private sponsors.


So P45 million plus P5 million for the carpet—right there you already need P50 million.


Millado: But P45 million is nothing if you look at it as a legacy for the whole nation.


You staged a competition years ago for the improvement or development of the complex.


Millado: That was a conceptual plan. It’s for architecture majors and architecture schools and architectural firms. Basically we’ve come up with architectural models for the whole complex. There was a winner. We will consider that, the moment we have a developer who comes in. We need money to build the buildings.


Any plans to market CCP shows abroad to draw in tourists coming to the Philippines?


Millado: Right now wala kasi kaming budget. It’s really expensive.


Sunico: Like the jazz festival that just finished, that was international in scope. Hopefully, that would put the Philippines in the mainstream of jazz events, because there’s a lot of international jazz festivals. To attract a little attention, we hold festivals like the jazz or something and make it known there is a regularity.


Millado: And we’re closely working with the organizer of the Edinburgh Fringe and he chose Manila. He moved around Asia and he said Manila was the right place to hold the Fringe festival. So that would mean talaga an explosion of content, an explosion of venues for Manila in terms of arts festivals. We’re working closely with DOT on its plans for Apec all the way to 2015. We’re also preparing a slew of content for the new Baywalk. Bubungkalin ’yong buong Baywalk next year, papalitan ’yan. Meron nang mga open spaces for events and so on.




Millado: That whole stretch from CCP all the way to Anda Circle.


Who is in charge of the Apec preparations where Manila and culture are concerned?


Millado: It’s between CCP and DOT.


For your 45th celebration, have you gotten the Manila mayor to help?


Millado: Not directly, but through Carlos (Celdran), who’s his tourism officer, I guess. Carlos is a resident of Manila and he has plenty of ideas for Manila, which jive with what we want to do. Even before, Carlos has worked with the CCP as a performer doing his tours, so naturally we’re now synchronizing our efforts.


If young people were to go to CCP, what would you say they should see first?


Millado: Right now I would tell them to see this [shows catalogue of exhibit of National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal]. The moment young people step in, they come out of the exhibit really enthused. Not only because of Badong but also the way this exhibit is presented. The scale models, the costumes, the lighting—it’s a very well-put-together exhibit. We’re taking this on tour next year, national tour.


Sunico: The set designs in miniature, maganda siya. Iyong mga ganitong exhibit, wala namang age group.


Ballet Philippines is doing a good job of marketing itself, because when I watch their shows, puro bata ang nanunuod. Nakakagulat na karamihan bata nanunuod ng ballet. They must be doing something right.


Millado: They had a strategy with “Rock Supremo,” ’di ba? The bands.


In the case of the PPO (Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra), it seems it appeals to a wider demographic. Now it’s like OPM (Original Pilipino Music); they’ll be playing Filipino classics. I think next year, part of their season would be movie themes.


Has the PPO ever considered bringing in animé music for a concert?


Millado: There’s one being scheduled for next year. There’s going to be a cosplay (costume play) concert with the PPO. We’re talking to the cosplay organizers and they’re going to play music from animé.


Can we look forward to a bigger lineup for the jazz fest next year?


Sunico: We’ll hold it every two years. We can have a bigger lineup, why not?


Millado: Next year we’re going to have an orchestra festival. It will feature Western orchestra, marching bands, symphonic bands, in one week-long festival. Big festivals like this we do biennial so we can plan.


Do you have recordings of CCP shows in your archives?


Millado: Since it opened. We have audio and video recordings.


Do you have plans of releasing them?


Millado: We are digitizing it right now. But, remember, these videos are archival videos. They were not really meant for broadcast. Some of them would only have one cam na naka-ganon, so it was just meant for documenting the performance. So you would have inferior sound once in a while, inferior camera angles.


How about audio?


Millado: We have everything. That’s one of the best resources you can have at CCP.


So the Ray Charles and BB King concerts were recorded?


Millado: Everything that went on at the CCP was recorded.


Is there a possibility they can be released, let’s say, on YouTube?


Millado: It already is. If you go to My CCP, it’s there. There are a few already up there. The idea is to digitize everything that needs to be digitized, because this will form the repository and the resource for the online version of the encyclopedia.


What’s your wish, if you have only one wish?


Sunico: Carpet. (Laughter) Loko lang.


Millado: I have only one simple wish, which is for the head of this country, the President, to say, “Support the arts.” I won’t even ask na for money. What we need is really a champion for the arts. That’s what US President Obama did. That’s what the presidents in Europe do.


How about you [to Sunico], what would you ask the President?


Sunico: Yes, ganoon din, to be more sympathetic to the arts. Whenever we present our budget, it’s not that we are asking representatives or senators for something; they’re the ones who ask for allocation, especially some of these congressmen from the regions. They want to know what is in it for their regions. Limitado na nga ’yong aming budget. And then, sometimes they threaten not to approve unless we have something for them. Kami naman kasi, when we budget, we don’t budget by regions; we budget on a national scale. So we have go back to the drawing board—sige, let’s make sure na meron ’yong region.


Millado: In fairness, they did increase. Next year they will be giving money for Cinemalaya in recognition of its contribution to the national treasury. The national government is supporting it.


Has Imelda Marcos helped CCP, resources-wise, since ’86?


Sunico: She’s not allowed to. She has already told me she wants to, but when the legal cases are finished. Technically she’s not supposed to fund something because, ’di ba, under sequestration, mga cases.


In Singapore, malls carry fliers and brochures of shows at the Esplanade. Have you explored that here? Can you ask malls to put a stand or something of CCP shows?


Millado: We haven’t done that yet. We should.


’Di ba dapat DOT gumagawa niyan? And in hotels.


Millado: We give DOT our calendar of activities, but we have a limited number of fliers. We only produce 5,000. Can you imagine visitors coming to the airport? Maglagay ka doon, after three to four days ubos na. We no longer have the money to replenish. We also put them in hotels, but after two weeks they’re gone.


Aside from the foreign productions, what’s the most saleable CCP productions to foreigners?


Millado: Ballet and dance because they are nonverbal. You don’t have to know the language. The dance, usually, for expats. That’s where you find most of them, and that’s where you find most expat subscriptions. One thing pala, ang taas-taas ng reputation ng CCP sa Asean. Even Singapore, bow.


Sunico: The people of the Esplanade envy CCP. They say they can only go upward, because they no longer have a piece of land other than the Esplanade, whereas CCP has so many hectares around it. Iyon na nga, we cannot develop. (Laughs) Sila, upward na lang ang expansion.


But the CCP still looks majestic. It doesn’t look like a techno giant.


Millado: So many people say that, even my friends.


Sunico: Timeless. Ang ganda-ganda!



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