Hundreds of artists and performers participated in the recent 6th Tam-awan International Arts Festival in Baguio City, touted to be the biggest so far since it started in 2010.
This year’s event, themed “Global Cordillera: Heroes, Legends and Treasures,” was held on May 6-10, and attended by delegations from all over the country as well as from Singapore, South Korea and Israel.
“We tapped the whole art groups of the Philippines from Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, with representation of the cultural dancers of every [invited] province,” said Chit Asignacion, festival director and vice president of Chanum Foundation Inc.
Because of the event, Asignacion said significant exchange of cultures happened between the Northern ethnic groups like the Ibaloy and Kankanaey with other enthnolinguistic groups of the country like the Tausug of Sulu.
It was the first time Jolo artists attended the event, he said, adding that these artists were orphans of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front members and Abu Sayyaf.
Some 2,000 artists from the various artforms joined the five-day festival, which was part of the National Heritage Month celebration of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
Traditional games, cultural performances, Cordilleran rituals from local and international artists marked the event, organized by the Chanum Foundation.
The festival, said the organizers, “aims to empower artists as well as communities highlighting the arts, culture, and heritage as well as the capacity of artists to contribute to society and reach people with their art.”
Jordan Mang-osan, Chanum Foundation president, said the festival celebrated Cordillera culture.
“Through Tam-awan International Arts Festival, we preserve our unique traditions and culture,” he explained.
Mang-osan said that through the festival traditional games and stories now being neglected were presented to the younger generations.
The Ayala Museum mounted an exhibition on the José Rizal-invented board game Rueda de la Fortuna and its traditional-doll collection at the Tam-awan Village gallery.
Fr. Harold Rentoria, OSA, head of the NCCA Subcommission on Cultural Heritage said the Tam-awan International Arts Festival was one of the biggest events of the Taoid heritage program.
“Of course, we have other activities in other parts of the Philippines, but this seems to be a big festival that we always celebrate every month of May,” the Augustinian friar said.
Rentoria added that Tamawan “is also a best venue for us to discuss issues, concerns that affect artists, cultural workers, and the protection of the cultural heritage of the country.”
The NCCA official clarified that what was being celebrated by Tam-awan “is not only the past but also the fruits of the present.”
“The festival is a time and a venue for us to be thankful for what we have in the past, and we encourage more young people to participate and come up with new works based on traditions and practices of their communities,” he said.
Joyce Toh, senior curator of the Singapore Arts Museum, said “it’s an important event because these events bring together artists, cultural practitioners, as well as new audiences to kind of know what are the living traditions in the Philippines, specifically in the Cordillera.”
She also stressed the importance of this kind of events, which is more on presenting the intangible side of heritage.
“Unless you actually practice the ritual, it’s quite fragile. It can be forgotten in one generation and then it can disappear,” she said.
Steve Hant of the Korean Association in Baguio said he was excited to be part of the event.
By participating in the festival, Hant added, Koreans conduct crosscultural exchange with the peoples of the Cordillera.