Artists usually are not practical or business-minded. They don’t invest their money—most of the time they don’t have much money anyway—or have health or any kind of insurance,” says actor Fernando “Nanding” Josef, artistic director of Tanghalang Pilipino.
Josef is referring not just to theater artists, but also painters, sculptors, television and film actors, voice talents, production and backstage staff, dancers, composers, playwrights, choreographers, costume and fashion designers, photographers. Basically, people working in creative fields who are “self-employed” or “freelancers.”
Fortunately, there are now growing options for them on availing certain government-issued benefits and other safeguards against emergencies. There are also groups they can join that can assist them with these kinds of needs.
Luigi Nacario, artistic director of Kids Act Philippines, had an epiphany when a fellow actor was hospitalized. His friend had no Social Security System nor Philhealth benefits and was left with a large bill to pay off.
Nacario founded Life Basics Personal Solutions Company to “assist professionals who don’t have time to personally apply for or update contributions for their income tax returns, Social Security Services, Philhealth (government health insurance), Pag-Ibig (home financing program, officially known as the Home Development Mutual Fund), and Community Tax Certificate (more commonly known as cedula).”
His company does all the tedious legwork of transacting the five basic government duties for a P300 monthly fee.
“You’d spend the same amount, maybe more, for transportation and other expenses like photocopying certain documents if you had to do it all by yourself.”
Life Basics accepts all kinds of clients including non-theater professionals. “OFWs, full-time bloggers, anyone can avail of our services.”
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Aside from being actors, Buddy Caramat, a senior member of Philippine Educational Theater Association, and Abner Delina, a freelance actor for stage and TV, have both been advocating “financial planning” to their fellow artists. Both are financial advisers of Manulife, a company that offers insurance, pre-need plans, pension plans.
Delina got into insurance when he wanted to use his free days (“While waiting for shows or tapings.”) productively. “But more than just an additional source of income for me, I realized I could now educate people on financial planning. In the arts, like in a risky theater actor’s life, our protection is limited, if not having nothing at all.
“I strongly encourage artists to get insured, from whatever insurance agency they feel most comfortable with,” adds Caramat. “One thing unique about what we do in Manulife is that we analyze first people’s priorities or needs and we come up with solutions and present them accordingly, whether they need a financial vehicle for education, health, retirement, investment and fund accumulation, estate planning, income protection, or all of the above.”
Both are not exclusive to theater clients. “But my primary goal is to help fellow actors secure a financial plan either for health, retirement or investment or even for the education of their child,” says Delina.
The Artists’ Welfare Project Inc. (AWPI) is an organization that provides financial, legal, and medical and hospitalization benefits to Filipino artists (theater or otherwise) who may be disabled or incapacitated by reason of age or physical or mental infirmity.
“Beyond meeting emergency needs, AWPI also hopes to assist artists achieve security in terms of having a place to live, providing education for their children, and having funds for their retirement,” says Josef, AWPI founder and president.
“We must support and help our artists, especially during their times of need.” Founded in 2006, the group is working towards becoming a foundation. “We can then apply for tax-exempt status so that donors can contribute tax-free.”
The group has had fundraising activities in the past few years. It plans, in collaboration with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, to host a national conference on artists’ welfare in summer of 2012.
The Outreach Division of the Cultural Center of the Philippines is assisting in coordinating with regional groups to put up AWPI branches nationwide.
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Newly formed Philippine Theater Actors Guild (TAG) is specifically for actors. Founder and president Kalila Aguilos, freelance theater actress and costume designer, had been developing the group for the past few months and finally convened the group’s first First General Assembly and election of officers in early October.
“TAG is an association that protects and upholds the rights of professional theater actors,” she says. “We want to work towards getting artist-protection written into law.”
“Among other goals, we aim to provide our members protection of their basic rights on artistic engagements both locally and abroad, and assisting with basic needs like legal obligations provided by the Philippine government such as health, security and taxes.”
Filipino artists have only much to gain by grouping together and helping one another. Aguilos is already in touch with Nacario on how his company can assist TAG, while Josef is in discussions with Aguilos on how AWPI and TAG can possibly work together on “the same goals and objectives for the Filipino artists.”
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