Year 1898. The revolution had reached the Visayas. There were clashes between the forces of Gen. Aniceto Lacson and Spanish troops in northern Negros province. In the south, Gen. Juan Araneta and his followers began the march from Bago town to Bacolod City, there to await the Spanish army.
They left behind in Bago cannons ready to take on the enemy. Unbeknownst to the Spaniards, these were fake, made of makeshift materials, hard bamboo slats, dark like coal, with bladed weapons to make them look authentic. Through their binoculars, the Spanish officers saw these and, getting cold feet, they surrendered to Araneta “without firing a shot,” as local historians put it.
Thus, Bago (now a city) in Negros Occidental, became an important footnote in Philippine history. And thus was born the “Republic of Negros,” which lived until the fatal month of February 1899, with the outbreak of the Philippine-American War.
Fittingly, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), headed by National Artist Virgilio S. Almario, has launched the Arts Month of February in Bago, with city Mayor Nicholas Yulo and representatives of partner agencies in attendance.
There were workshops, booths on traditional arts, exhibits of Visayan artists, performances on the spoken word, a confrontation in 21st-century Tagalog between “Gregoria de Jesus” and “Josephine Bracken,” poetry and dance (“Sayaw Pinoy”). These festivities will be replicated on a national scale during the monthlong “Ani ng Sining (Harvest of the Arts).”
A press conference at the historic Balay ni Tan Juan Museum, the ancestral home of Araneta, gave national and local media a preview of events until March 1.
NCCA arts commissioner Teddy Co, a film researcher, said the Cinema Rehiyon Film Festival has moved out of Manila, grown bigger through the years, and will now be held in Dumaguete City on Feb. 23-March 1.
Actress Dessa Quesada, committee head of NCCA’s dramatic arts, said “we want to focus on how theater is taught in the schools, we should preserve and develop further theater in the communities.”
Juliet Mallari of literary arts said the committee will discuss food writing in Pampanga (San Fernando City, Feb. 25-27) and will include conversations with National Artist for Literature Resil B. Mojares of Cebu, not necessarily on writing about food.
Composer Lucien Letaba, another Philippine Educational Theater Association alumnus, said the committee on music will promote Cordillera music in the north and T’Boli music in the south. There is also the traditional courtship dance in the Visayas, which can now be a dance between two persons “regardless of gender.”
Social realist Edgar Fernandez said the visual arts fest (Manila, Feb. 11-14) “is a gathering of artists from regional clusters, will share trends and involve Visayan and Mindanao artists.” He added, “we will teach the kids how to create new works.” —CONTRIBUTED
For details call NCCA Public Affairs at 5272192 loc. 208.