Building a Creative City

Angono's Higantes

Going to Angono seems like a long way, especially when one is driving a jalopy with a sticky clutch. But I was eager to listen to the talks in the international conference organized by the Neo-Angono Artists Collective titled, “A Multi-Lateral Country Conference and Feasibility Workshop on Public Art as a Step Towards a Creative City Development”, so soldier on, I did.

The terms ‘creative industries’, ‘creative communities’, ‘creative cities’ have become common buzz words for the arts and culture sector. It’s become like a mantra of sorts which we all would like to say over and over again so it will come true like The Secret, but in actuality, is still as elusive as ever, especially here in Manila, and on a truer scale, the Philippines.

It makes one wonder why the Philippines cannot elevate its creative industries to its potential when Filipinos are not lacking creativity.

From the British Council’s program: “The Creative Industries are those that have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and that have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploration of intellectual property.” (The Creative Industries Mapping Document, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, UK,1998.)

That bit does not necessarily read creatively, doesn’t it? What it does convey though, is the impact of the arts, the community and culture, in society-building. It puts culture, education and creativity topmost, then followed by economy; not the other way around.

The Neo-Angono brought together an impressive line-up of speakers. Local arts and culture experts Dr. Alice Guillermo, poet and art critic Vim Nadera, National Artist for Literature Bien Lumbera, poet Roberto Añonuevo (who delivered his talk in Filipino), poet/ musician Jess Santiago, art curator Patrick Flores, Atty. Nick Pichay, and artist Nemiranda set up the Philippine contexts on which the foreign presentors Iani Arahmaiani (Jogjakarta, Indonesia), Thanavi Chotpradit (Thailand), Kaori Okado and Prof. Masayuki Sasaki (Japan) built up on through their respective countries’ experiences. Foreign delegates from Japan, Burma and Malaysia interacted with their Filipino counterparts making the discussions dynamic.

Situating the conference in Angono is fitting because of the municipality’s inherent creativity as seen through its lively visual and performing arts scenes. It boasts of having 2 national artists – Carlos Botong Francisco (visual arts) and Lucio San Pedro (music) – and the Angono Petroglyphs, evidence of a place with a deep tradition of creativity and community spirit, as well as pride in their art. One of the members of the Neo-Angono group was also recently invited to take part in the Jenesys Program for Urban Community Development inspired by Creative Cities.

This conference could easily be an inspiring springboard for inquiring minds. Hopefully the students of Rizal listening in on the discussions will mull over the ideas that have been set in front of them and do their part in building their creative city. When Bobby Añonuevo spoke in Filipino, he expressly addressed the Angono university students.

With the past activities on Creative Industries and Communities, it would have been nice to also listen to the initiatives on this subject from the British Council, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and delegates from other creative communities like Bohol and Cebu. Instilling the seed of innovation in the minds of the young is important, but so is synchronized action as can be done by these agencies and practicing cultural innovators.

Now that would make for lively talk.

One can’t help but feel hopeful being around the Angono group and the foreign delegates. They are, after all, proof that the artists and cultural workers of today are engaged and committed to contributing to their communities. They talk about it and then they make it happen through their work and their art. It is hard work, and like the road to Angono, it can be a long way, but as they can attest, it can be done.

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