It took an architect from the other side of the world to envision what could have been done. Unfortunately, we ourselves never managed to make it happen. We ignorantly revised and, eventually, ignored the original concept. We made sewers of our rivers and canals, and a giant garbage dump of our beautiful Manila Bay. The Majestic Manila that could have been was lost to the waters.
After more than a century, it is lost still. The pristine rivers and streams are paved and gone. The invisible drainage and sewage system that replaced them is a disaster. When heavy rainfall hits Metro Manila, everything stops. Flood overtakes life. Our major thoroughfares are clogged and our central business districts are at a standstill. When the citizens of Metro Manila should be working and generating profit for our national economy, they are too busy trying to save themselves or what is left of their possessions. How can an element like water, which was so vital to our ancestors by the rivers, now pose such a danger to our current urban ecosystem? No matter how great our buildings may be, when these invisible drainage and sewage networks are problematic, the entire urban fabric is problematic.
The first order for a livable Metro Manila is to properly design our drainage and sewage systems and segregate them from our water networks.
Lantawan 2014 is out. Check out my article, "New Direction in Philippine Architecture" in the magazine.Introduction below.
"Our bahay kubos in wooden stilts are distant cousins of Asian huts; our old churches in brick and stone are grandsons of European cathedrals; and now our modern buildings in steel and glass are but the ugly brothers of the US skyscrapers. This genetic fate is rooted in the inherent interconnection of architecture evolution. But the connection is a one-way road, for the story has always been about foreign architecture inspiring local architecture - never the other way around. In fact, we always seem to be so eager to copy celebrated buildings around the world, instead of challenging ourselves to raise our standards and forge a trail in new directions. As a result, whatever new trends we have in Philippine architecture are, in reality, dying fads on the other side of the world. It is, thus, difficult to tackle the subject of “new” or of innovation when the history that we have is hardly backing up with evidence."
The Legacy of Locsin
Excerpt from my article for Lantawan magazine:
Small gestures and humble forms, no matter how intricate in detail, and even if multiplied tenfold, would always be dwarfed by any one giant undertaking. A hundred small parishes, therefore, could never equal a colossal temple like the Parthenon. Locsin was yet to make grand gestures and bold forms after his accomplishment with the Diliman chapel. While some of his contemporaries and even the architects that came before him, like Juan Nakpil and Pablo Antonio, have searched their inspiration from foreign education, Locsin decided to stay home. In a twist of fate, however, the US government awarded him with a leader grant which allowed him to tour the US and visit outstanding examples of modern architecture. He then began buying architecture books. A review of his library would tell the quality of ideas which he read and that later molded him and his architecture. After more than a decade since the Diliman chapel, the grand gestures and bold forms eventually manifested themselves. The Church of St. Andrew, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the Ayala Tower One, the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), and the Cultural Center of the Philippines National Theater (Tanghalang Pambasa), among others, were colossal structures that changed the course of Philippine architecture: from the religious to the civic to the commercial, Locsin has defined Philippine Monumental Modernism.
NCCA finally made an official comment on its art ambassadors selection. Unfortunately, it is grossly unsatisfying. NCCA is suppose to be the embodiment of artistic creativity in this country. In fact, one of its mandates is “to ensure that standards of excellence are pursued in programs and activities.” In the art ambassadors selection, this is clearly not met.
Outside of politics, ambassadors refer to representatives of particular professions or fields of endeavor. They are the embodiment of that profession or endeavor’s full essence. One notable ambassador in the country is Rafael “Paeng” Nepumuceno who is considered as the “Greatest International Bowler of All Time.” Presently, he is named by the United States Bowling Congress as its International Bowling Ambassador and promotes bowling around the world. Another notable sports figure is Efren “Bata” Reyes, who is “indisputably the best [billiard] player in the world”. He was appointed in 2005 as Philippine Sports Ambassador for that year’s South East Asian Games. Sports people get it right. NCCA should.
Media promotion by the Department of Tourism using great artists.
We have great artists like Ben Cab, Ryan Cayabyab, Brillante Mendoza, Leah Salonga, etc. Our culture and these great artists are not properly represented by the showbiz personalities appointed as art ambassadors. I am not saying that these personalities are not good in what they do. That is a different argument. Ogie Alcasid has a lot of OPM classics under his name and it might have been fitting if he was music ambassador. Yet he was placed under culture for some weird reason. Now Sarah is a good singer but she doesn’t have any acclaimed original compositions. And artistic creation is a significant factor in the arts. People say Jericho is a good actor. Shamcey is a beauty queen and a friend since architecture school. Venus is also a beauty queen. The rest are simply famous personalities. At the end of the day, the main reason these people were chosen is their huge fan base and not how they represent the art sector which they are the ambassadors of.
The Philippine Arts Festival secretariat said on Facebook:
"The ambassadors were chosen for their ability to encourage/attract people particularly the youth and the masses who are not aware of various art forms or are not into the arts, to participate in the activities related to said art forms. They are chosen to promote, in a manner of speaking, because people especially the masses are familiar with them.”
This statement was verified by NCCA’s public affairs head, Rene Napeñas, who said in an interview that the ambassadors were chosen because they can reach a wider audience.
“We have our artistic teams in the commission which decide the ambassadors… basically to profile or highlight our various celebrations… We didn’t use artsy people to represent or be our ambassadors. We wanted some media magnet for this because they normally get attention. They are expected to advocate and stir everyone’s interest in our culture and the arts scene with many fun-filled, exciting, and educational activities particularly in the coming month-long Philippine Arts Festival in February 2014”
In the same Yahoo article, it was stated that Boy and Dingdong apparently have been art ambassadors since 2009. What happened for the past four years? I searched the internet and saw this video from the NCCA Official youtube channel itself, showing Boy, Piolo, and Dingdong promoting Philippine Arts Festival 2012. It received 1,130 views with 3 Likes and 3 Shares as of this writing (talk about fan base).
So how were the artistic teams being creative with the decision? If the problem is fans, then create a stunning marketing campaign that features the best of Philippine arts and that people will go crazy about and share in their social media circles. Like how “It’s more fun in the Philippines” campaign creatively highlights our natural treasures and effortlessly encourages people to create and share their own images.
There are other more creative alternatives. The video below, for example, shows how Banco Sabadell employed Vallès Symphony Orchestra, the Lieder, Amics de l’Òpera and Coral Belles Arts choirs to surprise the public by playing in the plaza. Now that is literally reaching out to the masses and an astounding 12 million+ views without resorting to showbiz gimmicks.
Another video below shows how Boysen marketed their innovative KNOxOUT paint along EDSA through wall art. Note that this is the world’s biggest air-purifying artwork.
As I’ve said, NCCA should be the embodiment of this country’s creativity. It is just fitting that this is reflected in the marketing of Philippine Arts Festival. Promotion of the arts by resorting to celebrities simply because they have a huge fan base is not creative enough.
What is more alarming is how Philippine Arts Festival secretariat asked their Facebook followers for suggestions on who should be the ambassadors. In the barrage of negative comments, this is one of their replies:
"…The Philippine Arts Festival is for the people and we, the PAF Secretariat, will make sure that your suggestions and reactions will be heard by the committees. Also, we’d appreciate your suggestions on who should be the next ambassadors. Kindly put your suggestions by clicking on the "reply" button to this entry. Thank you!"
And all I can say further is this:
"…you shouldn’t ask from just anyone here on who will be the next ambassadors as you have done so above. You have great artists in your network like some who I mentioned. You have contacts with universities, museums, and various cultural organizations. You have people in your board of commissioners who have doctorate degrees in the arts. These are the people who are most qualified to nominate who best fit to become NCCA Ambassadors."
To everyone who asked me about this: DICTUM is an exploration of the intersection between graphic design and Philippine architecture criticism. It takes the recognizable format of the magazine cover as the medium for provocative questions and statements on contemporary architecture practice in the country. In some cases, the cover reflects current issues on local practice, but in most cases, they reflect my own questions and observations.
All issues (so far) do not have any articles with it. Although someday soon it could.