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June 7, 2012

CCP Outreach Project - Healing the Victims & Survivors of Calamities

HEALING THE SENDONG VICTIMS THRU ART  
by Raul Esquillo Asis 
 
To the residents of Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and Dumaguete, it was an unforgettable experience on that fateful night when they lost properties, family members, relatives, friends, neighbors, classmates, teachers or anyone they grew up with and known all their lives due to the huge waves, heavy tree trunks, metal roofs and other sharp stuff, not to mention extensive landslides brought about by a strong typhoon that submerged homes, villages, subdivisions, and caused extensive damage to agriculture and infrastructure few days before Christmas in 2011.


Even for rescue and relief volunteers, a tinge of sadness and trauma was evident in their words as they chronicled those moments finding or saving the trapped and severely injured victims, in order to cope with the grave situation that tropical depression Sendong unleashed in the said localities. Various forms of assistance from public and private organizations were provided in the aftermath of the tragedy in order to address the needs of the Sendong victims. But for the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the best possible way to uplift the spirits and assuage the emotional pain and inner fears of the men, women and children was through artistic means. CCP soon came up with a special undertaking billed as Kalinga Ng Sining.  

An art for healing and transformation program meant for the benefit of the survivors in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Negros Oriental, Kalinga Ng Sining was spearheaded by the CCP’s Cultural Exchange Department, and was held from March 6-11, 2012 in Mindanao and March 13-17, 2012 in Dumaguete. It succeeded in bringing out smiles and creativity of the people, thanks to the workshops conducted by Edna Vida-Froilan (dance), Lakan Bunyi (theater), Dr. Grace Evangelista (Clinical Psychologist), Peachy Gonzales-Fernando (A specialist in Clinical Psychology) and Rheeza Hernandez (puni or leaf art maker from Bulacan).
 
This writer witnessed some of the many activities such as the arts psychotherapy talk conducted by Peachy Gonzales-Fernando. Her lecture bordered on helping the disaster victims cope with their trauma, giving them interesting on-the-spot art projects to work on like drawing, creating installation artworks, both individually and in groups. “Art clarifies what we feel,” Peachy told the participants. She likewise advised them to do art everyday whenever they feel like it.  
In the dance workshop facilitated by Edna Vida-Froilan, it was a thrill to watch the participants, among them, students, university professors, rescue volunteers undergo various movements, using dance as a way of self-expression, conveying their thoughts and feelings, exploring their respective personal issues artistically, further building their confidence through their own improvisations.

Edna gave a lively and inspiring talk, inviting nearly all the participants to speak out their thoughts, encouraging them to utilize their creativity to its fullest potential. The participants were given exercises on living body part (using the hand in various ways) and axial forms (moving along the axis), tapping the mind for improvisation, creating images with the body, movement potential with another body and the like.
“I give kudos to the CCP Outreach staff headed by Chinggay Bernardo for organizing such a wonderful venture and to the provincial staff for their efforts in making the workshops and performances a huge success,” she avers. “I have worked with Ms. Bernardo several times and cannot help but admire her professionalism and efficiency. I know she was understaffed and therefore admire her even more.” Mr. Lakan Bunyi, meanwhile, provided the theater component, engaging the participants with acting exercises and role-playing activities. 

“I believe this project was a testament to a cultural innateness of the use of arts for healing and of bayanihan,” according to Dr. Grace Evangelista, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and one of the facilitators. “I hope that CCP outreach office will continue this mission not only as a response to calamities but in building a nation through psychosocial transformations programs in the various communities of the country. Mabuhay ang Kalinga ng Sining!” 

For Dr. Alma Maranda, Chair of the Psychology Department of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, she was pleased with the outcome of the project. “The three-day affair resulted also to the formation of desiring companionship and camaraderie from other organizations and affected communities into a circle of support,” she said. “The event was very successful. Many were able to express their emotions through the different sessions. Many were also thankful that the CCP conducted this kind of activity.” 

A “memorial” ritual-ceremony was held on the other half of the Mandulog Bridge in Iligan to pay respect to those who perished from the calamity and offer prayers of hope and unity for the survivors. Having seen the said bridge, which was one of the structures damaged by the typhoon Sendong, it was unimaginable to witness how it suffered extreme damage, a force so intense that the storm virtually obliterated the bridge’s middle portion.
“The Memorial Ceremony was so solemn that impressed the local residents, barangay officials, MSU IIT officials and constituents,” says Omar B. Bataluna of MSU-IIT in Iligan. “For them, the ceremony was so meaningful. It was amazing since they could hardly believe that CCP would visit them and offer healing thru Art.”
Ms. Edna Vida-Froilan likewise shared the same sentiments. “The memorial ceremonies were awesome,” she recalls. “I congratulate Waway Saway, Bayang Barrios, Garry Lim, the choral groups and dancers for their chilling performances. They gave unforgettable memorial ceremonies in both cities. I was very much touched by the Program for Kids. Seeing the staff distribute gifts to 1,000 underprivileged children was incredible and awe-inspiring. I thank CCP for this extraordinary experience and hope they continue to help heal more victims and survivors of calamities.” 

More than 2,500 children/youth from the barangays that were affected in Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and Dumaguete also participated in a special arts program where interactive performances in dance, music, theater, storytelling, games and the like were rendered by Manila based artists/groups such as Garry Lim, Bayang Barrios, Lakan Bunyi, and Novo Concertante. The local performing groups and artists who participated were Waway Saway (from the Talaandig community in Bukidnon), Cagayan de Oro City’s Xavier University Dance Troupe, Capitol University Dance Troupe, Liceo de Cagayan Next Move, Capitol University & Xavier University Glee Club; Iligan City’s Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG) & Octava Choir from MSU-IIT and TINTA Artists of Iligan and a team of Babaylan from Lapuyan-Zamboanga del Sur and in Dumaguete, and local artists led by the Youth Advocates through Theater Arts (YATTA), among other troupes. 

Hobart Savior, Director of the Xavier Center for Culture & Arts in Cagayan de Oro City was thankful for this opportunity as well. “The Xavier University, Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA), Liceo de Cagayan University, Capitol University, Bently Corporation, The Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and Brgy Lumbia are very grateful to the Cultural Center of the Philippines – Cultural Exchange Department for this generous social leadership and action extended to the thousands of children and young individuals of Cagayan de Oro who reside in Xavier Ecoville – one of the tent cities provided for the survivors of Sendong,” he said. “Kalinga ng Sining did not only make the survivors forget their woes about their tremendous experience, but it also gave them the chance to experience and to appreciate art and its lifelong effects to better their lives.” 

Dessa Quesada-Palm, Artistic Director of Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts in Dumaguete City looks forward to see more of Kalinga ng Sining in the future. “The two areas served (Barangay Candau-ay and Ocoy Sibulan) have expressed hope that this is not a one-time program, and that somehow it could be sustained,” she quips. “Meantime, any upgrading of skills and competence will be most helpful as local artists and cultural workers equip themselves to be better service providers to our communities. All the partners and beneficiary communities highly commend and deeply thank CCP for this initiative, and hope that other modalities of partnership can be explored.”

Kalinga ng Sining was presented by the CCP Cultural Exchange Department in partnership with the Xavier University Cagayan de Oro City Center for Culture & the Arts, Capitol University & Liceo de Cagayan University; Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) Iligan City Cultural Development Office & the College of Arts & Sciences, Integrated Performing Arts Guild, in Dumaguete City - YATTA, Siliman University Cultural Affairs Committee & Guidance-Testing Division, Association of Barangay Captains, Provincial Govt. of Negros Oriental. Other program donors included Toys R Us, Anvil Publishing, Adarna Books, Eat Bulaga-TAPE Productions, Dona Maria Premium Rice, Bently Corporation and CCP employees from the Office of the President-Office of the Vice President-Financial Services Department.

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