It is about time for talents from the regions to shine and rock the world. This was the outlook and contention of Davao-based artist Daryl De Leon Descallar when we met with local artists during the 2017 Panagbenga flower festival of Baguio City. Davao City is a highly urbanized city of Mindanao Island and the largest city in the Philippines in terms of land area and the most populous city in the country outside of Metro Manila and Luzon.
Daryl belongs to the Tabula Rasa art group of Davao who became known for his oil portrait of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte that now hangs at the Museum of the Malacanang palace in the old city of Manila.
A fellow alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas College of Architecture and Fine Arts, Daryl also believes that there is much to show to the world about the beauty of rural Philippines and stories of its people. Accordingly, developing the Mindanao art scene cannot be achieved by the locals alone hence the idea of an artist’s collaboration came about as the Mindanaoans may have heard of Baguio’s dynamic art events in the 90s. We agreed that in order to drumbeat the event, we have to initiate an art exchange program with Cordillera and Davao artists collaborating in a join summer activities considering that Baguio and Davao are sister cities under the Philippine International Sisterhood and Twinning Association.
Our memorable journey to Mindanao started days before our plane taxied the runway of the Davao airport. It was a most anticipated event considering that many of our group have not been to places beyond Luzon Island. The delegation of Baguio artists who arrived in three batches were greeted by Daryl De Leon Descallar, one of the five lead convener of the artists exchange in Mindanao.
Our group composed of myself, Maricar Docyogen, Carl Taawan, JJ Landingin, Jherwin Libatique, Tor Sagud, Gerald Magic Asbucan, Alma Evita Maniago, Racquel Diokno, Florenda Pedro, Alexander Pastrana Musni with his father Jesus, Lito Mallagay, Abigail Matib, Oliver Abuan, Marlou Naoy and Angelo Docyogen were practically accommodated and dined in all the five day encounter.
Alex Pastrana Musni’s presence in our activities who despite his handicap of having no arms and legs was also a great accomplishment of our group being his first time to leave home, travel on a plane and exhibit two of his paintings. The last time that I was in Mindanao was twenty years ago in 1997 when I joined the Cordillera delegates in an observation tour on the governance of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao when Nur Misuari was the Regional Governor.
The Cordillera-Mindanao Art Exchange is one of the highlights of the Visit Davao Fun Sale summer activities that highlight culture and the varied arts. The opening program of the art exhibit at the SM Ecoland Atrium was the biggest of the summer activities as it is where we rocked the place with the resounding rhythm of Cordillera gongs and solibao. After the exchange of tokens and collaborative painting of the Cordillera lizard and Sarimanok symbolizing cultural unity with Mindanaoan cultural group, we performed various dances representing the upland provinces of luzon.
It was truly a well-attended gathering and I heard a heightened applause when I did the courtship dance mimicking a wild fowl. Maricar and I also did the Bontoc Boogie and it was the last time that I really swayed my hip like a duck.
Our performances were followed by the upbeat beating of Kulintangs and Agungs and the Mindanaoan dancer in their traditional attire did the bamboo dance which I guess was the precursor of the Tinikling Dance which Filipinos are also known for.
Florenda who is more known as Dumay Solingay recited a poem and performed an interpretative dance on women sexuality. Carl who is a native of Benguet province narrated the rice culture of the upland people of the mountain provinces mentioning some peculiar customary practices of the indigenous people of the Cordillera. We joined the local artists of Davao for a collaborative art event at the Davao People’s Park and we were also met by filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik’s youngest son Kabunian De Guia who said he is now based in nearby Samal Island with his wife Malaya and children. We also visited the art exhibit tagged as Merging Currents which showcases local artistry at the Matina Town Square.
We were also privileged to have met Dr. Jonathan Bayogan during our show with FB friends and others from Baguio and Cordillera during our performance. Manong Jon is the 3rd Davao del Norte State College President and Officer-in- Charge of the Southern Mindanao Agriculture Resources. He also graciously served as our driver when we had dinner at my Cousin Valentin Pioaoan’s place near the airport. As Daryl mentioned during our initial briefing, their group’s name “Tabula rasa” is derived from a theory that at birth, human’s mind is likened to a “blank slate” without any information whatsoever. I then followed and injected the idea that our encounter might be having a Eureka Effect which is to expect the unexpected.
During our four-day art encounter in the big town of President Rodrigo Duterte, we were also treated to a unique tourism program that promotes the food and beverage enterprises of the city’s Kilometer Zero. The proponents blends cocktail with various fruits and wines and we had a chance tasting their rum-chili, rum-santol and other concoctions. We were paired or joined by the city’s bloggers and beverage connoisseurs as we hopped from one bar to another. What makes the event really interesting is the night tour where we were ushered to heritage sites and old houses built during the American occupation-period.
True enough, our Cordillera Mindanao Art Exchange opened a lot of possibilities such as the revival of the once vibrant art and culture interactions among Filipino artists in Baguio to include other art disciplines like theater, dance, music, visual arts, cinema, literature and even architecture.
The Tabula Rasa group composed basically of three couples namely Dinky and Queenie Munda, Brando and Cecile Cedeño and Daryl and Ging Descallar has created a stir in the creative community of Mindanao.