Artists’ gathering breeds new ideas
LAGUNA, Philippines—A group of beatniks gathered around one man in one corner as he passionately plucked and talked about his “kubing” (indigenous bamboo harp). Near them was a small crowd of photography enthusiasts listening intently to the wisdom of American freelance photographer Peter Carney.
Characters from “Ang Pambihirang Sumbrero,” a children’s story, were brought to life by community volunteer Rey Bufi of the group called The Storytelling Project. And who would not heed the powerful message on feminism from the UPLB-based group Magpies through their performance art?
Though the three-day “Wisik” evolved on a weekend and amid unforgiving weather, the area in front of the Student Union building at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) in Laguna was a beehive of activities flowing in a synergy of talents and ideas.
Wisik, which stands for “wika” (language), “sining” (arts), “kabundukang” Makiling (Mt. Makiling), is an independently organized arts festival. It was held in 2012 and 2013 as a one-day artists’ market that mainly showcased photographs and paintings on sale.
“As always, (Wisik) provides a space, the venue, where artists could come and hang out and as a collective, think creatively and breed new ideas,” said Precious Leaño, art curator and cultural worker.
Leaño, along with painter Marvin Oloris, put up the event’s third edition on Sept. 12-14, which was different from past stagings.
Poet Marne Kilates talked about “the intersection of poetic text and visual art,” and called it the “arts, wellness and everything festival.”
Works of prose were read and verses were sung at the foot of the majestic Makiling, while laughter yoga and “agnihotra” sessions were held for free as the sun set.
Stalls were set up to sell trinkets, books, arts and crafts, and organic food and products. One booth offered vegetarian meals and asked in return whatever price the person thought his food was worth.
During the community potluck, volunteers brought home-cooked meals for sharing with everyone, even with members of a football team practicing in the field.
Photographer Alex Baluyut, Leaño’s partner, also invited his team of volunteer cooks to the Wisik. Last year, Baluyut mounted the Art Relief Mobile Kitchen, a movement that cooked and prepared hot meals for survivors of Typhoon “Yolanda” in Tacloban City.
“In Wisik, we remember to take that once-a-year pilgrimage to honor the mountain, the visible and the invisible, and art in all its expressions,” Leaño said.
As an activity organized independently from academic institutions, Wisik provides a “training ground for the kind of students that we want to produce,” said Toto de la Cruz, a humanities instructor at UPLB.
De la Cruz said he invited his whole class to the festival but without promising academic points in return. The organizers placed the number of artists, volunteers and participants at 400.
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