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Arts4Earth: The agony and the ecstasy

Photographed by Carl Llanto for FilCASPro.com

The recent “Arts4Earth” program for the ecological safeguard elsewhere not necessarily of Lucban, Quezon where it was but piloted recently was far from perfect. It was an exercise in good intention, though.

A promise of unity and commitment among town leaders and officers and the residents for the preservation of human ecology in Lucban, Quezon during the Arts4Earth opening at the Plaza Marcos Tigla    

Helmed by both the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Lucban and controversial Fil-Briton filmmaker Jowee Morel, the project was commendable despite hitches here and there.

 Waiting for the historic opening of Arts4Earth Day at the Plaza Marcos Tigla of Lucban, Quezon recently

From an insider’s point-of-view, “Arts4Earth” was carefully planned by Jowee and his cohorts from its conception to its birth. It was a meticulous preparation that entailed some misreading along the way. Initially, the whole project was excitable to the actors involved. From the community leaders to the non-government organization practitioners, it was a good source of inspiration and leadership.

Everyone’s ready from all sectors of society in the Lucban, Quezon community to open the Arts4Earth program for the love and care of the environment

There was a series of meetings to farm out respective duties and responsibilities to the core groups and to weed out the excesses and thorny edges of the implementation. Morel even sent his girl Friday to proxy for him for urgent meetings because he was so busy with a lot of video productions and social media contents that would prop up the event. Aside from them, he would still shoot for the documentary film “The Mystical Land: Lucban, The Story” in Lucban, where else, which gave rise to this spinoff material of environment care because of seeming pollution in the town. During the course of the shoot, Jowee had noticed that the once pristine and utilitarian waters in the waterways are already blemished and the emission of fresh air of Mount Banahaw which guards the community has diminished its coolness. What gives now?

This is the day when every resident of Lucban, Quezon rush to the Plaza Marcos Tigla of the town to commemorate and celebrate the life of nature in order for men to survive which is the essence of Arts4Earth

He even sought the support of his friends and fellow believers in the cause from abroad like Carmen Legarda and her husband Gene Alcantara from the United Kingdom. Carmen and Gene would donate a number of t-shirts for the active community leaders of the program. The filmmaker would even design the artwork of the event for tarp printing and other collaterals.

T-shirts for Arts4Earth week in Lucban donated by Gene Alcantara and  Carmen Legarda of www.alcantaraconsultancy.net

 Aremohan, an art exhibit organized by celebrated artist and writer Gemma Suguitan at one corner of Plaza Marcos Tigla in Lucban, Quezon as one of the components of the Arts4Earth where the artist and other visiting painters and installation artists display their works made from recycled materials

Meanwhile, one point woman of the game, Mary Ann P. Javen, the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer or MENRO was also adamant in the pursuit of the advocacy she herself is the main actor. In her steadfastness, she mobilized all the possible participants in the grassroots, particularly the barangay members and officers, one of them Joel Abcede, the head of the Environment Committee in the local sphere and other committed people on the ground. Javen, in her own drive would convene the interested parties to propel and prop up pliable activities and arrangements like organizing a parade of individuals or groups sympathetic to the cause and to accentuate the objectives of the gig, contributing recycled materials like used big plastic water containers cut and designed as trash bins and organic gardens, culling and collating relevant speakers for the event etc.

A pledge of unity and aggressiveness among government workers to enhance the spirit of concerns for the environment in Lucban, Quezon

Another active leader, Margarita Babiera Deveza, also known as Shiela Deveza, Chairwoman of the Sangguniang Bayan or the town council’s Committee on Human Ecology was making both ends meet to achieve a successful launch of “Arts4Earth” which was her baptism of fire as a sitting councilwoman.As if it was a triumvirate among Morel, Javen and Deveza to march on the project.

A throng of Lucban, Quezon environmentalists to fight for their rights to preserve the surroundings

In one of the meetings with the three-pronged cornerstones, it was suggested that there would be press coverage, the transportation and accommodation of which would be shouldered by the LGU. Jowee even asked me if we could invite Asin or just the former lady soloist of the group, Lolita Carbon to sing their iconic environmental ditty, “Kapaligiran” to which I said I’d try. He even wishfully thought of inviting ABS-CBN’s “TV Patrol” to cover the event.

Incidentally, Henz Samaniego, a folk singer called me one morning to request a publicity of him in his concert I quickly invited him to sing his environmental song “Bantay Kalikasan,” a fitting composition to the event. Henz could sing for free we only write about him. He even tagged along one more performer, rapper Nowe Mahiwaga whose music was also tailor made for the event, ”Liwanag” and “Araw-Araw.” Wise move in lieu of Lolita or Asin. 

They aren’t only wearing a symbolic color of vegetation but they are also into green revolution circa 2019 in consonance with the Arts4Earth project of controversial Fil-Briton filmmaker Jowee Morel

An art exhibit to  pull off the mix of arts and environment, thus “Arts4Earth,” was also planned to be participated in by Gemma Suguitan-San Juan because the materials being used by the artist was and still is recycled pieces of wood all gathered from a junkyard around Gemma’s place in Pasig City. When delegated to Suguitan-San Jose, of course, she would want a collective show of artists like local painters from Lucban and some visiting artisans from other places, Gem being a member of Lopenze Artists, a group of artistes from Lopez, Quezon. Later on, she would invite Bea Carnaje, a young award-winning Veterinary Medicine student artist from UP Los Baños. As it turned out, her mom flew all the way from their native Iloilo City just to see her daughter’s entry to the show.

Something amiss happened on our way to the show, though, when in one meeting Javen declared that there would be budget no more on accommodation and transport from the LGU on press visit. But she said she and her ilk would move heaven and earth to make up for it as media coverage was important. Lucban products, just the same, as giveaways would be given to the press. At this point, Shiela said she would speak to her supporters for transportation for journalists and performers.

Media people Art Tapalla, Danny Vibas, Dave Rojo, Roland Lerum, Wil Provinio and I were good enough replacements for Mario Dumaual. On September 22, 2019, we were picked up by a government van from Cubao.

What about the artists?

According to Mary Ann, she would try to arrange possible food donors and accommodation for the artists’ weeklong stay in the town. In case of Gemma, she packed up her paintings and squeezed them in and herself in the van with the media people.

Firemen, police authorities, civilians and many more public and private participants on the march to a better world for natural resources in Lucban, Quezon for Arts4Earth project

The night before the event, it were exciting preps for Gem as she was assisted, supported and surrounded by Jowee, Shiela, Mary Ann, Art, Wil, Danny, Roland, Dave and Delsie Marca Sabas, one of the volunteers to the event in placing the art works on the panels and tables for display. Gemma was so excited and terribly inspired, ecstatic even to say the least, about her pet project.

Because the beds in the boarding house owned by the Devezas in Miramonte Subdivision were limited to six people only Rojo, Tapalla, Lerum and Vibas checked in in Du’n Ai Hotel and Restaurant in the suburb in front of Kamay ni Hesus while Provinio, Samaniego, Mahiwaga and his partner Jing and I occupied the boarding house. “Thank God! My prayer was heard. We only had six beds available,” said Shiela as I informed her some members of the press would billet in a hotel.     

On the opening day, September 23, 2019, they all came from Mayor Oli Dator to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources reps Engr. Gilbert C. Gonzales, Regional Executive Director, Region IV-A at OIC, Assistant Secretary for Field Operations—Southern Luzon for concurrent capacity, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Alfredo C. Palencia, Kagawad Joel Abcede and CENRO Ramil L. Limyiada. Their usual speeches of the love for the environment were awaiting actions not only from them but the listeners as well.

The artists had no accommodation and wasn’t fed except on the first day in a joint lunch at Patio Rizal for the Lucban Artists Guild president Efren Nantes and members Pepot Atienza, Maria Lourdes Bandilla Abulencia, Thea Mujares and Angelo Villa later went their respective homes while Gem went back to Pasig to fulfill her other commitments in Manila the following days. Meanwhile, Carnaje went back to UPLB.

Another pledge of loyalty to Mother Earth as exemplified by from left, Department of Environment and Natural Resources reps Engr. Gilbert C. Gonzales, Regional Executive Director, Region IV-A at OIC, Assistant Secretary for Field Operations—Southern Luzon for concurrent capacity; CENRO Ramil L. Limyiada (partly hidden); Barangay Kagawad and leader of the earth warriors Joel Abcede (on the podium); Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Alfredo C. Palencia; Lucban Mayor Oli Dator; Councilor Margarita Babiera Deveza, also known as Shiela Deveza, Chairwoman of the Sangguniang Bayan or the town council’s Committee on Human Ecology and Mary Ann Javen, MENRO

The musical numbers were all inspiring like Lucille Balais-Javier singing her version of Kuh Ledesma and Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera’s “Noong Unang Panahon,” Samaniego singing his signature composition “Bantay Kalikasan” and Mahiwaga rapping “Liwanag” and “Araw-Araw,” the latter being danced away amazingly by the student dancers of Carlo Ellaga.

Fil-Am environmentalist Julie Cox from San Antonio, Quezon graced the occasion as she also donated narra seedlings to the event.

After five days of celebration, though, the art exhibit was collapsed to to give way to a medical mission. The seminars were pursued by the participants in limited time. Gem had to personally bring back her art pieces hundreds of them to Pasig City.

Meanwhile, the van the press people rode would be used by the councilors for a convention of the Philippine Councilors League (PCL) in Villa Escudero so we waited for almost three hours for an available vehicle going back to Manila, this time a Tamaraw jeep with an aircon, no less.

“Arts4Earth” was a memorable experience.



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