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Young Star

More rights and benefits for our artists. It’s time they be treated not as second-class citizens of our country, but as first-class citizens with honor, digni

CHASING TOFF - Christopher De Venecia - The Philippine Star

I’m turning 30 this year, and leading up to the big 3-0, I was tasked to list down 30 things I would like to see in my lifetime. That’s a tall order. It’s not that I don’t dream; it’s that, given the uncertainties we live in, it’s become standard practice to think only of the immediate present, or at most think ahead five to six years. So allow me to instead list down 30 things I’d like to see in the next five to six years, assuming I’m still alive and kicking at the end of it.

1. Arts and culture having greater representation in the conduct of our economic affairs. It’s possible to have our creative industries join our country’s top exports as a driver of economic growth. Imagine if we could pay for our nation’s debt with talent! Damn.

2. That we rid ourselves of the notion that our country can be the “Broadway of Asia.” I admit, this idea appealed to me in the past, if only to signify the robustness of the performing arts sector. But it would mean only offering iterations of already existing theatrical fare, as opposed to becoming originators of our own. It’s time to look within first before we look without.

3. More support from the private sector of the arts and creative industries. Don’t get me wrong: arts do get support, somehow. But it’s always coming from a position of weakness rather than strength. The prevalence of the “we need you” mindset over “you also need us.” This needs to stop.

4. More rights and benefits for our artists. It’s time they be treated not as second-class citizens of our country, but as first-class citizens with honor, dignity and material sovereignty.

5. A more discerning audience and system of arts criticism that would help artists elevate their respective crafts. I think peer-to-peer and critic’s reviews are necessary to keep artists in check, not to mention feedback mechanisms from the audience. There is no such thing as perfect art. Its strength lies in the fact that it isn’t made but is constantly in the making.
6. More inclusive cultural representation, not just showcasing our imperialistic North, but also the diversity of our cultural practices and traditions across the archipelago. I personally would like to see more shows and exhibits from other regions in our venues, and vice versa. And of course, sound cultural exchange.

7. More of the Philippines and its storied provinces. I realize it’s only recently that domestic travel became “cool” among millennial travelers (thanks to cheaper airfare, the proliferation of travel blogging, or our social media feeds exploding with friends’ OOTDs by the beach). But it seems even cooler these days to discover Navajo-like living quarters in a far-flung community, get tattooed by Whang-Od, or learn the art of weaving, than say, use your selfie stick by the usual international tourist trap.

8. A live taping of Saturday Night Live. And locally, Banana Split. I kid you not. It was only recently that I became super obsessed with live comedy shows. In fact, it’s become my new opium, and nightly regimen before dozing off. Good vibes = good lives.

9. For the X-Men to be reintegrated back into Marvel comic book continuity. Ever since the rise of these so-called Inhumans, the children of the Atom have taken a backseat. Of course, it has nothing to do with creatives but everything to do with business. Fox retained its ownership of the property’s movie license, much to the anguish of the now-unstoppable Marvel studios. So they’re playing hardball. Think of the fans, for Thor’s sake. Medusa is nowhere near as awesome as Psylocke or Jean Grey.

10. Africa. #TimeToSaveUp.

11. Hamilton. If you’re not familiar with this groundbreaking musical, then you’ve been living under a rock. It’s a show that has changed the business landscape of Broadway. The producers had no choice but to hike up premium ticket prices to a little above $800 a piece just to combat black market prices that go up to $3,000. Regular-priced $60-$150 tickets are possibly sold out for the next few years. Your best option? In-person lottery. Hopefully Atlantis gets to stage it here.

12. A Costume Institute permanently housed within the Met Museum or the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Time to institutionalize and celebrate one of our creative industry’s strongest suites. On that note, congrats Ben Chan and Bench on making it to New York Fashion Week!

13. More funding for arts agencies like the NCCA to be able to provide technical and financial assistance to producers, artists, as well as LGUs. Seriously, enough with the same ol’ festivals, pageants, and battles of the bands. There’s more to cultural programming than what our neighbors are already doing.

14. More Filipino classics, adapted and performed onstage. I mean, imports and local productions of foreign material are well and good. But I’d like to see how our 21st century sensibilities can revitalize age-old classics. Nick Joaquin meets EDM? Site-specific Jose Rizal in an abandoned warehouse? Not related, but Little Mermaid set in Mindanao? The possibilities are endless.

15. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival — only because it’s the biggest and most progressive arts festival in the world.

16. No Filter 3! Hopefully, the third and final chapter in this monologue series will be the be-all, end-all discussion on millennial culture. It’s time to shift the conversation to Generation Z.

17. More well-crafted niche magazines like TEAM. Imagine if you had that same publishing verve for the performing arts, agriculture, or even something as obscure as types of celery, but shot by the likes of BJ Pascual and penned by superstars like Erwin Romulo or Raymond Ang. The industry would be so dynamic. Of course, ad support from private corporations.

18. More mSMEs propagated by young entrepreneurs to diversify and elevate the dynamism of our current industries. We have to be able to leverage the creative pedigree of our young entrepreneurs so they can challenge age-old practices and systems put in place by their forebears. No offense.

19. The emergence of Agri-Cool, in which the agri sector is not only given top priority by government in terms of funding for infrastructure, credit, programs and capacity for farmers to engage in agribusiness, but youths in general develop an appreciation for it. It’s alarming that the average age of our farmers is 50 and above. Imagine if we had organic-music festivals, or spoken word events led by Juan Miguel Severo on the farm, or even forest film showings accompanied by a live orchestra.

20. That more leaders be as open, progressive, forward-thinking and dynamic as Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Who knows? Maybe our president can lead next year’s Pride!

21. The German theater scene. I hear it’s quite impressive.

22. More efficient and diversified means of public transport. Seriously, the traffic situation in Manila has gotten so bad. An estimated P6 billion worth of economic losses and productivity has been projected by 2030. Come effin’ on.

23. All lives matter. In which gender, class or race shouldn’t even be issues anymore because society has evolved to accept that we are all equal. Equal means access. Equal means acceptance. Equality means freedom from hunger, poverty, and the pursuit of possibility.

24. High-speed Internet. Please lang.

25. That government start leveraging our creative industries, the same way that South Korea is able to with the proliferation of hallyu or Korean pop culture. Imagine if you could use celebrity or influencer culture in shaping the mindsets of the next generation. James Reid’s character in a teleserye speaking out against drugs. Getting AlDub to do a movie whose premise is hinged on organic farming. Kris Aquino and Darla as tour guides for the archipelago, commentaries in tow. #Possibilities.

26. Diversified programming on local television. Isn’t it uncanny how our shows here seem to follow a certain template or format? You can almost tell the endgame from the onset of the plotline. Let’s not even talk about premise and the never-ending “something-serye.” Networks should start owning up to their influence and stop kowtowing to the needs of the Peanut Gallery. It’s time to think outside of the box. 

27. More investments in R&D across all sectors. We need to be able to set the trend, and not just follow it. Also, think of new solutions to age-old problems.

28. More spaces and fora for youths to discuss certain issues and be educated about the society they live in. I’m not talking about conferences that reek of formalistic, old-person idiosyncrasy in young-person clothing. Rather, something more dynamic, street, accessible to your everyday millennial.

29. More public spaces for communities to gather, form and strengthen; spaces governed by the principles of sustainability, modern architecture and good design. Think the High Line.

30. Strengthened liberal arts programming in higher educational institutions. Students should be taught how to think creatively and passionately, not just technically and methodically. That’s probably the best solution to our country’s problems.

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