A creative Christmas

VIRTUAL REALITY - Tony Lopez - The Philippine Star

The First Lady, Liza Araneta Marcos, personally invited me and my family and group to a Dec. 10, 2023 dinner and ballet presentation at the Mabini Grounds of Malacañang. “You’ll enjoy the performance,” she texted, to follow up her invitation. “Promise.”

LAM later vibered the program from Alice Reyes Dance Philippines and the delectable menu from Florabel – pritchon, squid ball, palabok, chicken empanada, pork BBQ, pandesal with ham and kesong puti, puto bumbong and bibingka, dalandan juice and hot chocolate.

True to LAM’s promise, the “Puso ng Pasko” palace presentation was the best Christmas program I have ever watched. The dance sequences were fast-paced, robust and thrilling, executed to perfection, in synch with the lilting melodies of Pilipino Christmas carols.

Truly, the Philippines has a rich and deep artistic and creative heritage. The Filipino was born to dance, sing, jump and enjoy. LAM has taken upon herself the herculean task of promoting the Filipino creative industries.

Sunday’s ballet presentation in Malacañang was also the first “day of freedom” for President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., after five days of isolation following a bout of nasty COVID.

“What a wonderful way to start my life back into the normal world away from isolation, with this ‘Puso sa Pasko’ celebration that we are having tonight,” he gushed.

“Our Christmas,” the President exulted in Pilipino, as he peeled off his mask, “is unique, wherever you go. I have experienced Christmas in various places (countries), it is no match to our celebration.”

“As a friend of mine has once said, ‘Filipinos celebrate Christmas like we invented it.’ And I think he was right,” Bongbong Marcos smiled.

Promoting the Philippine creative industries is one of the anchor programs of President Marcos Jr., along with achieving upper middle class status for the Filipino, sustainability and digitalization to achieve inclusion.

BBM wants to bring the Filipino culture to the international market because culture “is the way we define ourselves.”For that, “the government is a genuine and reliable partner,” Marcos Jr. assures.

In the post-pandemic era, the President has noted, the use of new technologies could bring greater opportunities to local talents and make them more attractive to the international market.

A formidable ecosystem, the Philippine creatives are a P53-billion industry and employ seven million.

In his first SONA last July 25, 2022, Marcos Jr. sought support for the Philippine creative industries, noting “they give soul and identity to our being Filipino.”

BBM declared: “To foster the Filipino brand is to spark our sense of pride and reaffirm our strong sense of identity. It is time to welcome the rest of the world with an enhanced Filipino brand that is unique, attractive and creative. The creativity of the Filipino is truly world-class. We excel in arts and culture, new media, live events – avenues which generate primary and downstream jobs for our creative and talented countrymen.”

BBM laments that “the creative industry faces many challenges, including workplace conditions, working hours, intellectual property rights and the welfare of our beloved freelancers who were left vulnerable during the height of the pandemic.”

Republic Act 11904 or the Philippine Creative Industries Development Act seeks to make the Philippines the No. 1 creative economy in ASEAN by 2030.

RA 11904 mandates the promotion and development of Philippine creative industries by protecting and strengthening the rights and capacities of creative firms, artists, artisans, creators, workers, indigenous cultural communities, content providers and other stakeholders in the creative industries.

Under RA 11904, the creative industries include “trades involving persons, whether natural or juridical, that produce cultural, artistic and innovative goods and services originating in human creativity, skill and talent, and having a potential to create wealth and livelihood through the generation and utilization of intellectual property.”

The Dec. 10 Palace show was billed as “Puso ng Pasko” (The Heart of Christmas), with National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes as artistic consultant and mentor; National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, for musical arrangements, and Ronelson Yadao, as director.

Choreography was a team effort of Ronelson Yadao, Erl Sorilla, Lester Reguindink John Ababon, Al Abraham, Dan Dayo and Bonnie Guerrero; libretto by Ronelson Yadao and Eljay Castro Deldoc. Carlitos Siguion-Reyna was film director and story consultant. Ricardo Eric Cruz did production design while lighting design was executed by Barbara Tan-Tiongco.

Stage, TV and film actor and singer-dancer Audie Gemora top-billed, along with Trisha Lim. The show was under auspices of Bagong Pilipinas, the Office of the President and the Alice Reyes Dance Philippines.

The same epic collaboration of Alice Reyes and Ryan Cayabyab in this first full-length, all-Filipino Christmas ballet was shown at the Metropolitan Theater on Dec. 1 and 2, this year. The Christmas ballet premiered at the CCP in 2022 to rave reviews, as a Filipino Nutcracker.

“Puso ng Pasko” is about Lolo Val (Gemora), living abroad in New Jersey. He regales his young granddaughter Angelita with the magical Christmases of his youth in Tres Reyes, with his barkada.

The heart-warming scenes showcased Simbang Gabi, eating bibingka and puto bumbong, plazas decorated with big parols and colorful Christmas decorations. The acts recall the different Philippine fiestas, including Belenisimo of Tarlac, Pahiyas of Lucban, Higantes of Rizal, Sayaw sa Bangko of Pangasinan and the Pandang Gitab of Oriental Mindoro, as well scenes of traditions such as the Rigodon de Honor.

The Palace version of “Puso ng Pasko” had 14 dance sequences – Pasko na Naman, Noche Buena, Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon, Kampana ng Simbahan, Heto na Naman Ang Pasko, Mano Po Ninong, Mano Po Ninang, Maligayang Pasko, Sa Paskong Darating, Tuloy Pa Rin ang Pasko, Anong Gagawin mo Ngayong Pasko, Kumukutikutitap, Isang Taong Lumipas, Payapang Daigdig and the finale, Noche Buena.

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