Starweek Magazine

Arts In The Name Of Water

- Michele T. Logarta -

A vast blue ocean, a babbling brook, a teeming pond, a bubbling spring, a flowing river, a limpid pool, a sparkling lake, a rushing stream – what would our Earth be without these bodies of water?

Earth has been called the Blue Planet and the Water Planet because water makes up 70 percent of it, most of which is unavailable for human consumption, being either frozen or saline. But without water, the human race would not exist. Yet humans do not accord water the same value it does other elements like gold and oil.  

In this age of global warming, water plays an increasingly important role in the survival of our planet. Issues such as water conservation and pollution come to the fore as we face the prospect of a dry and arid future of dwindling water resources. The usual cry “Tubig!” of the Filipino confronted with a dry tap could, in the very direst of futures, become a collective wail across the land.

To help in the advocacy for the protection and conservation of water, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), in cooperation with the Haribon Foundation, Winner Foundation, the Singapore Embassy and GMA-7, is making water the central theme of its Earth Day celebration on April 22, Tuesday. Agos:  Earth Day 2008 bears the national theme Tubig – Buhay Natin, Ating Pagyamanin.  

“Earth Day is an advocacy to create greater awareness about climate change and the need to protect the environment,” CCP president Nestor Jardin says.  “This year, we want to get the message out to Filipinos that we need to conserve water and prevent water pollution. The CCP is not the Napocor, Nawasa or the Meralco.  The best way we can help is to utilize our competency, which is the arts, to promote the advocacy for the environment. CCP cannot ignore this responsibility as an organization. Arts as an advocacy tool is a potent medium for anything, whether it is for social transformation or environmental advocacy.”

Last year, CCP Earth Day was crowned by the visually stunning and sprawling art installation by Junyee. The CCP Front Lawn was transformed into a graveyard of tree stumps – a powerful statement against deforestation. This year, CCP makes its stand for the environment on the waters of Manila Bay and its fountain lagoon which will both serve as stages for performances and other activities.

To kick off CCP Earth Day, the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation will hold a regatta on the waterfront of the CCP Liwasang Ulalim, which is beside the Folk Arts Theater. A flotilla of dragon boats will create an exciting spectacle on the Bay in Laot, to call attention to the state of Manila Bay, a cultural icon and geographical landmark that has been demeaned by garbage and toxic waste. Laot, says CCP Performing Arts Department head Chris Millado, who is directing the regatta show, is a Tagalog term for going out to sea. “That’s why we say magpapalaot. This event will give people a glimpse of the future, of Manila Bay as a place where you can boat, row, swim, play in and even fish.”  It is a vision, Millado explains, that is brought to us by the sinewy paddlers of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation who, in persisting to row in these dirty waters, keep the faith in Manila Bay.  

“We will also be doing a ritual on water inspired by the  T’bolis, where we will be bringing offerings from the Earth and going into the water, to signify the meeting of Earth spirit and Water spirit. Laot tells us that Manila Bay is a living bay. It reminds us of our connection to it.”

To complement the regatta, a clean-up of the Manila Bay surrounding the CCP Complex will be conducted in cooperation with the Department of Tourism, Philippine Dragon Boat Federation, Manila Yacht Club, Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, DENR, Manila City Government, Pasay City Government, the Singapore Embassy and some Singapore multinational companies. A clean-up on land of the CCP Complex grounds will likewise be undertaken by employees of the CCP and neighboring stakeholders.

CCP Earth Day 2008 will be highlighted by the launching of the CCP’s new waste water management program. This new program, which complements the CCP’s existing solid waste management program, aims to recycle and reuse water, reduce water usage and cut down water costs. CCP Administrative Services Department manager Teresa Rances says that the waste water plan will be implemented as the CCP proceeds with the Complex Development Plan. “As we build new buildings, we shall be installing new systems for water management. We can reduce our water use to 50 percent but it will require capital expenditure, a one-time investment. The plan for the CCP waste water program should run from 5 to 10 years.”

The CCP waste water management plan will be launched during the Patubig Water Management Forum.  The Forum will also be the venue for the Singapore government to tell Filipinos about their successes in water management and showcase Singapore’s best practices in water management through a video screening and powerpoint presentation. Singapore is hosting the first Singapore International Water week on June 23-27, intended to be “a global platform for water solutions that brings together policy makers, industry leaders, experts, practitioners to address challenges, showcase technologies, discover opportunities, and celebrate achievements in the water world.”                                                                                                                 

To end the Earth Day celebration, a showcase entitled Buhos: Philippine Traditional Water Rituals will take place in the CCP Fountain and Lagoon. Timed at sunset, Buhos is inspired by the water rituals of the Tagbanuas of Palawan wherein the babaylan or the high priestess pours water over offerings representing the bounty of nature. A bamboo installation replicating the irrigation system of the rice terraces will be built by an indigenous craftsman for the event. Water will course through this bamboo installation from which people in the audience may draw water to bring to their water shrines. A light and sound spectacle on the CCP’s façade will cap the show.

Millado describes Buhos as a community ritual. “It is primarily a thanksgiving…after a whole day of calling attention to wastefulness, we give thanks for what has been given to us. It’s going to be a spontaneous thing with people dancing, drumming, putting up exhibits and doing their own rituals.”   

Other activities slated for Agos:  Earth Day 2008 are: a one-man show of paintings with environmental themes on handwoven mats entitled Under a Woven Canopy by Jomike Tejido organized by Haribon Foundation; a photo contest and exhibition entitled Aninaw:  Water for Life; and screening of films on the environment from the Moonrise Festival, the only environmental film festival in the Philippines. All events are open to the public, free of charge.

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