Starweek Magazine

Margie dreams of a home for the arts

Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star
Margie dreams of a home for the arts

The universe that Margarita Moran-Floirendo moves around in now is very different and much smaller than the universe she inherited in 1973 when she won the Miss Universe crown at the historic pageant held in Athens, Greece.

But Margie, still the same 5’ 6” head turner who – until today – is best known for winning the Philippines’ second Miss Universe crown 46 years ago, is very much at home in her universe now, doing what she loves best, surrounded by arts of all forms and genres and making a difference in elevating Filipinos’ consciousness when it comes to the arts.

Margie is now the chairperson of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the country’s premier institution for culture and the arts. Before that, she was president of Ballet Philippines, the CCP’s resident dance company, for nine years. 

In January 2018, President Duterte appointed Margie as a member of the CCP Board of Trustees and she was elected chair during the board meeting held in April. She is not a figurehead chair who only shows up for concert galas or once a month for board meetings. CCP staff will readily tell you that Margie is very much a hands-on chair, almost a daily fixture at the third floor executive offices. It is a role that fits Margie well. 

One busy Wednesday afternoon, in between meetings, Margie opens the doors of her office in CCP to STARweek to talk about her new role and her plans as CCP’s chair or, as I said in jest, “CCP’s queen mother.”

There are two major plans and she hopes to accomplish everything before the end of the Duterte administration in 2022. 

Building a home

Remember her Miss Universe question in 1973? 

“If you had $1 million what would you do with it?” 

Margie replied from the heart: “I would buy a big house where I can live with all the people I love.”

Her answer still resonates 46 years later with what she wants to do with the CCP. 

The first task is to redevelop the whole CCP complex – all 60 hectares of what could be the most coveted piece of real estate in the metropolis.  

Margie wants to tap private sector partners to develop portions of the CCP complex and unlock the value of the land. The whole point is to raise funds for the advancement of arts and culture in the Philippines.

“We are now in the process of finalizing our guidelines for proponents who want to come in. This area that we want to develop is going to be a cultural center. We will have a theater, an artists’ center and the funds that we will generate from the development of the area should fund the artistic programs of the CCP,” she says.

She reveals the CCP is not solely dependent on government for money and raises roughly 60 percent of its needs on its own. 

Areas eyed for development are the sprawling parking lots behind the CCP, the empty lot behind the Philippine International Convention Center and the lot in front of the World Trade Center. 

“We need to have partners because we do not have the expertise to develop but it has to be something that is advantageous to the government. We are now finishing the guidelines and then we will present them to prospective partners,” she said, adding that there are people who are interested that have already approached the CCP informally. 

“We really want to make it a center for the arts. We are open to the big conglomerates also,” she noted. 

Tired grandmother

The second project is to rehabilitate the main CCP building. 

“It’s 50 years old. It’s like a beautiful but tired grandmother,” Margie says in jest. “We have to upgrade it to be able to match the iconic theaters all over the world. You have for example the Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, the National Theater of China. We have to be on that level to really be at par with the world’s best.”

This point cannot be over emphasized.

“Can you imagine this is our only national theater? We actually have 980 shows a year within the CCP and more outside the CCP.  It is an important center and we want to make it state of the art,” Margie says.

Funding for this will also come from the private sector, and she will head the effort to raise the money needed for this. 

“We need to raise P1 billion, of which P600 million will go to just civil works. We need to be compliant with building standards. We are in the process of retooling our entrance because it was affected by the last earthquake. Even the building itself, we just had an audit so we have to fix the leaks,” she explains.

The remaining P400 million would be used to refurbish the interior. 

“We need to upgrade the lighting system and the flooring of the stage. We’ve upgraded some rooms in the backstage. If you notice we’ve lightened the colors to a lighter varnish,” she shares.

Passion for the Arts

Margie is not an interior designer but she knows her art and design well. She has previously managed several private companies, including the Pearl Farm resort in Davao. 

She finished her Business Administration Degree at Maryknoll and Boston University and took her masters at the University of London. 

Her passion and experience as a dancer started at the age of 18 and she has been promoting arts and culture with the Southern Philippines Foundation for the Arts, Culture and Ecology for many years.

Aside from the physical aspect of redesigning and redeveloping the CCP, Margie says the focus is on advancing art and audience appreciation.

“People really appreciate art. People from all walks of life, they appreciate art, music, etc. So we want to bring art to the people. The local governments work with us. We want to see more of that happening,” she says.

For example, the CCP has a program which digitally connects 10 schools.

“We have talks and this is connected via Skype. There are talks for example on cinema, filmmaking, or printmaking. We invite authorities on the subject,” Margie says.

“We are connected to students as well, so it’s also part of our audience development program. So one aspect is art appreciation and the other aspect is to bring in the audience.”

There are many other plans.

“We have a new program. We want to start exposing children to the arts early. We want to develop them early so the appreciation for the arts starts early. So next year, we’re going to have an art festival for children,” Margie reveals.

“Our artistic committee in the board is developing it. There will be different genres of art – dance, music, painting, and this has to be interactive so children will appreciate it,” she adds.

Golden Age

Margie couldn’t have come at a more perfect time to lead the CCP. The institution after all is celebrating its 50th anniversary and is marking this momentous event with yearlong activities not just at the center along Roxas Boulevard but all over the country. To this end, the CCP‘s resident companies are sent out to the provinces for performances, master classes and workshops.

A groundbreaking exhibition titled POSTER/ITY: 50 Years of Art and Culture at the CCP will run until year-end. The exhibit features a selection of over 200 posters of exhibitions, performances and other events held at the CCP from its opening in 1969 to the present.

Margie is excited and the excitement in the air is tangible.

In all, she says, she wants to make the CCP a temple of the arts where people can come and worship the arts.

“We want to make this a home they can literally come home to – to watch the shows, see the exhibits, even meet the artists. That’s what I want,” Margie says.

Indeed, 46 years after winning the Miss Universe crown, Margie’s dream to build a big home has come true. And she is building not just a home for herself and for the people she loves, but for every art-loving Filipino.

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