kutitap: Kids Shine
Ida Anita Q. Del Mundo (The Philippine Star) - December 22, 2019 - 12:00am

In one of the first activities of Kutitap – which literally means twinkling lights – the young participants are tasked to put together a giant puzzle of the Philippines. They are placed into three groups, responsible for Luzon, the Visayas or Mindanao. The catch is, the puzzle pieces are jumbled among the three groups – a piece for Luzon might be all the way in Mindanao. The kids, who are just meeting each other for the first time, have to coordinate and communicate with each other to ultimately put together the map of the Philippines.

Kutitap, Isang Piging ng Kabataang MakaSining (Filipino Children and Youth Celebrating Arts, Culture and Tradition), is a gathering of children – mostly indigenous – from all over the country, for a week-long cultural exchange organized by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) together with Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Colleges in Marbel and General Santos City.

Held in Koronadal, South Cotobato, the program this year gathered some 86 children – two delegations from Luzon (from Angeles, Pampanga and Batangas City), two from the Visayas (from Tacloban, Leyte and from Isabela, Negros Occidental) and five from Mindanao (Blaan from Sarangani province; Tboli from Lake Sebu, South Cotobato; Talaandig from Lantapan, Bukidnon; Subanen from Zamboanga del Sur; and Maranao from Marawi City).

In another activity, the children are tasked to draw some of the most well-known aspects of their culture in their respective provinces. The Batangueños proudly teach the others to say “ala eh!”; the Tbolis draw t’nalak and tilapia; but most poignant are the drawings from the children of Leyte whose top of the list of icons in their province include the monument to those who died in Yolanda. The Maranao children from Maguindanao show a drawing of a grand mosque, only to tell us very matter-of-factly during their sharing that this mosque was leveled in what is now Ground Zero.

The sharing is a reminder of what many children all over the Philippines go through: experiences that rob them of what many of us would consider a normal childhood.

Facilitator Rosalie Zerrudo ably processes these difficult topics with the children participants and after each sharing, they do a “Kutitap clap,” sending their love and good vibes towards those who had just spoken.

In 1979, the CCP Outreach Program was created to cater to the growing demand for better appreciation for and enhancement of the performing arts beyond the walls of the CCP. This included bringing performances to communities, including the Bliss housing sites in Manila, and the beginning of a training program for youth and amateur performing groups.

Kutitap continues the spirit of the outreach program by creating a venue for young, talented children to share and learn about the cultures of other children around the country.

This being the tenth year of the Kutitap program, select participants who had participated in the past are invited back. Aki from the Talaandigs of Bukidnon says Kutitap became a way to accept different cultures and an opportunity to introduce the other participants to who they were. “Inspiration sa akin para ipakita ang kultura ng mga Talaandig (It became my inspiration to show the culture of the Talaandig).”

Kenchi from Pampanga attended his first Kutitap when he was just four years old. Now ten, he says that joining the program made him “matapang (brave).”

He used to have difficulties playing and relating to others, says Chinggay Bernardo, department manager of the Cultural Exchange division, but because of his experiences with Kutitap, Kenchi is now an active young boy, eager to participate and perform.

In her opening remarks, Bernardo sums up the hopes of the program for the participants: “Sana lalo pang magningning ang mga indigenous children ng Pilipinas (We hope the indigenous children of the Philippines will shine even more).”

Throughout the week, the children enjoyed different forms of cultural exchange. After ice breaker activities, the first thing that the delegates did together was share a meal of native snacks. They enjoyed dodol and browa from Lanao del Norte; San Nicolas cookies from Pampanga (which is said to cure children who are sick); sugary panutsa from Batangas; banana chips from Bacolod; binagyang or taro chips from Bukidnon.

The week started with a prayer that was beautifully inclusive – led by children from Pampanga, Marawi and Bukidnon, as well as a ritual led by Talaandig elder Nanay Ada.

The first plenary session, Tayo Nang Maglakbay sa Paraisong Pilipinas (let’s travel around the Philippines), had them identifying on the map where their respective provinces are and sharing their landmarks, customs and traditions with their new friends, leading them to the next plenary session: Maganda at Mahalaga ang Aming mga Katutubong Sayaw, Salita, Musika at Kagamitan (our native dances, words, music and things are beautiful and significant).

The children were ready and willing to share their thoughts, speaking in a mix of English, Filipino and their local languages, translating for each other when needed. At the end of the two sessions, Zerrudo asked what they felt about the indigenous cultures of the Philippines. Among the answers were: dapat ipagmalaki; dapat ibahagi; dapat isa-puso (indigenous cultures should make us proud, should be shared and should be taken to heart).

The host city also brought the kids on a field trip to Nelmida Elementary School, which has a 99 percent Blaan population. There they were welcomed with song and dance by the community. The participants learned Blaan words, were taught dance steps and tried their hand at weaving Blaan textiles. In return, they performed for the Blaan children.

The hot and humid day ended with something that children everywhere love: bags of freshly-made popcorn and sticks of ice cream.

The next day had the children performing for the children of Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Colleges in General Santos. The audience was amazed by the young performers, especially the littlest ones from Marawi, Lake Sebu and Pampanga who truly stood out. The day culminated with music and dance sessions, crafts making and more special performances.

The last day was dedicated to playing traditional games with the plenary sessions Laro’t Pasyal ay Mahalaga sa mga Bata (play and leisure are important for children) and Mga Karapatan ng Bata (rights of children).

The closing program is always emotional, the Cultural Division team members say. Every year, without fail, the children who are so shy in the beginning would part with tears in their eyes, not wanting to say goodbye to their new friends from other parts of the country. Good thing there’s always Facebook.

Back at the Philippines puzzle activity on the first day, the children – after spending several challenging minutes doing trial and error with their puzzle pieces – realize that the puzzle is made of recycled tarpaulins.

They promptly figure out that they could more efficiently exchange pieces between Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao by looking at the design at the back.

The bemused organizers can’t help but laugh at the young participants’ cunning resourcefulness, being able to figure out the hack.

In the end, they turn the tarpaulins puzzle-side up and join the three sections, revealing the Philippines, pieced together by the young, talented, indigenous children of the country.

Soon they will find out that at the end of Kutitap, a much more complex bond will be formed between the children – not just held together by tape, but one that has been strengthened by understanding, love and appreciation of cultures across Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

 

CCP MAKASINING RAMON MAGSAYSAY
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