And the real shocker is, it’s long been neglected.
Not everyone knows the CCP produces about 800 shows a year and that the Filipino art institution has more than two million people listening to its award-winning radio program: “Sugpuin ang Korupsyon,” elevated to the Hall of Fame by the Catholic Mass Media Awards.
Most recently, it celebrated Jose Rizal’s 150th birthday featuring prominent artists and performing groups led by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and Ballet Philippines.
A follow-up, “Noli Me Tangere: The Musical” is ongoing at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino to critical acclaim.
More than 40 years of feeding hunger for the arts, the CCP now looks like a visibly haggard lady obviously spent.
Put side by side with Singapore’s Esplanade and Hong Kong’s Museum of Art, it looks decrepit and needs a major overhaul to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with these two, which never existed before CCP was born.
We built new cities, some of the world’s biggest malls, fattened the military budget, yet we left the country’s haven for the arts fend for itself in the last many years.
Before Cruz’s art exploded on our faces, CCP was already gasping for its breath, digging deeper into its own pocket much too often and its resident artists crying for help.
From afar, the once envy of Asia still mesmerizes. The architectural wonder, which former US Ambassador to the Philippines Henry Byroade mentioned as “it makes our Kennedy Center look cheap,” still makes people stop.
On closer scrutiny, however, the Venus-like beauty is aging faster, battered by time and dwindling support.
The 43-year-old edifice is in dire need of money for its upkeep, against the threats of fiscal neglect and those who wish to see her untimely demise.
The ceiling of the orchestra section is inching closer to becoming like that of a rundown movie theater.
The hydraulic unit at the back of Main Theater, an integral part for seamless, multi-vantage point staging, is about to be shut down. Seriously damaged during the 1990 earthquake, it has not been repaired since then.
The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsal studio does not befit its name in spite of the many accolades it has brought home. It is just as pathetic and looks like a provincial university auditorium.
French maestro Olivier Ochanine told media people during a recent tour of the premises: “Careful not to jump up and down, you’ll feel the rickety vibration of the floor.”
Ballet Philippines is another sordid sight. The Philippines’ biggest ballet school is housed in a cramped, uninspiring piece of space. A ballerina could easily hurt herself on a miscue while doing pirouettes.
Yet, the ensemble under former Miss Universe Margie Moran-Floirendo is ever passionate nurturing Filipino ballet talents to world-class status even with diminishing resources.
Further down the once elegant foyer nests Ramon Obusan’s folkloric dance company. The group now handled by the National Artist’s sister, Iris Obusan-Isla, has enthralled the world many times over. Like the rest of the resident companies at CCP, it is literally begging for government’s help.
At Tanghalang Pilipino, actor John Arcilla, one of local thespians of Actors Company, says it best: “Rizal’s novels and teachings are even more relevant today. Walang nagbago. Mga personalidad lang ang nagbago.”
Arcilla laments the theater’s outdated equipment and artists’ meager wages: “Kung pababayaan natin ang mga Filipino artists, sino pa ang magpa-paalaala ng ating kultura sa mga kabataan kundi tayong mga alagad ng sining?”
At the height of a controversial art exhibit a couple of weeks ago, CCP chairperson Emily Abrera reiterated that the CCP would continue to be a refuge for artistic freedom and uphold it as enshrined in the Constitution. Her “intransigence” enraged the bishops.
Artistic freedom, whether it was compromised or not, has brought forth original Filipino content in dance, theater, music, literature, visual arts and film to Filipinos for four decades.
CCP artistic director Chris Millado told media that CCP provides local and global artistic experiences to Filipinos.
“About 400,000 attend shows at the main venues, and more than 100,000 compose audiences and artists in the regions,” he said.
Last Tuesday, CCP opened the first international jazz fest with 150 international artists on the bill. “The festival is part of our program to open up CCP on a global scale,” says CCP president Raul Sunico.
Around 20,000 also view CCP’s TV programs (“The Red Carpet” among them) on arts and culture. Through the years, CCP has nurtured and developed artists who have become world-class and masters in their field.
Millado says CCP even responds to national calamities and emergency situations through art and culture via Art Therapy programs for children and families affected by natural disasters and from conflict-ridden areas.
CCP’S flagship for artistic excellence is the Resident Company Program composed of: Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, UST Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Philippines, Philippine Ballet Theater, Philippine Madrigal Singers, Tanghalang Pilipino, Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company, Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group and the National Music Competition for Young Artists.
CCP produces and hosts festivals, among them, the Pasinaya CCP Open House Festival, considered as the largest multi-arts festival in the country, attracting more than 50,000 people and 2,000 performers in a single day offered free to the public.
CCP’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival is now considered as the biggest and most influential film festival. It is changing the landscape of cinematic art in the Philippines.
The 13 Artists Awards and Exhibition has become the career launching pad of painters, sculptors,installation artists whose works are now recognized in Asia and the world.
In contrast, not many people know that a large chunk of money gobble up CCP’s budget on physical maintenance alone.
Upgrading instruments, equipment, facilities and salaries are an entirely different matter—they’re mind-boggling.
“CCP is our proud link to our earliest ancestors, living proof of our creative genius, bridge of understanding between nationalities. May it forever stand as a shrine for that immortal part of us,” CCP Tanghalang Pilipino executive director Leslie Noble states.
When it unleashes its grand fountain, CCP is a joy to behold with the Philippine flag gently flapping at the background. Just lazing away on its grounds, biking or jogging around its premises gives freedom to the soul. It has given us so much. It’s time to give something back.