OpinionsTempest in a CoffeemugAbout a harana and a wall

About a harana and a wall

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It’s the 48th cultural season of Silliman University, and its Cultural Affairs Committee will open it with Philippine Opera Company’s Harana which will be performed in the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium on June 25 (as part of the launch of the cultural season), and on June 26 for regular patronage. The show features the country’s highly celebrated singers Ana Feleo, Karla Patricia Gutierrez, Ma. Florence Aguilar-Barquez, Arlynne Lupas-Tecson, Jennifer Villegas, Sherwin Sozon, Glenn Gaerlan and Nazer Salcedo. This comes after Harana’s first Visayan tour last May as part of the National Heritage Festival celebration.

When POC launched the show in 2008, it reaped good notices from audiences and critics. Julie Yap-Daza in Manila Bulletin, wrote: “How long have we waited for such an endearing piece of artful, delightful entertainment.” Rosalinda Orosa also noted in StarWeek Magazine: “Harana has garnered prolonged, deafening applause.”

Harana refers to the traditional form of courtship where a man woos a woman’s affection by singing underneath her window. In the 1920s, the harana or kundiman became a mainstream musical style, with many popular performers including Diomedes Maturan and Ruben Tagalog performing it. The company writes of its intentions: “A celebration of this musical tradition comes in a time when the country is rapidly losing an appreciation of Filipino music to foreign influences. Many people are no longer interested in listening to Filipino classics, composed by gifted Filipino geniuses.”

Philippine Opera Company’s cultural repertoire showcases the evolution of Philippine music through song, movement and drama. The show consists of six suites–the Igorot, Maria Clara, Rural, Folk, Muslim, and the Contemporary–each theatrically presented with authenticity and visual excitement. The creation of each suite is a product of thorough research, with the commitment to preserve indigenous music, dance and folklore. POC’s skill is evident as it restructures and enhances this research to evolve into a show of great appeal to theater. Contemporary audiences will find the performance an absolute feast to the senses.

Repertoire for the tour includes timeless classics such as Bituing Marikit, Dahil sa Isang Bulaklak, Iyo Kailan pa Man, Kalesa, Ang Maya, Ano kaya ang Kapalaran?, Dumbele, Ay Salidumay, Waray-Waray, Sa Kabukiran, Manang Biday, Atin cu pung Singsing, Pobreng Alindahaw, Saan ka nan Naroroon?, Gaano ko ikaw Kamahal?, Usahay and Hindi kita Malimot.

Future shows from the CAC include Silly People’s Improv Theater Live in Dumaguete, the Ryan Cayabyab Singers in Concert, the Philippine Madrigal Singers in Concert, Douglas Nierras’ Powerdance in Aerial Suite, Coke Bolipata and the Pundaquit Virtuosi in Concert, the Celso Espejo Rondalla in Concert, the La Libertad Children’s Rondalla in Concert, Children’s Letters to God, and Silliman Performs with the Kayahag Dance Troupe in a Lucy Jumawan Dance Tribute. Other events include the Active Vista Film Festival and Armando Lao’s Found Story Screenwriting Workshop. For inquiries, call 422-6002 loc. 520.

* * *

It’s all about a wall.

Walls, if you think about it, are quite special. Made of either concrete or wood, they are a blank slate that is conducive for creative expression via paint and what- not. Our hands itch to make use of that blankness–to “defile” it to make beauty. Think of murals. Michaelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Mexican epics of Diego Rivera. Or Hersley-Ven Casero’s magical scrawls on Foundation University’s walls. Think of street graffiti. Along the byways of New York. The Berlin Wall, on the West German side, before it was torn down. The wall that right now divides Palestine and Israel–a virtual gallery of artful protests.

There are bad ones, of course, like the pedantic displays of minor imagination on the fences along Dumaguete’s Cathedral of St. Alexandria. We have something of that sort in Silliman University–the Freedom Wall in front of Doltz Hall. The graffiti on that wall began near the end of the Martial Law, and was inspired by the boxed paintings in the Catacombs in the basement of Silliman Church. That was 1983, and Doltz Hall President Hitch Montayre hatched that idea of a wall as an avenue of expression– and to solve the problem of rampant vandalism in the dormitory.

Last Thursday, June 17, Moses Joshua Atega–a liaison officer of Silliman–posted a photo of the school’s famous Freedom Wall in his Facebook page, with this [edited] note of lamentation: “They erased history. Doltz Hallers’ Freedom Wall is gone! Without sensitivity, they ‘cleaned it up,’ and [now] Doltz Hall alumni are reacting. It’s back as a boring wall. A favorite campus landmark is gone! The Wall made Silliman cool, and a lot of education leaders were actually learning from its sense of purpose. I am proud of the tradition of how one would earn a space on the Freedom Wall. A graduating Doltz Hall big brother would select from his small brothers, and the one chosen would then show the design to his big brother before it is finally announced as the “successor.” It’s a bond of brotherhood: the show of care for the small brother. Sometimes, both the big and the small brothers would decide to share the space, with the small brother’s commitment to protect the space in all his four years of existence in college. It’s all awesome to witness how some would gather extra coins from room to room just for them to have money to buy the expensive concrete paint and brushes. Others would solicit money from their girlfriends….”

A barrage of comments– most of them outraged–soon followed. Here is a selection, all of them edited for clarity and brevity, the entire thread finally telling us a story of arguments, counter-arguments, and so on and so forth–a perfect demonstration of a community sharing ideas about art, heritage, the values placed on generations, the need for change, and all that jazz…

Hersley-Ven Casero: When I first entered the campus and saw that wall, I thought it defined the “U” in S.U.–unique. Nganong gi-erase? Bali pud.

Ian Rosales Casocot: But who erased the wall? Then again, graffiti walls are meant to be fluid. But if there will be a reincarnation of this, I hope these “expressions” can go beyond just the mere painting on of names and actually have something that resembles good street art. But don’t anyone get me wrong. I love that wall. I hate that they erased it.

Moses Atega: Old folks found it dirty.

Ian Rosales Casocot: Old folks? Gah! The University is for the young! That’s why it’s a “university”! Old folks can have a pretty clean wall in their nursing homes.

Beth Castillo-Winsor: No! I dare the students to make it all-new! New graffiti!

Archie Barcelona: It is tragic. If you only know the ninja stories that went through those halls, the fun times… Silliman is changing its face like the city, Dumaguete, losing its spirit.

Ryan Elcullada: History forever gone! To all dormers like me, I waited three years to write my own name on that wall. And now gone in a single day. It was one spot of the campus that people come and see and take pictures. So sad.

Earnest Hope Tinambacan: All I feel now is pain! Honestly, kahilakon ko aning balita-a. Gasakit akong dughan ani jud.

Moirah Dale Lois: They don’t have a clue how to have lived and loved through the halls of Doltz! Where kangking and suyup were the most cherished possessions during those days… Where Larena and Woodward claimed to be our sister dorms! Glory to those who have written and bled with the wall!

Ed Dames: Who are “they”? That wall was part of campus history!

Jojo Antonio: Mong, I suggest you should have asked all the information before you say something. The decision was reached to clean this up so that the new generation of students could do their own freedom wall. We will do this every now and then to explore students’ creativity, which is not exclusive to a particular batch or generation.

Betson Cajayon: So that means we can write our names again? If that’s what Jojo Antonio is saying! Bring out the paint and brushes!

Jojo Antonio: Yes, sure! You are very much welcome! But just the freedom wall, not the pelota courts inside. And be more creative rather than just simply write your names. We want to do this with you, guys.

Jojo Antonio: I understand all your concerns. It was a difficult decision for the University. We have our own stories in Silliman, but the new generation should create their own also. You know we can’t create additional walls and that is simply the beauty of change.

Rick Reje: One word–respetar! Nihimo unta ug agreement ang University sa tanang naay pangalan diha sa Freedom Wall about this change. Yada yada yada. Wala nila na nakuha ang spot by chance or by raffle. Hinaguan na ang mga slots diha. Some even had to shell out money para mapalit lang gyud ang gamay na space, ang uban nagpakaulaw intawon sa daghang tawo, some even prayed the longest prayer in their lives just to get that small spot and be part of Silliman’s history. The Freedom Wall does not belong to Silliman, it belongs to Sillimanians. Silliman should recognize the fact that only the owner of the slot has the right to erase or give it away. Respetar lang gyud unta, respetar!

Ed Dames: That Freedom Wall represented older generations and their unique way of expression. It shouldn’t be repainted over just to accommodate the now generation. The University people should be more sensitive and transparent in the way they operate.

Francis Ryan Salvador: This is the legacy of the previous generations. If the new generation wanted to create a new one, then make one. But not by trampling on other generations’ legacies. Kamo ganahan mo i-erase inyong nawong sa painting dayon ilisdan ug bag-o ug nawong?

Ed Dames: I would agree, however, that the Freedom Wall shouldn’t just be a collection of names and symbols. It must be about personal expressions of dreams, aspirations, and even critical views.

Ian Rosales Casocot: Jojo, actually, I see your point. I also see the point that the walls should be more than just names. I would love to see something more creative. But at the same time, I feel the pain of most people commenting here, especially the former Doltz Hallers, because those were names set in history. They will never come back again. It’s like being one of those prisoners by the Japanese in Hibbard Hall. They etched their names and their experiences on the walls–only to have these historical footnotes cemented and painted over after the war. I talked to Architect Almagro once about the challenge of restoring the immigration processing center in Ellis Island in New York. When immigrants from all over were quarantined in the island for months at a time, they made graffiti of names all over. When the restorers in the 1980s were considering what to do with these graffiti, they eventually decided they were of historical importance. What they did was to “clean” up the walls to make the markings more visible, and then they put glass protection over them. Sana lang Silliman considered the wall the same way.

Taptap Abellanosa: They could have accommodated the younger generations to the other wall fronting Abby Jacobs….

Betson Cajayon: I had to pay for my space with a lechon manok to have a space!

John Melson Pelenio: I was a name on that wall, but painted to be erased.

Joshua Ablong: Now that an explanation has been given regarding the erasures, I still don’t blame those who reacted at all, they were acting on shock. To avoid problems, it is incumbent upon the administration to give prior notice before making drastic changes. Now, since erasures will happen from here onwards (as explained), then perhaps the admin should take pictures of the wall before they make such a cleanup to preserve the painted memories and make a display of it, perhaps in the Sillimaniana section. Memories are one of the many reasons why the alumni love Silliman. If the University truly values that “affection” then perhaps the admin should start to be sensitive.

Earnest Hope Tinambacan: Wala’y picture-picture makabalik ana! Especially if they simply found it “dirty” mao ila gipang wala. I don’t need a “photo” of it. There’s no real freedom there!

Shanti Harris: Preserving memories through photographs is a great idea. Perhaps even keep these photos in the Silliman archive in the library. “Clean-up” can be scheduled. This way, whoever would leave their mark would know how long their mark will remain before the “new generation” takes over. It wouldn’t hurt to post a notice prior to the “clean-up,” too. It’s sad, really sad. Please set expectations moving forward.

Pristine Raymond: I liked the wall as it was, and now, after hearing that there are stories behind it, I like it even more. Too bad they erased it all.

Richard Pavia: I love Silliman. But they seem to be developing a habit of changing, tearing down, painting over, cutting down, removing, and adding structures and things without asking or even informing the community in advance….

Joshua Ablong: I agree with you. Personally, I’m deeply frustrated with recent structures on campus. It destroys the ambience and well, the historical character of the university. I’m not against structures per se, but what I’m trying to put forward is this, in case they want new structures on campus, they should take into consideration its over-all effect on the surroundings, and most importantly, it’s architecture. It must have some architectural value to justify its presence, and one which coincides with the Classical, Gothic or Romanesque theme of the campus. But now that an explanation has been given for the erasures (that the admin will erase it every five years to make room for others), I still don’t blame those who reacted at all (particularly on Kuya Moe’s post regarding the wall). They were acting on shock. This is the very first time (at least to my knowledge) for the University to unilaterally do such a change. To avoid problems, it is incumbent upon the administration to give prior notice before making such drastic changes.

Richard Pavia: So true. It seems that the school is developing an “Act Now, Ask Questions Later’ attitude on many things. Case in point: Portal West versus trees. Never in my life have I seen a building constructed 18 inches from a tree. To do that, they had to do major damage to the tree’s roots. And then, when one of the trees started to die– the narra near the ATMs–they put up this sign: Help Us Save This Tree. We Welcome Your Ideas. Maybe they should’ve asked that question before the started constructing Portal West? As for the wall, I understand that a 5-year cycle is okay. Hell, a yearly cycle even sounds good. An entire graduating batch can have a whole year to paint their ideas, and then, maybe April or May, they will be given the chance to have their pictures taken against their batch wall, to be preserved for posterity. And yes, maybe the library can have a “wall” section for each year. But still, I think a long consultation period should have been done. And, to close, what makes Silliman so unique among all the other schools that I’ve attended or visited is the spirit of community that we have, that, whether you are just a student, or staff, or one of the big bosses, you actually feel you belong, that you and your ideas matter. Times may be a changing.

But you know what I love the most? That these “expressions,” all these powerfully worded opinions are all posted on a Facebook wall.

A wall.

[email protected]

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