How Filipinos saved their Olympics for the arts
Cordillera photographer Tommy Hafalla brought home the gold from the Olympics for the arts held early this month in Malaysia, but only after he wielded hammer and nails to help stage these games.
Hafalla won the world photography prize of the second Delphic Games held Sept. 1 to 7 at Kuching City in Sarawak, Malaysia, for his photographic documentation of “begnas” (rice ritual) in Sagada, Mt. Province.
Ifugao sculptor Gilbert Alberto won a gold in the stone sculpture competition for his “Spirit Cat,” while architect Rey Florentino topped the games’ architecture conservation category.
It was the Philippines’ first gold harvest from this largely underrated Olympics that was sponsored by the International Delphic Council (IDC), a world art movement that aims to redirect the artwork of 40 countries away from their elite commercial markets.
But like the birth pains of fledgling institutions, the games almost failed to proceed this month after the Malaysian government pulled out its sponsorship.
So Hafalla, a few Filipino craftsmen and the artisans of at least 23 participating countries pooled their resources, skills and time to co-produce the Delphic Games themselves.
Hafalla helped mount the artwork of various foreign artists. Baguio-based theater artist Raffy Kapuno, who won honorable mention for the games’ storytelling competition, volunteered to host some of the games’ evening programs.
Even the judging became the delegates’ chores. Each local Delphic council from participating countries selected its set of judges for the games, according to Divina “Debb” Bautista, the world council’s three-term president.
University of the Philippines Baguio art professor Liza Ann Ilagan, Hafalla and Bautista had to pinch-hit as judges for the music, film, and visual arts category to replace member jurists who withdrew.
The artists did not regret helping produce the games. After all, almost all of the Filipinos who joined the Sept. 1 IDC Olympics had a hand in its inception.
Bautista said she helped found the movement in 1994, along with 62 diplomats and cultural workers of Argentina, Austria, China, Cyprus, Ecuador, France, Germany, Greece, Libya, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, the United States, Slovakia and Lithuania.
The movement was the brainchild of J. Christian Kersch, a German finance adviser and graphic artist.
The IDC website said Kersch “pursued the idea of reviving the Delphic Games of the Modern Era (since 1989) to complement the Olympic Games and to serve as a forum for the culture of the intellect.”
Bautista said Kersch recruited her in 1989. In 1994, they installed a world guiding council for the movement.
IDC’s first high-profile venture was the first Delphic Games of 2000 in Moscow. But the pioneering games sparked a feud that led to the Malaysian crisis two weeks ago, Bautista said.
An IDC board member, who helped produce the games in Moscow, has been in a legal tussle with the IDC for the rights to produce future Delphic Games.
The IDC official has been blamed for a series of letters advising state leaders to veer away from the IDC-sponsored games, and may have been responsible for Malaysia’s withdrawal, Bautista said.
The IDC had taken legal action against the IDC member, but not before Sarawak had canceled most of the games’ activities.
“[However], like the Philippine delegation, many of the countries involved were already en route by plane to Malaysia and [200 of the expected 600 world artists] could not turn back. So what were we to do? We decided to buckle down to work and take over,” Bautista said.
She added: “We wanted the world’s artists to shine, to make their presence felt, and we wanted [the games] to be their showcase, so [the Philippine delegation] agreed to work and rebuild the games.
“Japan and China canceled their delegations, but we had 23 countries flying in. So we talked with them and we agreed to [proceed]. South Africa, which brought in the largest delegation, volunteered to handle administrative and technical work. The United States delegation offered to share the bills.”
But Bautista said the Filipinos ended up with the more difficult chore—diplomacy.
“Artists need to be pampered sometimes, but no [other nationality] was willing to accept this burden, so it became [the Philippines’] job,” she said.
Their first job was to placate furious delegates whose hotel bookings were never arranged, she said, crediting IDC Philippine secretary Ruth Halili for doing the dirty work.
Hafalla said he and several foreign artists took time out from framing competing artworks to fashioning the Golden Delphic trophies, which were handed out on Sept. 7.
Bautista said they arrived to discover that the Sarawak team had not prepared the prizes.
“An Indian artist, who wanted a special work room for his exhibit, got our goat. He was making so many demands. So I prevailed upon [Narda Capuyan] to relocate her indigenous fabric display from her own room to a more public venue. The Indian artist was surprised and delighted. Soon, most of them appreciated the Filipino delegation,” Bautista said.
Days later, Capuyan got a standing ovation at a Sarawak fashion show, which displayed the world’s ecological fiber creations.
[source: inQ7 article by Vincent Cabreza]
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Posted by Showdown at 10:07 AM