MANILA, PHILIPPINES — A throng of people overflow the basement of the CCP Black Box; to its side is a stage and a huge projector facing each other. Walk a few steps more and rows and rows of concessionaires are buzzing with people as one would imagine in a fair — haggling prices over the secondhand market, inquiring how to use crystals, and feeling the inabel and other woven fabrics by hand. This is just a glimpse of Pasinaya, the biggest multi-arts festival that opens National Arts Month.
By now, the sun is directly overhead but the canopy of trees provide ample shade in the sunken parking of the Tanghalang Ignacio Gomez. Short films from the Gawad Alternatibo Program of the Cinemalaya of the previous year are playing on the screen and after this, we will be turning our chairs to the stage where another theater company will perform.
While a sizable number of Pasinaya attendees are hoping to catch the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ resident group artists, I opt to lurk around to watch regional performers in a rare chance to showcase their acts in Manila — an off-the-beaten-track for the regular audience.
Among those I’ve seen are the Bataeño Lahing Magiting Cultural Ensemble, Wanlu and His Puppets, and Komedya ng Don Galo who all have blazoned forth excerpts from their respective plays. From number to number, they perform snapshots compelling the audiences to be responsive and impressionable.
The CCP Open House Festival is true to its all-you-can commitment. Palihan, which happened on the first day, is a workshop-all-you-can program on acting, dance, singing, and other disciplines such as journalism, storytelling, and poetry; Palabas saw some 3000 performers in simultaneous theater plays, film screenings and performances in adjacent venues; Palitan, a network-all-you-can opportunity in the arts market to pitch to prospective producers; Paseo Museo where 15 museums and galleries opened their doors in a hop-on, hop-off tour to provide immersive experiences; and the arts market Pamilihan.
“This year, we are reaching farther and wider into different performing spaces, and into the regions. Year 2024 will be the year we, at the CCP, continue to move forward, despite the challenges that will come our way,” said CCP president Michelle Nikki Junia.
Since 2005, Pasinaya has gone a long way to growing its attendees and breaking out of the notion that the shows are not confined to the hallowed halls of the Cultural Center. This year, it marks the first regional participation with 240 performers in Tagum City, Davao Del Norte and 87 performers in Iloilo.
Rounding up Pasinaya is The People’s Gala, a culmination of the weekend jam-packed with artistic and cultural experiences which amassed more than 45,000 attendees in Manila alone. The gala (and the festival) fully maximized the Cultural Center’s venues and manpower — commanding hundreds of in-house staff and volunteers to usher, manage, and facilitate.
The gala is downright captivating, opening with the tour de force “O Fortuna” performed by the Alice Reyes Dance Company, backed by the Philippine Madrigal Singers and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. Followed by short sections of “Limang Daan” by Ballet Philippines, and “Sandosenang Sapatos” by Tanghalang Pilipino. PPop Groups KAIA and 1st.One also had brief numbers to spotlight the rising significance of pop culture.
If anything, Pasinaya is indicative of people’s willingness to endure the heat and long queues if only to immerse themselves with the different cultural touchpoints the festival offers. You decide to go to one workshop or performance,and you stick around for more.
With its outcome well-received by the public, the Pasinaya Open House Festival continues to be a medium for the artists, stage, and cultural workers to showcase, give back, and get back. Albeit disrupted by a two-year pandemic and an even lengthier massive renovation on the main building, the Pasinaya anthem says: Tuloy ang pagtatanghal.