MIMAROPA (an acronym for Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan),was created in 2002 by Executive Order No. 103 that divided Region IV (Southern Tagalog), into Regions IV-A (Calabarzon), and IV-B. That makes it one of the youngest Philippine regions. But then we know that the oldest human skeletons in the Philippines were found in Palawan (of the Tabon Man), and there were similar finds in Marinduque caves in the 1960’s, making Mimaropa also the most ancient region of all.
A region where Tagalog is widely spoken, part of Luzon but detached from it, and stretches from the periphery of Batangas and Quezon to the proximity of Borneo.
Prior to 2002 the region was simply called Southern Tagalog consisting of 11 provinces and 7 cities, even as the southern provinces on Luzon mainland have long before grouped themselves as Calabarzon..
But the initiative to create a separate region for these five island-provinces of Luzon really came from these islands themselves. It was felt that the closeness of the Calabarzon to Manila, the center of power, puts the islanders at a great disadvantage.
Calabarzon appeared to get all the economic development projects, and such projects and support funds come down to the island-provinces in trickles. Mimaropa thus became a separate group of islands. In other areas, however, the bond among the Calabarzon and Mimaropa provinces remain even closer, such as cooperation in regional tourism development.
Arts and Culture in MIMAROPA.
Because Mimaropa is ancient, it is home to indigenous peoples. The Mangyans survive in Mindoro (they speak seven different languages: Irava, Alangan, Tambuid, Hanunuo, Tadyawan, Buhid and Ratagnon).
In Palawan there are many cultural groups: Cuyonon & Agutayon, considered the ethnic elite of the province; Muslim groups such as Molbog, Jama Mapun and Tausug live in the southern coast; Tagbanuas the largest indigenous group inhabiting the central portion; And there are even smaller cultural communities like Pala’wan, Taut batu, Batak, Ken-uy and Kalamian.
Romblon, because it is near the Visayas has three main languages, Romblomanon, Asi and Onhan – they belong to the Visayan language family.
Marinduque has no indigenous groups except Tagalogs, but many descendants of the Asi tribe live in the southern part of the island and they are known to still cling to their roots in Banton. Tagalog spoken in Marinduque has been carefully studied and it has been concluded that the language spoken here is the root from which modern national forms of speech have sprung. (1914 study by Cecilio Lopez). This study was again published by the Institute of Philippine Linguistics in 1973, and no one so far come forward to challenge it.
In the matter concerning arts councils in the area, NCCA and DILG have no compiled listings from this region. There have been attempts to establish arts councils in some places, but once there is a change in government and leadership in the province or the municipalities, the plans and programs of the arts councils are affected, to the extent that these efforts die down.
One organization in Oriental Mindoro has incorporated the words Culture and Arts in its name: the Bongabon Municipal Tourism, Culture and Arts Council. Among its projects are the a) planting of ornamental plants along the Strong Republic National Highway within the town; b) holding of a Lantern Festival in December. c). proposed floating restaurants at the Sucol River.
This is not to say that matters pertaining to the promotion of culture and the arts are neglected in the other areas of the province. On the contrary, Oriental Mindoro has 14 municipalities and 1 city, and all of these places have, in recent years, developed their own festivals to showcase their culture and arts. Such festivals, of course, encourage creativity – cultural & artistic programs. Some of these are “Mahalta”, “Bansudani”, “Sulyog”, “Bahaghari”, “Biniray”, and “Sanduguan”.
In close tie-ups with the LGU’s are municipal tourism councils that spearhead these events. The tourism councils, on the other hand are composed of sectoral representatives that may also include informal cultural groups.
In Calapan City a “City Museum” has been put up in their city hall to showcase the City’s colorful history. A Special Program for the Arts (SPA), project of the DepEd is in place at JJ Leido National High School.
Outreach projects on workshops are also undertaken from time to time. Municipalities such as Pinamalayan undertake locally-initiated Ani ng Sining programs.
The situation is, more or less, the same for Occidental Mindoro. Tourism councils exist in 9 out of 15 municipalities of Occidental Mindoro. They made a strong move this year by hosting the Southern Tagalog Tourism Council Assembly in San Jose in 2009 and there, the culture and arts of the province were showcased. Assembly venue was onboard the 7107 Islands Cruise Ship.
In Marinduque, there was an attempt more than 10 years ago, in 1998, to establish “Sining Marinduque”, even with the help of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, with sectoral representatives invited from all over the province. But the timing wasn’t probably right. A few months after that came elections and there was a change in provincial stewardship, the council died.
But the municipality of Gasan decided to move ahead. It established a Gasan Culture & Arts Foundation (GASCUAF), in 2001, with the Mayor of Gasan as CEO. Various cultural projects were done to the extent that Gasan became known as the cultural nerve-center of Marinduque. One of the many projects was the introduction of “Gasang-Gasang Easter Festival” that became a much-awaited annual event.
Again there was a change in municipal leadership after 3 years, the term of office of mayors. The festival was not held for the next two years.On the third year, without the cooperation of the new mayor as he refused to endorse or support it, GASCUAF attempted to hold the festival with various participants from the barangays.
So a curious scenario transpired where the municipal infraboys, on orders of the mayor, hastily constructed a temporary fence in every possible entry point around a public park, with bamboo and madre de cacao; the organizers tried to find an alternative venue in a DepEd facility to no avail - they were disallowed to use the public elementary school grounds that has seen such events before. So the street-dancers had to content themselves with holding the event in a not-so-public area some two kilometers away from the town center in a wide open space “sa ilalim ng niyugan”. People came to watch in droves to show their support.
One of the first acts of the Sangguniang Bayan ng Gasan when there was a change in leadership in the town was the passage of an Ordinance adopting “Gasang-Gasang Easter Festival” as the official festival of Gasan.
The provincial government of Marinduque meanwhile, under a new administration, in support of its tourism and cultural development program, entered into a MOA with the NCCA for the conduct of Philippine Arts Festival projects. It included a performance tour within the province by various local cultural groups in the six municipalities of Marinduque. Municipalities were enjoined to come up with their own showcase as part of what was dubbed the “Viva Marinduque”” (Ani ng Sining) project that was a huge success.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Marinduque institutionalized “Araw ng Marinduque”, the vehicle for these arts and culture and arts activities. An ordinance for the adoption of February 21 as “Araw ng Marinduque”, was passed that coincides with the National Arts Month celebration.
In collaboration with the CCP outreach programs have been undertaken such as a performance by “Sining Kambayoka” of Marawi City, Cinemalaya Festival, and corresponding workshops related to dance and film-making.
Romblon is also known for its traditional weaving and basketry. Handicrafts are a major home industry where women are engaged. Local artisans are noted for their good woodwork. The Cathedral of St. Joseph, for example, features this woodwork done by local artisans.
But it has no known arts councils in existence. “Biniray Festival” in Romblon is a nine-day affair in January marked by a carnival atmosphere, merry-making and dancing and is organized as a collaborative effort by government and the local church.
A special program for the Arts (SPA), however was piloted by DepEd in Looc National High School some three years ago and this is still in place, where students undergo training in singing and dancing.
In Palawan there exists, “Sining at Kalinangan ng Palawan”. It is an offshoot of the Palawan Crafts Program of the provincial government..The program was created in 2002 but it was only in May 2006 that space for a facility was established in the provincial capitol building. The space is now used as a multi-media cultural library and small show room for traditional items from Palawan. By design the program has two important elements:
1). To provide education and outreach to all inhabitants of Palawan on the importance of culture in the development of Palawan, 2) To encourage the establishment of culture and arts councils in all 23 municipalities in Palawan.
So far, this project has succeeded in getting some of the visual arts of the Indigenous Peoples of Palawan displayed in several areas in the capitol building. i.e. 8-piece diorama with accompanying text on the indigenous people of Palawan is found in the governor’s conference room.
One Kalinawa Art Foundation that aims to promote the development of indigenous people’s visual art sector, has also undertaken projects in Palawan, although it is based in Makati City. For the last three years it has held the “Annual Indigenous People’s Visual Art Show” in Puerto Princesa City.
In dance, “Sining Palawan Dance Troupe” the official dance troupe of Palawan State University has a record of performances in various regions as well as a performances in San Francisco, California in 2007.
From time to time the Puerto Princesa City Government collaborates with CCP for Outreach projects on performances and cultural workshops.
In varying degrees therefore, culture & the arts are alive in the region. The absence of arts councils in many places, brought about by own unique situations, from lack of fund sources to political intervention or harassment even, does not stop communities from engaging in cultural and artistic activities. While it is not a general rule, it appears much easier to organize such councils in highly urbanized places – where the money is. Still, big sponsors in these places suffer from so called donor fatigue. In smaller towns, this appears to be the number one challenge.
“Gintong Binhi”, the 1st Mimaropa Arts & Culture Forum, is a venue for the promotion of NCCA programs in the region. It will improve or refresh the skills of arts councils and organizations in Program Development, Project Management, & Proposal Making; establish NCCA desks in LGUs, schools, & cultural institutions; reinforce the LGU-NCCA partnership in arts & cultural promotion and organize an adhoc of Regional Arts & Culture Network in the region.