A day after Valentine’s Day, the Cultural Center of the Philippines held the Pasinaya 2015, considered the biggest multi-arts festival in the country, and probably the most fun, too. Pasinaya is CCP’s open-house festival showcasing performances in music, theater, dance, visual arts, film and literature. With thousands of artists participating and approximately 50,000 audience, it does speak volumes of the richness of the culture and arts of the Filipinos.
A few weeks ago, I was invited by CCP to volunteer for the event, and I could not think of a reason to say no even if the pre-event orientation and meetings were done on weekdays, which clashes big time with my sleep schedule since I work nights. At 4:30 a.m. on February 15, I boarded a cab to CCP since our call time was at 5. I got there just in the nick of time and joined a crowd of volunteers clad in white shirts and mostly jeans. Just like me, they seemed slightly anxious about the day’s event. I haven’t had coffee and was drowsy, clutching my notebook in the shadowy corridor at the second floor. Our group was mostly students who were either interning or simply volunteering with CCP, with the rest like me, yuppies with too much time on their hands. I think.
At around 6, Ms. Fatima Gahol, CCP’s volunteer coordinator, gave out our shirts and IDs and instructed us to follow our designated coordinators. From being a Jeepney tour coordinator, I was reassigned to man the booth at the National Art Gallery (National Museum), which would start 9-ish. Garbed in a jersey-esque yellow Pasinaya shirt and with the matching festival ID so the crowd could easily identify us as Pasinaya know-it-alls (even if in reality, I wouldn’t be able to accurately direct you to nor identify the Little Theater and the Dream Theater), I was left to wonder where the shuttle that was supposed to take me to the National Museum is and the even bigger question: what to do with the 3 hours before my task. Good thing there was Kara, a friendly grad student I met during the orientation, who also had the same dilemma: where the shuttle terminal is and what to do before her deployment at the NCCA. We asked around, from guards to ushers to co-volunteers but they were also clueless and kept pointing us to different places. We gave up and had coffee instead at the nearby Krispy Kreme. We waited at the cafe, Kara with her assigned readings, me with my little notebook of random lists. When the pre-show crowd started to gather at Pedro Bucaneg (Yes, I know where Bucaneg is), we sauntered off to join them and tried again to look for the shuttle but to no avail. Kara and I strolled around, mingling with the early morning joggers and took pictures instead. My not-so-dependable smartphone with faulty white balance had these photos that look like the CCP circa 70s.
The pre-show started unceremoniously with dance performances by a high school dance troupe in Bulacan, followed by another dance number but this time from various groups from Marikina. And because they’re from Marikina, naturally, they had to have the giant pair of shoes. Too bad I didn’t take pictures of them. After Marikina came the ASEAN delegates, or so I heard. This time, Kara and I wandered again looking for our shuttle. We were pointed to the parade paticipants preparing for the start of the festival and to my relief, my
coordinator was there, Ms. Minda. She invited me and Kara to join the parade, right there in front to hold the Pasinaya tarp. What an honor, except my face really couldn’t be seen because I’m too short for the height we were keeping the tarp at. At one point, I also stumbled because I barely could see anything in front of me. Who would have thought a tarp-carrying task would be so tough and utterly risky. Behind us were firetrucks, (No kidding!) carrying the performers of the resident companies of the CCP like Ballet Philippines, Philippine Madrigal Singers, Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, Tanghalang Pilipino and many others, complete with a lovely marching band. It was an awe-inspiring moment for me, no wonder I was tripping on flat ground.
After the parade, we boarded the shuttle and off to our assignments. Kara went to NCCA while I went to the National Museum with Ms. Minda and Jen, another volunteer. Ms. Minda and Jen headed to the Old Senate Session Hall, (which by the way is one of my favorite places inside the National Museum, second only to the gallery that houses the Spoliarium, because, duh, Spoliarium), to coordinate the Pasinaya performances of the Thomasian Bassoon Ensemble, CEU Singers Manila and the Mapua Cardinal Singers. Meanwhile, I had a table at the entrance of the museum stacked with Pasinaya brochures and CCP summer calendar. Also, I had the yellow Pasinaya wristbands selling for PHP 50, which serves as the onetime fee to watch the performances of the festival as well as the tour of the participating museums: the National Museum where I was deployed, Casa Manila, NCCA Gallery, Bahay Tsinoy, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, 1335 Mabini Gallery, De La Salle College of St. Benilde’s Museum of Contemporary Arts and Design, Museo Marino and Museo Pambata. Not bad for PHP 50, right? Actually, the festival prides on Pay what you can, Watch all you want. Meaning, it’s okay if you don’t want to or can’t afford the PHP 50, you can still enjoy the festival. Because arts. Yay!
So I spent the whole morning talking to museum guests about Pasinaya and was assisted by two legitimate Musuem ladies, (they actually work at the museum). I got to talk to a lot of tourists, which was kind of exciting and intimidating at first but also really fun, especially if you like talking to tall people. After lunch, Ms. Minda invited me to watch the CEU Singers Manila. It was a 15-minute rendition of original Kundimans, and it was just beautiful. Kind of romantic. What can I say, I am impartial to the venue and the songs. As I was languidly basking in the moment of almost bliss, I was also manning one of the entrances, making sure the left door remains closed so as not to interrupt the performance, then a few moments after, started discreetly counting the audience in attendance. Every performance’s audience had to be counted. Part of the job.
After the dreamy performance by the ladies and gents in blue, I headed back to my desk job, but this time, the audience had thinned out since it was siesta time. From time to time, the Pasinaya free shuttle comes in, and a horde of museum pilgrims would barge through the heavy glass doors. Some would approach me either looking for the bathroom or inquiring about the concert schedule. I have never been more friendly in my life. Not once did I ever snark, not even on my haggard-looking reflection on the slightly creepy museum bathroom. I think that was a side effect of working in a museum. Being around beautiful things, you run out of things to snark on. Not even the noisy Korean kids who were impatiently waiting for their guide and loitering the lobby, nor the hipster-ish European guy who probably thought I was selling a sketchy tour or the rowdy teens who would rudely get brochures without so much as a hi. Well, hello to you, too. Sure, you can have the brochures because, you know, we really care about your art education, hence, we are also concerned that your heavily printed shirt clashes strongly with your floral skater skirt. And don’t let me start on that eyeshadow, missy. Nope, did not snark on them. Not until now, anyway.
Before I knew it, the clock struck four. It was a wrap. Ms. Minda, Jen and I gathered our stuff and waited for the shuttle to take us back to CCP. I got separated with them and got into a shuttle with the Mapua singers. When I got back to CCP, it was drizzling but there was a crowd left, probably waiting for the People’s Gala, the closing ceremony. I headed to the volunteers’ headquarters to sign out for the day. As I was heading out of CCP, opting to skip the dinner at the MKP Hall, I realized how long the day had been and how tired I was. It was 5-ish and the sky was dark. I had to walk to Vito Cruz LRT station because I couldn’t figure out where the CCP-Vito Cruz orange shuttles were. But it was the good kind of tired, knowing you’ve been productive and had been part of something beautiful. Cheesy, I know. But true.
So thank you, CCP, for inviting me to be a part of Pasinaya 2015. I’m definitely looking forward to more festivals.