Celebrating the creative industry in Bacolod City

Oftentimes, it takes disasters for good policies to come to be. In the case of the Philippines’ creative industry, the Covid-19 pandemic and the death of Eddie Garcia while filming were the wake-up calls that started the ball rolling. It came to light after the veteran actor’s death that even talents of his stature were not covered by insurance because he was technically a contractual worker and not a full-time employee.

This was revealed by congressman Jose Francisco “Kiko” Benitez of the Third District of the province of Negros Occidental during his speech before students from various universities in the provincial capital of Bacolod City, gathered at Saint La Salle Coliseum in celebration of the Philippine Creative Industries Month.

Fortunately, in the House of Representatives, we have legislators who are themselves creatives and therefore aware of the challenges that creatives face. We have congressmen Christopher “Toff” de Venecia of the Fourth District of the province of Pangasinan and Benitez, author and co-author respectively of Republic Act 11904 or the Philippine Creative Industries Development Act. De Venecia is a former child actor, writer and theater director while Benitez has a doctorate degree in Comparative Literature.

According to Benitez, the imposed lockdowns during the pandemic highlighted the importance of artists and the challenges they faced, and had the Philippine House Committee on Economic Affairs pondering about the effects of the work stoppage on them.

The heightened interest in protecting the country’s creatives resulted in the passage of the PCIDA in 2022. The law aims to protect and strengthen the rights and capacities of stakeholders in the creative industries by providing support for infrastructure, research and innovation, digitalization and investments, among others. The law also designates the month of September as Philippine Creative Industries Month to promote the products and services of the sector, celebrated for the first time this year.

Bacolod is one of the cities that had its own PCIM celebration, which was kicked off by the first The Future is Creative: A Conference on the Philippine Creative Industries, where participants, mainly students, faculty members and members of the province’s creative community, learned how creatives can benefit from the new law. Held on 28 September, it was organized by National Commission for Culture and the Arts, in partnership with the Negros Cultural Foundation, Inc., the University of St. La Salle and USLS The Artists’ Hub.

USLS chancellor Minnie Chua, Bacolod City councilor Em Ang, on behalf of Bacolod City Mayor Albee Benitez, and NCCA deputy executive director for administration and support services Marichu Tellano delivered their opening remarks while NCCA chairman Victorino Mapa Manalo and De Venecia sent video messages. Keynote speakers included Kiko Benitez; Intellectual Property Office director Emerson Cuyo, who presented “IP Rights: Protecting the Creative Economy;” and Department of Trade and Industry technical consultant for PCIDA Gio Franco Gomez, who gave an introduction to the law and the Malikhaing Pinoy Program. Other speakers were photographer and visual artist Aeson Baldevia with his talk “From Passion to Profit: Monetizing Visual Arts;” Kumu’s John Alfred Lucot with his “The Digital Shift: Monetizing Content Creation;” GCash’s Chelcie Oldmedo with her “Levaraging the Cashless Economy;” and Slow Food Negros president Renee Gamboa with her “Shaping the Future of Food in Negros.” Negros Cultural Foundation executive director Tanya Lopez and social media user Lester Nillos joined the panel discussions.

The conference concluded with “Stars Collide,” a concert mounted by the USLS Artists Hub, showcasing the creativity and talents of the university.

“This conference is one of Negros contribution to the nationwide celebration of the Philippine Creative Industries Month. Long before [the concept of] ‘creative economy’ was invented, Negros Occidental had been the home of artists and artisans, a source of talent, and a bellwether of style and taste. It is, therefore, proper that Negros Occidental is leading the celebration of the Philippine Creative Industries Month in Western Visayas,” Benitez said, adding that the creative industries have big potential and value both in economic and cultural terms.

Market of creatives at Negros Museum.

Aside from the conference, NCCA, together with the Negros Cultural Foundation, Inc. and Himu Himu PH, held workshops and an art market called “Perya ng Sining, Bukal ng Galing” at the Negros Museum on 30 September.

Henna tattooing. | Photographs courtesy of Mark Anthony Samorin

The “perya” gathered about 20 local creative entrepreneurs and groups to showcase their works, mount exhibits and conduct workshops. Visitors got henna tattoos from tattoo artist Jojo Jumayao, and had their sketches done by Janna Remus. They also learned to make masks with the help of Michelle Ma Belle Tupaz-Corteza, Eric Berondo, and Mars Cuenca.

The market featured Art of Piper, Azakaya, EcoEssence, Finka Art, Guromi’s, Jenina’s Art + Stories, Renka002, MadeByJewd, Msganstilyogirl, Paper Psyche, Red Mesias, Remus Baudelaire, Silay Flagpole Artist, TinyCustoms PH, tuRON, and Woodquircs.

Artist Mirriam May Flores visualizes the Creative Services Domain for an exhibit. | Photograph courtesy of Negros Cultural Foundation

Four Negrense digital artists, Mirriam May Flores, Giannah G. Trafanco, Mizpah Diaz, and Shannon Alyson Po, presented their interpretations of the creative domains at the heart of the Philippine Creative Industries Development Act in an exhibit of the “Perya ng Sining, Bukal ng Galing.”

Over 70 creative industries were identified under nine domains in RA 11904, including audio-visual media, creative services, cultural sites, design, digital interactive media, performing arts, publishing and printed media, traditional cultural expressions and visual arts.

“Not only our creative industries promote our unique artistic traditions and cultural identity, the growth of our creative industries means new jobs and higher incomes for our creative workers and creative entrepreneurs,” Benitez said.

In 2022, the creative industries contributed P1.6 trillion to the country’s gross domestic product (seven percent of the gross domestic product) and employed 6.98 million Filipinos (nearly 15 percent of the country’s total employment).

De Venecia said, via a message delivered virtually, that the conference aims to serve as a platform for dialogue, knowledge sharing and collaboration among key stakeholders in the local creative industries.

“PCIM serves as an avenue to promote the creative output of the sector,” he said.

Both legislators were optimistic that with the passage of the law, local artists will have better chances of thriving. After all, even with minimal to zero support from the government, many of our artists have gone on to continue to do creative works and even showcase world-class acts.