Working for the arts to sustain the soul

Pasinaya Festival 2023 opening ceremony. | PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF PASINAYA FESTIVAL

For veteran stage managers Renz Sevilla, Ching Danseco, Roldan Espino and Richard Eusebio, working for Pasinaya: The CCP Open House Festival does not only bring joy to their lives, but it satisfies their souls and sustains them as well.

Stage manager Renz Sevilla.

“Through time, magiging panata ‘yan (it becomes a vow). You have to be here because you have to pay back for all the good things na binigay [sa amin] ng Sentro (the Center has given us),” said seasoned stage manager and designer Sevilla, who works as a carpenter and farmer when he’s not doing production work.

Eusebio, who was also a former folk dancer, currently works in a cruise ship but always makes sure to volunteer for the Pasinaya Festival every time he comes home.

Pasinaya Festival 2023 deputy festival director Ariel Yonzon with closing program video editor Ian Wong and the production crew.

Espino, meanwhile, finds joy in working for the Pasinaya Festival. A full-time fireman, he started his Pasinaya Festival journey in 2017 and never stopped since then. He also does stage work in various events of the Cultural Center of the Philippines through the years. “Basta bukal sa puso mo at masaya ka sa ginagawa mo, ipagpatuloy mo lang (As long as it comes from the heart and you are happy in what you are doing, keep going),” he said.

Danseco reminisced of how they volunteered to do the Pasinaya Festival, with just shirts as payment.

Walang bayad noon; T-shirt lang. Ngayon, kahit kaunti mayroon na kaming natatanggap. Pero hindi pera ‘yung naging driving force para sumali kami sa Pasinaya. Kasi it’s food for the soul of the stage manager (We did not get paid, just T-shirts. Now, we receive something even it’s a small amount. But money is not the driving force why we join Pasinaya. Because it’s food for the soul of the stage manager),” said Danseco who is a former folk dancer.

As Sevilla and his fellow veteran stage managers saw this as a stepping stone for their credentials to flourish, they did not mind the lack of monetary compensation.

Sa simula, pumasok kami ng Pasinaya for the experience, for the feel kung ano bang nangyayari sa Pasinaya. As years go by, gaya ng ‘pag dumating ka na sa ganitong edad, having served years working in Pasinaya, magkakaroon ka na ng sense of devotion (In the beginning, we got involved with Pasinaya for the experience, to feel what is happening in Pasinaya. As years go by, when you at this age, having served years working in Pasinaya, you will acquire a sense of devotion),” Sevilla said.

As stage managers, they handle more or less everything. May it be in the creative or technical department, they oversee sets, props, lights and sound, while calling all technical cues during performances. With the many hats they wear, the challenges they face as stage managers only serve to keep their passion for their work burning.

Hindi mo mararamdaman ‘yung pagod. Talagang mag-eenjoy ka kahit na kulang ka sa tulog at pagod (You will not feel the tiredness. You will really enjoy it even if you lack sleep and you are tired),” Espino said. 

Danseco sees this as an eye-opener for the young volunteers. “It’s an experience, yes, but it is also a huge challenge and a huge responsibility, lalo na dahil marami kang hawak na (especially when you handle many) performing groups,” he said.

In 2023, there was a grand total of 150 shows which featured more than 3,000 artists from different art fields. As an open-house festival, Pasinaya welcomes people from all walks of life to foster art appreciation not only through countless performances, screenings and other art activities, but also through 30-minute workshops in various art disciplines conducted by leading artists, resource persons and teachers.

Para ka na ring nag-aral in two days,” said Sevilla, who encourages future Pasinaya attendees to watch all the shows and join all the workshops they can. “Ang dami mong matututunan, ang dami mong mae-experience, ang dami mong inspiration na makukuha out of the things you see in Pasinaya.”

Since 2005, the Pasinaya has become a nurturing space for artists and cultural groups to showcase their talents while being a platform for art education and appreciation for the audiences through interactions and performances.

Pasinaya Festival boasts over a hundred free shows, workshops and other activities in music, theater, dance, visual arts, film, and literature to choose from. It is also widely known to pool hundreds of volunteer artists, stagehands, technical crew and other cultural workers to make the entire festival possible.

This year, for the first time ever, the country’s biggest multi-arts festival will go beyond the capital city region and spread its wings to the Visayas and Mindanao on 3 and 4 February.

“It’s a great opportunity for a family to gather together kasi hindi lang siya nagka-cater sa bata, sa matanda o sa magulang, lahat kina-cater niya (because it caters not only to the young, the old, the parents, it caters to all,” Danseco said.

Eusebio hopes for more young volunteers to try stage management since the vocation also champions the Philippines and its cultures.

Kailangang marami pa tayong ma-produce na stage managers, hindi para mag-abroad, kungdi para mabigyan natin ng daan ang local artists natin para umunlad (We need to produce more stage managers, not only to work abroad but to give way for local artists to grow),” he said.

Following the theme “Sulong,” the country’s largest multi-arts festival returns on a grander scale with more artistic and cultural offerings in its 20th year. Pasinaya Festival will happen at the CCP Complex and its partner museum, the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Arts in Iloilo City, and partner LGU, Tagum City in Davao del Norte, moving forward to promote art as food for everyone’s soul.