(Author’s Note: Ms. Imelda Marcos seems to be in the glare of media again, owing to her inclusion in Newsweek’s greediest people. She may be notorious to many, but somehow she has made true contribution to Philippine Art and Culture through the development of CCP. After the postings on the Pasinaya to commence on CCP’s 40th year celebration (https://letsgopinas.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/fostering-a-renaissance/ ), and gallery of CCP’s art collection (https://letsgopinas.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/the-repository/), a posting is finally given to show a glimpse on the colorful history and background of CCP.)
“In that site, I will build the Cultural Center of the Philippines,” the First Lady Imelda Marcos said with pride to a foreign guest dignitary while on board a presidential automobile along the then Dewey Boulevard (Roxas Boulevard).
But the dignitary only saw the open waters of a bay. “How is that possible?” he muttered.
“Haven’t you heard of reclamation?” Imelda retorted back.
The whole scenario supposedly rang true more than four decades ago when Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos thought themselves as the Filipino mythic figures of “Malakas and Maganda.” (The Strong and The Beautiful”) During this time, the Marcoses wittingly or unwittingly, started to develop personas which have been open targets of the political opposition and rebels. Ferdinand strengthened his cult like image through heavy handed or even dictatorial rule while Imelda took care of the supposed soul of the Filipino through artistic and cultural activities which some said were merely her eccentricities and caprices.
Imelda had a vision of putting up a national center for arts which was congruent with her favorite maxim during the later years of the Marcos Rule – “the true, the good, and the beautiful.” But even in the early years of constructing the main theater of the CCP, many, particularly from the left leaning groups saw the whole project as extravagant whim and a total waste of government fund. The whole idea was seen as a symbol of profligacy and Marcos dictatorial ascendancy amidst the wasting economy and socio-political hardships.
But there was no stopping in creating a magnificent edifice above the waters of Manila Bay, as designed by National Artist Leandro Locsin. The Main Theater was just part of the whole reclamation complex. In later years, Philippine International Convention Center, Folk Arts Center, and the Manila Film Center were erected under the helm of Imelda Marcos.
Although it was heavily criticized, CCP was able to showcase Filipino talents in a world class theater surroundings. Prodigies like pianist Cecille Licad were developed and honed under the auspices of CCP. Different dance companies in ballet and folkdancing were housed in CCP. Resident theater groups performing Filipino originals or foreign plays and musicals which were translated in Filipino language have been put up. During Imelda’s time, there was much dancing, singing and acting inside the different theaters of CCP. Art was buzzing although it could be said that art about politics and against the Marcoses was clearly suppressed.
As the Marcos regime abruptly ended in the middle 80s, the subsidy and support for the CCP from the next administrations have dwindled significantly. Art in general took a back seat in the agenda of the chief executives and partner spouses. CCP was on its own; it had to create its own finances which should support a plethora of plans and developments even if the interest of the audience has shifted to popular films, television and even malling.
Now CCP needs to become more relevant to the times, and try to appeal to an audience who might not be as highbrow as before and might not be as passionate as before. Hoping it can still develop a young appreciative audience at times CCP like any Filipino art and theater groups today, has to bargain their ticket prices and “coerce” elementary and highschool students to watch a performance,
Yet CCP is surviving and has thankfully reached its 40th year of existence. CCP celebrates with a series of special shows and programs and even gives a tribute to its foundress and true patron, Imelda Marcos entitled “Dahil sa ‘Yo” (Because of You), apparently the title as well of her favorite song. Despite the gloom of the world economic crisis, and diminishing priorities of the Filipino family on traditional art, CCP forges on – tapping on the intrinsic musicality, the artistic brilliance, and healthy dose of enthusiasm and liveliness of the Filipinos. Take a bow, CCP.