Summer in Bacolod

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By Gabby Fernandez

Of Snapshots & Zeitgeists

Thursday, June 26, 2014


IT'S the 23rd of June 2014. I am writing this column two days after the summer solstice.

As the world turns, in only a week’s time, June shall give way to July, marking the halfway point of 2014. Half of the year is now gone. Done. Finished. Half of the year. Strange that.

I guess that’s why I have this thing with Junes and Julys. When they come along, they force people to take stock of how their year has gone so far. Like a mini-New Year, it’s a time for reflection and if you’re that kind of person, for new or renewed resolutions.

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However, since resolutions were never really my thing, I decided that looking back at the summer that just passed would make for a far more interesting read.

So how was Bacolod’s summer of 2014? Let’s begin with this: It was hot. Scorching, sweltering hot.

All over the city, people were complaining about the same thing: the heat. Commuters would carry umbrellas to shield themselves from the blistering summer sun. Those walking without one would find themselves running from one shade to another. Everyone it seemed was perspiring or panting from the extreme heat.

On its website, global weather databank Weatherspark said “the hottest month of the last 12 months was May with an average daily high temperature of 96°F and the hottest day of the last 12 months was May 18, with a high temperature of 100°F.”

Since readings were based from meteorological stations in Cebu, it’s fairly safe to presume that we all went through a 100° Fahrenheit day this summer. A hundred degrees. The ‘normal’ temperature on any given day in May? 96°F!

It was that absurd. But Bacolod being Bacolod, the city refused to be deprived of its summer fun.

Massive and well-organized parties were the thing this summer. From “The Negros Love Dance” to “The Summer Smash” to the now-infamous “Wild Water Weekend,” the youth came out in droves to do what the youth do best during summers. They had a blast!

International disc jockeys (DJs) were even flown in for an event to provide the pulsating beats that characterized what I am certain has become the summer musical score for many of the young ones.

And yes, at the end of it all, “Wet n’ Wild” became a controversial buzzword, apolitical lightning rod even.

Throughout the summer, tourists poured into the city, attracted by Negros’ myriad charms: from organized tours of ancestral houses to informal “tours” of the restaurants that featured the province’s unique culinary tradition. From mountain resorts to remote beach hideaways, tourists discovered the many secrets of the Negros countryside.

On the cultural front, summer workshops of all sorts were thriving: from culinary lessons for kids, all the way to industry-standard film and literary workshops – the wide gamut of summer learning opportunities has never been more diverse.

As for the nightlife, Art District continued to be THE place to hang around in. This was true not just for “artist-types” but for all sorts of party-people, the young and the feeling-young, on the hunt for the night’s big gimmick. With specialty restaurants, chill-out bars, affordable watering holes, the area seems to have something for anyone wanting to make the best out of a hot summer night.

The visual arts scene was no less exciting. An art exhibit for the benefit of the Danjugan Island marine reserve drew an impressive roster of contributors and buyers. A few weeks later, visual artist JunJun Montelibano unveiled his latest series to critical and commercial success. Both exhibits were held at the Gallery Orange.

Throughout the summer, many of Bacolod’s visual artists held weekly meetings. Led by Charlie Co, Dennis Ascalon and Manny Montelibano, among many others, they threshed out the details of what promises to be the city’s art event of the year: Bacolod’s hosting of the 2014 Visayas Islands Visual Arts Exhibition & Conference or simply VIVA ExCon.

Aimed at forging a Visayan-wide network of local artists, this biennale event remains the only one of its kind anywhere in the country. It was established in 1990 in Bacolod under the leadership of the Black Artists of Asia. This makes this year’s hosting of the event a homecoming of sorts. One that is certain to feature the best of Visayan art.

If you think all of these have already made for a culturally-enriching Bacolod summer, there’s even more to look back on.

This summer, schools such as USLS and LCC partnered with various organizations in the aim of making arts education accessible to as many people as possible. Elsewhere the Philippines’ first comedy improv group, the Kinengkoy Comedy Express (of which I’m part of) was performing weekly to standing room only (SRO) audiences. Many photography and painting exhibits were either opening or in the final stages of planning.

With all these happening in only a span of two months, it was a landmark summer for the city’s culture and arts scene. It was as if some indefinable breakthrough was rippling through Bacolod’s cultural, social and arts scenes – like some sort of renewal, with old mindsets giving way to the new.

The Summer of 2014 was a delightfully distinctive and distinguished summer, one that I am certain many will remember with joy.

Well, except for the horrible heat. No, that part is definitely not for keeping in my memory. But what can I say? Even the best of summers can’t be perfect.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 26, 2014.

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