EVERY late afternoon, under the yellow orange streetlamps of Cagayan de Oro City's Plaza Divisoria, a group of Kagay-anon artists assemble in a spot at Magsaysay Park. Bringing with them their own art material, these artists perform and exhibit their works of art creating an artistic oasis in the middle of a busy rush-hour crowd.
Dire Husi Initiative Incorporated has been doing this for nine years not only to show their artistic talents and color the city streets at night, but to bring the arts closer to the youth and the impoverished sector of Cagayan de Oro.
The program named "Art Attack Busker's Project" wherein from five p.m. until about 10 p.m., freelance and volunteer artists would set up their art in Dire Husi's chosen spot in Magsaysay Park and exhibit their talent. Some of these artists are Kagay-anon fire dancers, painters, tattoo artists, singers, musicians, actors, and even indigenous people performers.
"Much like in other countries such as Paris in Europe, they have parks and they would just sit in one area and then they would start painting or singing and then people would see them. That is also what we envision here in Divisoria," Rhyan Casiño, founder and president of Dire Husi said.
Casiño explained that they don't exactly have a fixed program every afternoon. They just gather artists in one place and allow them to perform simultaneously among each other. People passing by can witness free exhibitions by fire dancers, hear music from tribal musicians, get tattoos from artists, and see performances by indigenous peoples groups.
"Because you know, Filipinos are very talented. Most of the time when we our talents are put beside those from other countries, we always shine. What lacks though is our regard to these talents," Casiño said.
These performances are displayed in the open so that the youth that are living in the streets can have access to what they are doing. Anyone interested can approach these artists so that they can share their craft to possible students.
The group's name, “Dire Husi” was derived from two local languages with “Dire” a Visayan word for “here” and “Husi” a Manobo word for “friend.” This group which was formally formed in 2008, aims to become a training hub for young artists especially children in the streets who have so little opportunity to show their talents.
Through art, they want to attract street-dwelling and criminality-driven children to a better and productive life, possibly by mentoring them and entering them in schools. In the upper areas of Puerto village, the group constructed their little art training center named Dire Husi Artville wherein they are now housing and mentoring three street children in the arts.
One of their well-known members is the street child-turned-Atenean Rusty Quintana, whom they mentored and plucked out of the streets. In 2007, before Casino founded Dire Husi, Quintana was a beggar who was always found in Magsaysay Park.
At a young age, Quintana was exposed to various criminality in Cagayan de Oro city most especially illegal drug use. He was taken away by his elder brother when he was very little because of the bad environment in their impoverished home in one of the outskirt villages of the city. Together, they lived in the streets of Divisoria, begging for money and even becoming involved in some minor crimes.
However, one day, Quintana's brother failed to come back in their spot in Divisoria and from then, they never saw each other again. Later, he found out that his elder brother got arrested for drug use.
One afternoon, after living years by himself, he was walking along Divisoria when Quintana noticed the little art exhibit that Casino and his other artist friends put up in Magsaysay Park. Amazed with the artworks and the performances, Quintana approached Casino and, out of curiosity, asked so many questions about what they were doing. The two became friends and later, Quintana became one of the mentorees of Dire Husi Artville.
Because of his involvement with the art group, Quintana became inspired to pursue school. Despite being clad only in poor clothes, Quintana decided to take a shot and applied and got accepted for a scholarship in Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan.
Last 2015, he graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Development Communication and has now become an inspiration to most university students today.
Now, Quintana intends to give back by applying his talents and education most especially by inspiring street children to also rise from their current state in life. All of these because he happened to stop by in one of Casiño's free performances and exhibits in Divisoria years ago.
"We want to reach out to the youth in the streets, to encourage them with these performances about the beauty and life in the arts," Casiño said.
As for Casiño, Dire Husi Initiative will continue, to exist, he said, because of the millions of Filipinos who still has to be touched by arts. He argues that while we cannot be like other first-world countries whose citizens can pursue the arts without worrying about getting poor, they will continue to stand as advocates for the arts.
Last 2012, Dire Husi Initiative was one of the awardees for the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (Tayo) awards which allowed them to widen their horizons in their aim to spread patronage of the arts.
"We understand that as a third world country, most Filipinos and the government cannot really afford to pursue the arts because we are always aiming for more practical pursuits like business or service. However, we want the spirit of art to live on and that is why we are doing this. Even with all these developments in the city, we cannot live without art," Casiño said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 18, 2017.