RISING up at the Fo Guan Shan (FGS) Chu Un Temple grounds along V. Rama St., Cebu City, is the Guang Ming Institute of Performing Arts Cebu, fulfilling a promise made by FGS founder Venerable Master Hsing Yun. It is a promise he made to his audience when he was here in 2010, saying in effect that if Cebu could produce “Siddhartha the Musical” without a proper music school, how much more can the Cebuanos accomplish with one? He added that he was going to fund it initially with 20 million Taiwanese dollars from his earnings in the calligraphies he makes (despite his current blindness, he still makes calligraphies with assistance: the thoughts are his and it is these thoughts people deem precious).
Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s visit was made a few years after “Siddartha” began its musical journey in 2007. Susan Yap Tan, Buddhist Light International Association (BLIA) adviser, Cebu chapter, says that BLIA decided to come up with Siddhartha as Cebuanos won five years in a row in a competition called Sounds of the Human World which challenged contestants to come up with the music for the verses in the life of Buddha written by Venerable Master Hsing Yun. With the help of Jude Gitamondoc, one of the perennial winners, the winning songs were strung together to make “Siddhartha the Musical.”
The musical has since had 108 performances in the Philippines and abroad: Cebu, Manila, Iloilo, Bacolod, Taiwan, United States, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. In Taiwan, the play has been performed about 60 times. All performances have been with the Cebu cast and crew and in the original English language, with subtitle translations for the non-English speaking audience. The play could have been translated and performed by talents in the localities it has been presented but FGS/BLIA has preferred to have it done by a Cebuano cast and crew. And now, it even has a 30-minute interactive “Siddhartha” that will be touring schools from as far north as Benguet down south to Zamboanga.
All these activities, explains Venerable Master Yung Guang, are an expression of compassion, especially for the poor and marginalized, from Venerable Master Hsing Yun and the FGS/BLIA community which does have community outreach programs for children and mothers. She is the chancellor for education world wide for FGS/BLIA and has been based in the Philippines since 1989. She says FGS has five universities: one in the United States, another in Australia, two in Taiwan and one in the Philippines. The Cebu school for performing arts, she adds, will accommodate about a hundred scholars, all housed, fed, given books and provided with free tuition. It will offer performing arts courses and Buddhism, and will also give lessons on other things like photography, culinary arts, community service, events management and housekeeping, to give students varied livelihood skills.
The school building, according to Junrey Alayacyac, FGS Three Acts of Goodness (TAG) International Ambassador, will have lodging facilities, classrooms, library, computer lab room, sound-proof rehearsal area for music, an ESL center “so there can be exchange students from Taiwan and China”, and a mini-theater with a 250 seating capacity. It is scheduled to be completed in seven months. There will be another building for administration and a third one will be a state of the art theater with an 800 seating capacity. Junrey, incidentally, is behind the 30-minute “Siddartha.”
The FGS Guang Ming School of Performing Arts, says Venerable Master Yung Guang, aims to help uplift the lives of the young, not just in their search for a livelihood, but also to be inspired by the compassion and generosity of Venerable Master Hsing Yun in the conduct of their lives.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 13, 2017.
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