A gallery café with a twist

BEING an art gallery and a cafe is unique enough. But senior high students of the Arts and Design strand went one step farther: It's an art gallery cafe to be operated as a senior high laboratory of the Davao City National High School (DCNHS).

We have yet to hear of a similar entrepreneurial endeavor that will serve as the students' laboratory, and they did it by themselves with the guidance of their mentors, DCNHS art adviser Jefferson Bangot, Mindanao artist Rey Mudjahid "Kublai" Millan and his organization, the Lawig-Diwa Inc.

It all started with the monument at the front gates of DCNHS donated by Kublai when his high school batch celebrated their Jubilee year as alumni four years ago. The monument of students springing forth from the pages of a book placed DCNHS, the city's biggest public high school on a league of its own.

Seeing the vast potential of the school's art students, being a pilot school as well for the special program for the arts in the junior high level, Kublai and Jeff partnered with one of Manila's sought-after muralist Archie Oclos to work with the students, mostly from DCNHS but joined by other schools as well. Together, for several weeks during their school break, they surrounded the school with a mural that encourages passers-by to ponder on the Mindanao people. A poem painted across the front fence gives deeper meaning to the mural. But only for those who stop, read, and make the connection. It's an artwork, after all.

Still, there is that conviction to make art do more than just grab the fleeting attention of a passerby.

This was found in what DCNHS has -- a roadside structure that it planned on demolishing to make way for more senior high school facilities.

Thus, the Datu Bago Gallery Cafe along F. Torres Street right at the front fence of the school beside the Department of Education office.

"It’s the first of its kind in a public school system in the city and maybe in the country," Jeff said.

To make it sustainable and not just be a repository for dusty artworks, the structure was transformed into a Senior High School Laboratory.

It is an art gallery aimed to showcase the output and skills of Arts and Design Track, a café aimed to showcase the skills of Technical-Vocational-Livelihood (TVL) Track, and a business establishment aimed to provide a laboratory for Accountancy, Business and Management (ABM) Strand, Jeff explained.

As such, it will offer Arts and Crafts, Art workshops in visual arts, theater, media arts, dance, music, creative writing, and Food services (coffee, juices, pasta, bread and pastries, etc.).

The A&D students underwent workshops with Kublai before they started refurbishing the building using scrap materials and cement.

The tables and chairs were upcycled lumber from broken desks and chairs.

The students who volunteered their time, talents, and efforts are: Vincent James Amantiad, Steve Nico Baluyot, Regie Basalo, Juddar Basoc, John Rey dela Cruz, Joshua Limpo, Rothere Vrylle Lorenzana, Jonicko Millevo, Guillian Naparan, Hisashi Okabe, Glezter Earon Pequit, Ramil Tayong, Cris Novel Yriarte, Allene Grace Baculi, Trini Rose Bunao, Danica Kae Cubrado, Sheila Mae Ganade, Trisha Landrito, Vanessa Kaye Madera, Clarice Nacito, Lorjen Pabunag, Moniera Shane Pinoon, Marie Elizabeth Sumatra, and Bianca Camille Zamora.

They are all Grade 12 A&D students who volunteered their time in between schoolwork and breaks.

There to provide guidance for the gallery cafe operations are DCNHS principal and Public Schools District Supervisor Dr. Wenefredo E. Cagape, Senior High OIC Jenifer Bugas, Malon Luces, the Gallery Café General Manager, and Jeff who will be the gallery curator.

This early, the school has high hopes for this unique endeavor.

It will have its first customers on October as the gallery cafe hosts breakfast for VIP guests of the Mindanao Art Fair, Exhibit, and Conference scheduled on October 4-6, 2019.

The Datu Bago Gallery artists will be the featured artists in this first-ever regional art fair grant from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts National Committee on Art Galleries (NCCA-NCAG) to be held at the Atrium of Gaisano Mall of Davao. The MindanaoArt is organized by Lawig-Diwa Inc., the same organization that pushed for the creation of the school gallery cafe.

The Datu Bago Gallery booth at the fair will be at the atrium stage. The other participating groups are: Gallery Down South, Tabula Rasa Art Gallery, Bintana Art Gallery, Piguras Davao, Art Portal Gallery for Contemporary Art, the Talaandig Soil Painters, Capitol University Museum of Three Cultures, Likha-Caraga, and Ateneo de Zamboanga Gallery of the Peninsula and the Archipelago.

Top NCCA executives are attending including newly-installed executive director Al Ryan Alejandre, John Delan Robillos, Head of the National Committee on Art Galleries; Amado Alvarez, Head of National Committee on Museums, and; Fr. Harold Rentoria, Commissioner for the Cultural Heritage Section.


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