DID we let the pandemic get in the way of getting more "cultured" for the past 100 days or so? I hope not. In the scheme of things, the re-opening of cultural institutions in the new normal is the least of priorities, at least in our country.
Looking at the positive side of things reveals an abundance of cultural resources in the digital world. The pandemic gave the opportunity for cultural institutions to migrate to digital platforms while we cannot yet enjoy the actual things or experience. On Google Arts and Culture app alone, there is a seemingly endless treasure trove of music, art, virtual tours, and the like.
The act, or should I say, the culture of sharing one's artistic talents during this unprecedented crisis is one of the things that I am most grateful for. Filipino musicians mounted several fundraisers online. Locally, Kapampangan artists the likes of Ara Muna, Budang, Mark Joeghie Catacutan, Stanley Sayco, and Angela Sampang lent their voices to an online concert when the city celebrated its fiesta in a simple yet fun way. Arti Sta.Rita talents and even our famed polosadors shared music videos on Facebook. My very own talented cousins Thea, Tanya, and Toni David started producing their carpool karaoke videos which are a delight to watch.
My daughter Sunis is fond of musicals and has a blast whenever Andrew Lloyd Webber shows premiere on YouTube and are available for a limited period. Filipino independent filmmakers have made their works accessible to the general public for free, also on YouTube and Vimeo, among others. My friends and I cannot get over the Filipino musical masterpiece "Ang Huling El Bimbo" when it premiered on YouTube. This democratic kind of access to quality productions was unthinkable during our pre-CoVid 19 normal.
One of the things that I also enjoyed during my free time is bingeing on films and series. Netflix aside, among the best subscriptions I discovered are Curiosity Stream which is filled with documentaries, and the Smithsonian Channel which requires a US-based account to access.
On the visual art front, I enjoyed the virtual art exhibits of friends in Pampanga and beyond who made prolific use of their time under quarantine and continued to post their finished paintings on social media. I clearly remember Kapampangan master painter Rafael Maniago who made it back to the US in the nick of time and his kind act of doing portraits of medical front liners in their community. Ruston Banal of International Photography Awards fame managed to launch his newest coffee table book in collaboration with the cooking doctors of the Pampanga Medical Society.
Among the local governments in the country, the Provincial Government of Bulacan through its History, Arts, Culture, and Tourism Office, with Dr. Eliseo Dela Cruz at the helm, has been one of the busiest in making cultural content available to the public, with their series of webinars, not only on arts, culture, and music, and their concerts featuring top Bulakenyo groups. In our own CSFP Arts and Culture Council, Rhythm and Dance Centre produced several dance videos featuring their ballet, hip-hop, and jazz students.
As I look back at the past hundred days which turned our world upside down, I am amazed at how the arts and culture continue to thrive, overcoming physical and social limitations set by this pandemic, and reminding us that we are indeed bigger than this virus and that our creativity is endless.