BUDDY artist Kublai and I along with four others (Tagum City’s resident artist Vic Dumaguing, City High’s Art and Design teacher Jeff Bangot with the two of us as frontliners, and ADDU’s Liz Lee and Kristin Gaid taking care of the backstage) have been into the Lunang Art Residency Program for a year now. Groups of artists — mostly the young ones from different towns in Mindanao come over to Balai Kalipay in Malagos, Davao City for three days to learn and immerse in art.

This was Kublai’s idea, as a response to the needs we recognized in putting up Mindanao Art Fair since 2019. (We are now on our fourth year of Mindanao Art, and it will be held starting October 14, 2022 in an entirely new and Instagrammable venue, abangan!)

It is in recognition that Mindanao artists have been left behind and the art market is still ruled by the national capital.

Lunang and Mindanao Art are part of a “movement” to push Mindanao artists — not just visual arts — to the fore, uniquely and awesomely steeped in the colors of Mindanao.

The fervor that keeps us going is the knowledge and conviction that Mindanao, while left behind and made fun of by the mis- and maleducated in the national capital has one big advantage over all artists — we still have living traditions.

While the national capital can only copy and improve on contemporary lines and concepts and Visayan artists can draw far into history, Mindanao need only to step out of their homes and immerse (lunang) in living traditions.

This is what VP Inday Sara actually did. She went out in borrowed garbs (a sign of respect and pride) of the Bagobo-Tagabawa and just wowed them all. The sight was so blindingly delightful, the blind thought they were looking at a variety show. Yes, we have to be forgiving... because in the eyes of the mis- and maleducated, their awareness revolves around what is on television. To make it worse, these are shows that highlight the ridiculous and make a star of the one who can ridicule the best. It’s a sad existence, actually, and that is why we Mindanaoans can be more forgiving.

It’s the month of Kadayawan Festival. Bask, immerse, and wallow in the colors of Mindanao. Get to know the 11 indigenous peoples groups that now reside in Davao City, but most especially, get to know the original IP groups from these 11 — the Bagobo-Klata, Bagobo-Tagabawa, Matigsalug, Ata-Manobo, Obu Manuvu, and Kagan. From there, know the Islamized IP groups who have settled in and made Davao City their home — the Maguindanaoan, Maranao, Sama, Iranun, and Tausug. Be familiar with all of them and follow the settler IPs to their original homes all over Mindanao to get to know the other IPs just as colorful.

Trivia: There are at least 18 non-Islamized IP groups and 13 Islamized IP groups in Mindanao. There’s is one lucky lady among us: Jojie Alcantara, one of Sun.Star Davao’s original lifestyle writer is traipsing all over the Philippines at this very moment to document all listed IP groups in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. But that’s another story.

The point here is, there is a living tradition in Mindanao that in Visayas and Luzon is relegated to the far reaches. Very far from the tiny condominium units of the regular snooty resident of the national capital and the traffic-locked mansions of the oligarchs.

And yes, I’m preening with pride as a Mindanaoan who has immersed so delightfully my whole adult life.

Email: saestremera@gmail.com, IG: @saestremera, Tiktok: @stellaestremera