Looking Back

‘Sanctuary of the Filipino Soul’


“Sanctuary of the Filipino Soul,” the vision-mission statement of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), was attributed to its founder Imelda Romualdez Marcos. In the past, you would read this text on a wall leading to the escalators when you entered the main lobby and turned left. It disappeared during the Cory Aquino years, and I haven’t noticed if it has since reappeared.

CCP has been in the news recently because of one piece of shock-art by Mideo Cruz (which, critics say, is a pseudonym for “mediocre”) in a group show of artists from the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas to commemorate Jose Rizal’s 150th birthday this year.

While everyone is arguing over art, aesthetics and freedom of expression, I wonder why nobody is asking about the role of media in this controversy. The exhibit had been shown elsewhere and didn’t attract much attention. As a matter of fact, if media had not sensationalized this one work in the group show, the exhibition would have closed as scheduled with no fanfare. While the CCP gallery is indeed a public space maintained by public funds, it is not Luneta or Rizal Park, also public spaces maintained by public funds. When media played up this work by Cruz, wasn’t it meant to shock the narrow-minded and get them to react in a narrow-minded way? Isn’t this yet another example of media generating so much heat, but little or no light?

That said, we can revisit the CCP as a physical space designed by the late National Artist for Architecture Leandro V. Locsin. CCP is an icon, a landmark that should be declared “Important Cultural Property,” at least. It is a building that blends both form and function, it is so important that some kulang-sa-pansin individuals have tried to downplay Locsin’s achievement by insinuating that it was “copied from an American design.” This half-truth is unfair because if Locsin did plagiarize, he copied from himself!

The original design for the CCP was for a Philippine-American Friendship Center that was supposed to be built in Quezon City. But Imelda stepped in and convinced the people involved to relocate it to the newly reclaimed area of Manila Bay. This is the area that we know today as the CCP complex. On the drawing board, both the un-built QC Phil-Am Friendship Center and the CCP are basically the same with the latter being bigger and raised from the ground. Locsin explained in a comment in one of Paulo Alcazaren’s daily Facebook posts showing Philippine architectural landmarks of the last century:

“Notice that the original scheme had the building on the ground level. The eventual relocation to Roxas Boulevard at the CCP and the adaptation to a program for a theater for the performing arts necessitated a redesign—lifting the building up off the ground with a plinth to accommodate a full orchestra pit within the reclamation area. This lifting of the entrance to the piano nobile level and the subsequent ramp were in fact technical responses to having the pit sit above the alarmingly high water level of the reclamation area and not, as some have injected into the equation, a move to symbolize some elitist notion of arts and culture. Together with the wide sheltering cantilever, these were pretty early ‘green’ moves that took stock of the building’s site and climate conditions—quite prescient in view of today’s hot-plate issues of climate change and disaster preparedness. And so the design endures…”

Few “modern” buildings survive the fickle and rapid changes in taste. Many “modern” buildings of the past 50 years are now dated. What was  cutting-edge or trendy before is baduy today, but not the CCP.

The CCP is best seen at night dramatically lighted, with the fountain throwing water upward, to as high as a two-story building, providing an interesting play of light and shadow on the huge floating block of white travertine finish. According to Rodrigo Perez III, this is reminiscent of a traditional Filipino house of light materials on stilts but reborn in reinforced concrete, yet creating and maintaining a “visual lightness” characteristic of Filipino architecture.

Completed in 1969, the CCP was the first building to rise on the reclamation area whose jurisdiction and taxes were contested legally by Manila, Pasay and the CCP. Designed basically as a center for the performing arts, the CCP also houses a library, a museum, art galleries, administrative offices and, at one time, a restaurant called Silangan, from where one could get the best view of the Manila Bay sunset. More than a physical space, the CCP is one of the cultural agencies of the Philippine government. Its mission was re-configured during the Cory Aquino presidency, such that it became more than a venue for performing arts. This explains why its administrators, led by Emily Abrera (chair) and Raul Sunico (president and artistic director) were summoned to the Senate to explain their mandate of providing a space for free expression, even if that happens to be something that some people find disagreeable or—in the case of Mideo Cruz—something that aspires, but fails, to be art.

Next time you visit the CCP, take the time to notice the details, the sculptural elements of the structure ornamented by the best of Philippine art. As an art space, and if the CCP must continue to serve as a sanctuary of art and expression, it should be allowed to fulfill its mandate.

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  • Anonymous

    This supposed sanctuary has become the pigsty of corrupted Filipino values and poor taste. The Filipino soul does not need a sanctuary that mocks its ideals and idolizes perversion in the name of art. A sanctuary is supposed to be a safe place. It’s now a den of perverts! No right thinking parent will bring his children to a place like this.

    • Anonymous

      Now that’s hasty generalization. Please be careful with your words, sir. Please clarify who the perverts you are talking about.

    • bila tibay

      Perversion for you but artistic for others…. same as revered idols for you but trash for others…

      Who’s the narrow minded now?

    • Anonymous

      Nuntiandi – I suppose you consider yourself the pinnacle of Filipino values and good taste? The guardian of morality and anyone who doesn’t agree with your oh-so-perfect logic is a pervert? This may come as a shock to you but the universe does not revolve around you, you know.

    • pinoynusa


      Never mind the pack of freethinkers. They always come in packs. They are just brown nazis.

  • Anonymous

    Emily Abrera doesn’t need a sanctuary for her soul–she probably thinks she doesn’t have a soul like most atheists and secularists who probably think that like dogs they’ll simply decompost into manure when they die and are buried.

    • Anonymous

      With all due respect, what’s your point?

      • Anonymous

        wala nga siya point kasi isa siya sa mga narrow minded na na shock he he

    • Anonymous

      you’re probably catholic..

    • Anonymous

      hehehe – tinamaan ka with that “narrow-minded” phrase no? Tragically you’re showing it with your post. The fact that the writer did not agree with you nor went ballistic over Mideo Cruz means she’s an atheist? Mga self-righteous naman talaga oo. Ahahahahahaha!

  • Anonymous

    Now after Mideo Cruz, CCP has become an object of hate of many Filipino Christians. 
    I wonder, when will Pinoy Christians become truly Christians.

    • Anonymous

      Catholics, not Christians. Christians follow Christ, Catholics follow their pope and dogmas. We can call Catholics Popeians too.

      • Anonymous

        i think they were called papist

    • pinoynusa

      A Filipino Freethinkers wishful invention. FF, comprised of atheists, agnostics and deists, think they are ‘superior’ to Catholics. Nothing but BROWN NAZIS.

      • Anonymous

        Pinoynusa, good morning (again). You’ve used this line before. So I’m posting this response again.

        Speaking of Naziism – what do you mean? You’re poisoning the well of these discussions, alam mo ba?

        have *no* idea, do you, what kind of line you just crossed by using
        that epithet. Are you seeing the Weimar around you? No, you are not. Do
        you see “brown shirts”? Hindi tayo nanggagaling sa pagkakahiya ng
        pagkatalo sa giyera, at pinagpirma ng tratado ng Versailles. Walang
        offense laban sa nationalist sentiment ng Pilipino na ginagatungan rito.
        Yaman din lamang at (ayon sa profile mo) 90 year old ka’ng nasa US,
        hanap ka riyan ng Jewish na kaibigan – at magpakuwento ka ng kasaysayan
        nila bago mo gamitin yang salitang “Nazi.”

        You’re out of your
        depth following this issue, and your insensitivity and ignorance IS
        offensive. If there’s anyone who’s posted here who sounds like they’re
        hot and ready to persecute and censor a minority view (and a much more
        sensible one than his own), it’s you! 

  • Anonymous

    When you see a hideous reflection on a mirror, don’t blame the mirror. With his art, Mideo Cruz provided a mirror where the nation can see what’s beneath the veneer of piety, the reality beneath the appearances and motions of religion. Whatever was the motivation of the artist and the rest who made it possible for the art  to be shown in the CCP, the “Poleteismo” was a golden chance for local religious devotees  to manifest the veracity of their faith. But what we saw in the mirror was a plethora of coprolalia, hatred and intolerance, the very exact opposites of  the behavior Christ taught his followers would act when attacked. The work of art might have been ugly beyond description  but it was a clear mirror. The human depravity that it threw back was not the fault of Mideo Cruz. Indeed, that was one time when the Filipino saw their soul at the CCP..

    • Anonymous

      Yes, and truth hurts. Reality bites.

      • Anonymous

        cliche-ic but i agree

  • Anonymous

    Whatever happened to the advice “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things”? What kind of reflection will Mideo teach our children? 

    • pinoynusa

      The CCP was infiltrated by activists and atheists which include Emily Abrera, Karen Flores, Carol MacGregor Esposo Espiritu. They wanted to get paid by the government but still pursue their personal agenda.

    • Anonymous

      Nuntiandi, it’s a good question. “What kind of reflection will Mideo teach our children?” Perhaps, if you get to tell the story, that there are many views on the world – not all of them admirable, lovely, noble, or right – and for them to keep asking whether it’s valuable to let these be, or shut them down.

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