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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

Towns, cities as showcases of creativity

/ 12:07 AM October 17, 2016

We Filipinos love to think of ourselves as a people with creative talents. Many of our Asean neighbors also regard us as a people with a talent for creativity. I have heard this expressed in admiration during trips to other countries in our region.

Among our professionals whose services are much sought-after abroad are architects, interior designers, advertising executives, singers, writers and artists. They all make a living out of the creativity of their imagination.

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Unfortunately, there is little evidence of our people’s creativity that is visible in our towns and cities. Our communities all look virtually the same—plain-looking, no visual candies—because there are no public manifestations of our people’s artistry. If we are transported to one town in a blindfold, we will not know if we are in Pangasinan, Cebu, or Surigao because our towns look the same.

Foreign tourists are attracted to our islands to enjoy the creativity wrought by nature. In contrast, tourists go to countries like Thailand, Indonesia and India largely to experience the creativity of their peoples. Imagine if we can offer the creativity bestowed by nature and showcase manifestations of the creative minds of our people: The Philippines can be a blockbuster of a destination.

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In Metro Manila, for instance, there are not enough monuments, art installations, buildings, and parks that reflect the creative soul and character of the residents.

Yet, there is so much potential in what we can do to make exhibits of creativity out of the functional structures that are ubiquitous in our communities. We have bridges, waiting sheds, pedestrian overpasses, town boundary arches, kilometer posts, and treeless highways that are plain chunks of concrete.

Imagine if the creative geniuses of our race are harnessed to retrofit these boring structures and transform them as showcases of the most imaginative of our people. Imagine our bridges, overpasses and sheds transformed into edifices of unique artistry.

Imagine if the parks and public spaces of our cities have sculptural installations, and the walls of our public buildings adorned with the paintings of the best of our artists.

Imagine if our roads are lined with flame trees, banaba and narra trees that explode with red, violet and yellow flowers in the summertime.

The enduring charm that these works of creativity will infuse into our communities can transcend budgetary considerations. Besides, an appeal to nationalism and the bragging rights of having one’s artwork permanently exhibited in a public space are factors that can temper expenses.

It is important, however, that these projects not be put in the hands of politicians who are predisposed to tacky designs and presentations of kitsch. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts

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(NCCA) must have a primary role in these projects. Hence, the NCCA budget must be increased and not drastically reduced from P188 million in 2016 to a measly P31 million in the proposed budget for 2017.

One multitalented artist, Ruel Caasi, has a clever plan to tap his network of artist-friends in order to transform a sleepy rural town through public art installations, tree-lined roads, and artistic intervention in the boundary arches. If he manages to get funding, his virtual “Field of Dreams” project will make a tourist destination out of a  small town.

The NCCA and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority or Tieza should support initiatives like Caasi’s because these will show how artistic creativity can transform a small town into a wonderful community that features the creative talents of our race. With the Filipino penchant to copycat unique projects, such a model town can inspire other towns to take similar initiatives. The spark in creativity may even radiate to our crafts and food products, among others.

Filipinos are transforming other countries with their creative talents. It is about time they transformed the land that gave them life and nurtured their gifts.

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