The Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) formally opened the exhibit of the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) called “Haligi ng Harayang Filipino: Orden ng Pambansang Alagad ng Sining at Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan,” in the afternoon of 8 September 2018 at the Arrupe Hall, Jacinto campus. Relatedly, on 10 September, on the same time and at the same venue, the University also hosted an Artist Talk from National Artist for Music Dr. Ramon P. Santos, as well as live demonstrations and performances by National Living Treasures Ambalang Ausalin and Uwang Ahadas. Ausalin showed the gathered audience the skills and techniques involved in weaving the intricately patterned Yakan cloth; while Ahadas played the kulintang before the students, teachers, and guests.

University President Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J. delivered the opening remarks at the Exhibit Opening, while Vice President for Quality Assurance and Planning Ms. Suzette D. Aliño welcomed the audience to the Artist Talk. “On the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of our Ateneo de Davao University,” Fr. Tabora said, “we are honored and happy to celebrate the achievements of our National Artists, through painting, song, music, dance, and other creative skills and crafts—celebrate what is distinctively true.” Following Fr. Tabora’s remarks were the addresses from the Deputy Executive Director of the NCCA Marichu Tellano, and the NCCA Executive Director Mr. Rico S. Pableo, Jr.

Dance performances from groups representing the many Lumad peoples of Mindanao formed the bulk of the exhibit opening. Beginning the performances was the Blaan Di Amatutung Performing Arts Ensemble from South Cotabato, with their native Blaan dance. Next was the Yakan Family Ensemble, who performed the Yakan pangalay, with live accompaniment from Uwang Ahadas. Finally, the last performance of the event came from the Keheligal Dance Troupe from South Cotabato, gracing the audience with a rendition of a traditional Tboli dance.

“[The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan] is for Filipino citizens engaged in traditional art uniquely Filipino,” Ms. Aliño said, opening the Artist Talk. “[The GAMABA recipient] should have distinctive skills and have reached a high level of technical excellence,” she continued, “which has been passed on to and widely practiced by the present generation in his or her community with the same degree of technical or artistic competence.” Ms. Aliño ended her remarks by exhorting more AdDU students to come and visit the exhibit while it lasts. “Traditional folk art is part of our heritage,” she said.

Following her address was another series of performances, this time mixed with renditions of works composed by National Artists for Music. Members of the Ateneo de Davao University Chorale began the event with their interpretation of the Filipino folk song “Ay Kalisud,” which was first sung by Jovita Fuentes in 1919. Next came Mr. Josh Lintag of the Ateneo Repertory Company, who gave a violin performance of National Artist for Music Nicanor Abelardo’s composition “Bituing Marikit.” After that, the AdDU Sidlak Performing Arts Collective dances to an original composition by guest National Artist for Music Dr. Ramon P. Santos, accompanied by the kulintang.

Composer, conductor, and musicologist Dr. Santos detailed his musical journey from the Philippines to the States and back, during which he parlayed his interest in the emerging “computer music” of the 70s to his study of Filipino folk music, which he used to compose masses and rituals.

National Living Treasure Ambalang Ausalin, a master Yakan textile weaver from Lamitan, Basilan, came next and demonstrated with the help of her daughters the skills and techniques necessary to weave a Yakan cloth; while an NCCA representative described the nuts and bolts, as well as the cultural provenances and meanings, of the techniques and elements of Yakan weaving. Uwang Ahadas then followed with a live performance of the kulintang, where he was also joined by his family of musicians.

With this exhibit, Ateneo de Davao University hopes to attract more students to appreciate the traditional arts coming from Mindanao and to deepen their understanding of their place and role in preserving their local culture for future generations.