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    Finding El Dorado : The Year that was in Arts & Culture

    By Tito Mike

    The year in the Arts and Culture shone bright for the City of Golden Friendship. It wasn’t only lumad or natural born Kagay-anons who brought honor and prestige to the city, but many too were those who came from near and far seeking greener pastures and have made the city their home.

    Chris Gomez with the panel of judges for the Fashion Accessories Commercial Category (L-R) Carissa Cruz-Evangelista, Joyce Makitalo, Carmencita Sanchez-Jacob.

    Among the latter were Designer Chris  Gomez, originally from Davao City, who was adjudged the Grand Prize winner in the Commercial Fashion Accessories Category of Habi Kadayawan 2023 with his “Panolong Clutch Bag”, while Shine J. Casiño’s (from Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental) “Higalaay Splendor” finished Second Runner up in the Luxe Apparel category. Oscar Esteban Floirendo (a lumad Kagay-anon) was one of the five finalists in the Accessories Category (Commercial Category) with his “Pusô” bag.

    In the literary world, Arlene J. Yandug (from Maramag, Bukidnon) won the 41st Philippine Literary Arts Council Prize for Best Book of Poetry in English with her first book, “Coming Home to the Island: Poems”. Yandug is the current manager of  XU Press, and concurrently Chief Editor of Xavier University’s Journal “Kinaadman”.

    Dr Arlene J. Yandug (Photo courtesy of Dr. Elio Garcia)

    The book was also one of five finalists for the 23rd Madrigal González Best First Book Award, an annual award established in 2001 by the U.P. Institute of Creative Writing through the initiative of the Madrigal-Gonzalez family. Most recently, her poem “February in Many Voices” (which is also found in Coming Home to the Island: Poems) was the Third Prize winner in the inaugural Rhonda Gail Williford Award for Poetry, among a strong collection of work with174 submissions from 39 countries. The Award is administered by the International Human Rights Art Movement.

    In the world of music, two expat professors from the Liceo de Cagayan University’s Conservatory of Music, Theatre and Dance made waves in the  international scene.

    Horst Hans Bäcker was adjudged one of the world’s top 3 Classical Music Composers by the much delayed 2022 WorldVision Composers Contestafter the organizers decided to declare a tie for second place among the three finalists.

    Bäcker, wife Josefe & daughter Sophie with Liceo President Dr. Alain Marc Golez & family, son Raffa, mother Liceo Chair Dr. Rafaelita P. Pelaez & wife Tanya.

    Bäcker is the associate dean and professor for Composition, Orchestral/Choral Conducting, and Music History at the Liceo Conservatory of Music, Theatre & Dance. He moved to Cagayan de Oro in 2016, and was tasked to create a music curriculum of European standard.

    Since 2017 he has been a Permanent Guest Conductor of the Classic Youth Orchestra in Cebu, then was designated as Principal Conductor of the newly established Cagayan de Oro Symphony Orchestra in 2018. The Maestro was born in Romania but got his music education in Germany. He has also resided in Brazil before coming to the Philippines.

    His colleague Professor Cipriano M. de Guzman Jr.  became the first Filipino opera singer in the last 16 years to perform in a fully produced Italian Opera on September 23 &  24, 2023 in the Operastudio Molise’s production of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) at Teatro Savoia in Campobasso, Italy. He teaches voice and theater at the Liceo de Cagayan University Conservatory of Music, Theatre & Dance. He is originally from Pasig City but now resides most of the time in Luxembourg in deference to his numerous stints abroad.

    Meantime, in the world of cinema, Joe Bacus, a lumad Kagay-anon, won multiple awards in the 30th edition of  The Filipino Arts & Cinema International (FACINE 30) in San Francisco, Ca., USA with Markado: The Moon Devourer,   the first full-length film to be written, directed and produced in Cagayan de Oro after Lorenzo M. de la Serna’s Sa Imong Lawas ug Dugo decades ago.

    Joe Bacus directs camera movement and blocking of actors for the opening sequence of Markado (photo courtesy of Imoortal Productions)

    Markado was cited in the following tiered awards: Outstanding Film (Silver); Outstanding Achievement in Direction (Gold, Joe Bacus); Outstanding Achievement in Writing For Film (Silver, Joe Bacus); Outstanding Achievement in Performance by a Female Actor in a Lead Role (Silver, Jean Stefani Obsiana); Outstanding Achievement in Performance by a Female Actor in a Secondary Role (Silver, Roxan Lood); Outstanding Achievement in Editing (Gold, Joe Bacus); Outstanding Achievement in Visual Design (Gold, Production design: Orpheus Nery; Art direction: Clark Cabantan, Michelle Hollanes Lua, & Jake Vamenta); Outstanding Achievement in Aural Design (Silver, Music: Rotsanjani MojicaNuncyspungen, Switch, & Ace P.; Sound design: RodielI Veloso).

    The same crew behind Markado followed up its stellar achievement by successfully holding Cine de Oro Film Festival IV from December 15-17, 2023 at Karumata, Macasandig and Limketkai Cinemas, Lapasan.

    Unveiling of the Cine de Oro Film Festival IV poster

    Toni Cañete’s desilya won the  Golden Giant Fish Award for Best Film in the Main Competition (for Kagay-anon filmmakers) besting One Late Evening by Ryan LaoAng Pagputol directed by Ela FiguraOn My 18th directed by Joseph Marc Salas;  P’Do directed by Fernando Omboy; and  OKRA, IT’S LIFE, directed by Geniny Galo.

     The Golden Giant Fish Award for Best Film – Open Category was won by “Diak Kayat Magna Maisa (I Don’t Want to Walk Alone)” by Mikael Joaquin over nine other entries from all over the country: Ang Pamilyang Maguol (Jermaine Tulbo, a filmmaker and graphics designer from Mindanao); End Times ( Conrad Dela Cruz); Gatas (James Damasin, a Monkayeño writer and filmmaker); Kiang (Mariya Lim, a Cebu-based filmmaker and graduate of the University of San Carlos Cinema Program);  Nalumos Akong Papa sa Sabaw (JP Corton, Ormoc City); Ikaw at Aking Daigdig (Aki Red, Pasay City) HITO (Stephen Lopez, BS Nursing graduate of UST); Congratulations, DX! (Mark Felix Ebreo, an Assistant Director in the MMFF Best Film “Deleter” (2023), and as a Script Continuity Supervisor in “Drag You & Me” and “Her Locket; and, the river that never ends (JT Trinidad, Pandacan, Manila).

    The Reuben Canoy Lifetime Achievement Award was posthumously awarded to Philippine film historian, curator and archivist Teddy Co, who passed away recently.

    Earlier, Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan hosted the Cultural Center of the Philippines hosted Lakbay Cine on October 11-14, 2023 at the Xavier Ateneo Divisoria Campus.

    Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts partnered with the CCP Film, Broadcast, and New Media Division featuring the best of Cinemalaya Films, intensive workshops and masterclasses by award-winning filmmakers and actors, and Cine Icons featuring the works of the National Artist Ricky Lee at the XU Little Theater.

    The City of Cagayan de Oro was also active in the History and Heritage scene, hosting the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ (NHCP) 2023 National Conference on Local History and Heritage (NCLHH) in 8-9 August 2023 at the Capitol University Mini-Theater, Cagayan de Oro City, and the Local Historical Committees Network (LHCN) General Assembly at New Dawn Plus Hotel on 10 August 2023.

    A highlight of the closing plenary of the two day NCLHH was the launching of Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus B. Rodriguez’s new book, Cagayan de Oro-Misamis Oriental-Camiguin History Trail, which lists 37 historical sites in the three locations, at the Ayala Centrio Mall.

    Although self-published overseas in California, USA, Gwendolyn Ramos Garcia’s The Amazing Men and Women of Cagayan de Oro City provided snippets of the city’s famous men and women who contributed to its heritage and legacy as “The City of Golden Friendship.”

    Not the least, on another historical note, the surviving kin of Don Apolinar Velez honored the late Ramon Icayan Cabello, the forgotten sculptor from Jasaan, Misamis Oriental on August 22, 2023, who sculpted the statue of their ancestor as founder of the Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School (formerly Misamis High School) and leader of the Kagay-anon revolutionaries of El Mindanao Batallon who vanquished the American invaders in the  Battle of Makahambus Hill. He was also the sculptor for the statue of President Ramon Magsaysay in Plaza Divisoria, and the bust of Girl Scouts of the Philippines Founder Josefa Llanes Escoda in the former provincial office of GSP-Misamis Oriental Council.

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