THE shameless conservatism of Nick Lizaso’s stated plans and vision for the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), is ironic when one considers that we have a President who questions Catholicism and dogmatism time and again, and who insists on his freedom of speech—if not his freedom to offend–over and over.
President Duterte unilaterally installed Lizaso as CCP head. But even the President himself would not pass the rules and standards that Lizaso is set to make for culture, given how he considers this “mission to be almost Pentecostal for it is all about Apostolate for Art and Culture.”
Yes, to the cultish feel of Lizaso’s statements. And yes, he will go so far as to push for censorship, because he has done it before. As a member of the CCP board in 2011, Lizaso stood for the closure of the exhibit Kulo at the CCP Gallery because of Mideo Cruz’s work “Poleteismo,” a critique of conservative ideologies such as Catholicism, which mainstream media had spun into a controversy. Conservatives filed a case against Cruz and the entire CCP board—with the exception of Lizaso, because he had stood for the closure of the exhibit.
Yes, this is the new CCP head, whose “transformative vision” is about the “best of Filipino Arts and Culture ennobling our race and country.” That’s capitalized arts and culture for you, and yes, we’re talking about nobility.
Duterte might as well have decided to waste public funds on a religious institution.
Department of culture, tourism
Lizaso’s transformative vision for the CCP is a nightmare. It is a list of motherhood statements that mean very little to cultural workers and laborers. It is also all geared towards making more money for the leadership of the cultural institutions, never mind the kind of bureaucracy and corruption and patronage that this will encourage.
He insists on a Department of Culture and the Arts that will “set one clear guiding vision intended to touch the lives of people from the grassroots to [the]highest level of society.” Lizaso must expect to have first dibs at being Secretary for this department; one knows now that the vision will have pentecostal and apostolic written all over it. How’s that for transformation.
Lizaso also seeks to transform the “CCP complex into an autonomous Cultural Heritage Tourism Zone. This will radically engage the holistic cooperation, and further cater to the emerging needs, of artists and entrepreneurs alike toward their cultivation in an increased number of excellent performance centers and opera halls brilliantly intertwined with souvenir shops, malls and cinemas.”
Ano raw? You mean you want autonomy so that you can transform the CCP into a tourist attraction, which to your mind includes malls and cinemas, against which you imagine that stage productions and art events will be able to compete? And you want this to be autonomous so you can have all the money that comes in, yes? And you can handpick who will benefit from this autonomy, and you can sustain a system of cultural patronage and capitalism without being accountable to anyone outside this autonomous zone.
This idea reeks of making the CCP an export processing zone, where even workers’ rights are beyond the purview of government agencies.
That’s the worst idea I’ve heard from any cultural leader, and I’ve been doing cultural work for the past eight years.
Federalism, drug war
While he wants to transform the CCP in Manila into an autonomous tourist trap, Lizaso wants to establish a mini CCP in every region in the name of federalism. To him it will mean “indigenous dances, music, weaves, and heritage shall be raised to global class while our indigenous people in hinterland regions can comfortably enjoy the uplifting concertos of Beethoven or the magical operas of Mozart or the riveting pop musical dramas of ‘Les Miserables’ or ‘Phantom of the Opera’.”
My only question is why. Why would anyone want to do this? Why spend public funds on building a CCP in every region for an activity that is absolutely unnecessary? Those funds are better used towards the preservation and archiving of indigenous cultural productions, the funding and marketing for weaves and heritage products beyond the clutches of social entrepreneurs that turn communities into dependents all over again. Why the hell do any of them – do any of us! – need to be listening to Beethoven or Mozart at this point in time, when cultural workers are underpaid, overworked, and overtaxed, and cultural wages are barely enough to feed our families?
Ah, but Lizaso ain’t done yet. Because he will of course bring in the drug war, and believes that arts and culture “will transform drug-crazed Filipino youth by stimulating their minds towards creative and positive synergies and substituting their craving for synthetic and destructive drugs, as well as harmful computer games.”
You got that right. To this man, synthetic destructive drugs are on the same level as computer games. And apparently in this religious turn of the CCP, our drug-crazed youth will be enjoined to be part of the apostolate.
Like all Duterte appointees, trolls, and propagandists, Lizaso is quick to dismiss critics and naysayers as those with “their own selfish visions and ambitions.”
I have none of that. What I do have are friends who risk losing jobs at a badly run, absolutely incredible, CCP. There are people I have worked with on some projects, who have been cultural workers for a long time, but who are now nervous about how much longer they will be allowed to keep their jobs. I know cultural workers who have served this institution in more creative and productive ways than Lizaso has, but who will now be at the mercy of this cult-leader wannabe.
Lizaso is a man who was installed by the President, without any consultation with the sector, and absolutely no sense about what the institution needs or wants. Lizaso will spell the death of the CCP as an institution — flawed as it is, critical as we always have been of it.
Lizaso will not maintain the status quo. He will bring it back to the dark ages of capitalized Art and Culture and Humanity, of apolitical cultural production, of true good and beautiful, of conservatism and censorship, wasting public funds while he’s at it.
I used to think Cory Aquino, with her administration’s policy about culture not being a priority, was the worst President ever for the cultural sector. But Duterte, giving away cultural leadership positions to un-credentialed, inexperienced, or disreputable allies is so much worse. Cory refused to give funding to arts and culture; Duterte is wasting it on people who have no idea what they’re doing.
Cory gave us Kris. Duterte’s given us Mocha, Andanar, and fake news as part of government spin.
Not sure anymore which is worse.