Under Presidential Proclamation 683 by then President Corazon Aquino in 1991, the entire month of February has since been dedicated as National Arts Month (NAM) every year to celebrate Filipino arts and culture.
With the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) as the lead agency in this endeavor, both government and non-government organizations (NGOs), including private companies, have since collaborated to organize events all over the country within this period each year to highlight the seven fields of the arts — Architecture and Allied Arts, Cinema, Dance, Dramatic Arts, Literary Arts, Music and Visual Arts.
Especially in the last decade, the NCCA has gone on to tap showbiz celebrities not only to help spread awareness about the celebration but also to give a face and a voice to the advocacy of promoting Philippine artistry with the aim to reach the grassroots.
Veteran host Boy Abunda has been an ambassador since 2010. Others who were also chosen by the NCCA “to stir everyone’s interest in our culture and the arts scene” include Lucy Torres-Gomez, Sarah Geronimo, Shamcey Supsup, Ogie Alcasid, Piolo Pascual, Dingdong Dantes, Venus Raj and Jericho Rosales.
Last year, Miss Universe 2015 Wurtzbach was named Ambassador for Arts, KZ Tandingan for Music and Ian Veneracion for Visual Arts.
This year, Wurtzbach’s fellow Miss Universe Catriona Gray who just ended her 2018-2019 reign has been proclaimed Arts Ambassador. Along with the beauty queen, Julie Anne San Jose is now Music Ambassador still with Tandingan who renewed her commitment from last year.
From the time she got off the plane to banner the Philippines in the Miss Universe 2018 pageant in Thailand, Gray exhibited her love and fondness for everything Filipino — incorporating indigenous materials in her outfits all throughout the contest, and with her very own ideas executed by Mak Tumang and Jearson Dimavivas.
A further look back at her winningly Filipino wardrobe saw Anthony Ramirez’s green top and black pants for her flight to Bangkok; a white dress with matching shoes designed by Noel Crisostomo and Jojo Bragais, respectively, accessories by Cru and a sampaguita-designed bag by Cali.
Still in succeeding events, she proudly wore a T’boli embroidery skirt by Niño Franco; several outfits showcasing T’nalak fabric; and of course, her memorable LuzViMinda national costume complete with a Pampanga lantern she pulled from behind, the Ibong Adarna-inspired gown in the preliminaries, and the Mayon Volcano-inspired red-black-and-orange lava gown in the finals.
Perfect as an Arts Ambassador for this year’s NAM, and just a month after ending her reign, Gray said in her speech she believes that art is always created with intention.
“And in my pursuit to conquer my universe and to achieve my dream I sought to take the opportunity to celebrate our Philippine heritage, art, history, textiles, music and dance to bring forth a new found interest in Philippine Arts to the younger generation,” she said.
She added that in doing so, she felt that as an ambassador in her own right even then, she was able to stir a new generation to begin an appreciation for what the Philippines uniquely has to offer.
She explained, too, that since she was born and raised Australia, her love for her Filipino mother’s native arts and culture was “grown, learned and embodied.”
“It brings me great pride to continue sharing our unique, Filipino heritage in the arts to my universal platform as it has become my advocacy, aside from advocating for education and HIV/AIDS, to advocate for love of country,” she further echoed in her post on social media after the event.
Unlike San Jose and Tandingan though, Gray did not oblige to sing during the event, even though many had hoped she would given her education at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where she later earned a Master Certificate in Music Theory. Proper indeed, she understands what her ambassadorship means.
“Since this month’s theme is ‘Ani ng Sining’ — the harvest of the arts — a harvest starts with planting and sowing seeds. And so I have fervent hope that we can instill and grow a fierce love and passion for Filipino arts and culture in each and every one of us,” the Philippine pride concluded.
Song over speech
Meanwhile, San Jose, who said she did not have a prepared speech when introduced at NAM’s launch, chose to sing “Nobela” to the delight of the NCCA’s guests.
She later posted a grateful message to the NCCA for giving her the opportunity to serve the country in such a unique way.
“Thank you, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for making me your newest Music Ambassador, for the warm welcome and for providing more opportunities for Filipino artists to pursue their passions! I am grateful and honored to be chosen as one of the advocates for Filipino music, culture, and arts, along with @catriona_gray and @kztandingan. Mabuhay ang ating sining at kultura! (s/o to our talented artists – amazing sketches.) #AniNgSining2020.”
In last year’s NAM launch, Tandingan as Music Ambassador gave a fresh and exceptional rendition of the the month’s theme, “Ani ng Sining,” composed and originally sung by Joey Ayala. She had just returned at the time from her stint on “Singer 2018” in China where she left an indelible impact on both local and international fans for her unique and creative musical artistry in different genres.
She also performed Florante’s “Ako’y Pinoy” for an encore, delivering the rap with her own added Cebuano lyrics.
This time, on her second year as Music Ambassador, Tandingan first expressed her excitement in being able to continue her advocacy in promoting Original Pilipino Music (OPM) and inspire the Filipino youth to explore their own talents in the arts.
“First time kong matawag na Binibining… pang-beauty queen lang kasi ang Binibini,” she laughed after her introduction.
She then performed an original composition with rap interspersed with her native Cebuano of course. Her new song is on the verge of going viral soon given her 758K followers on Instagram and 129K YouTube subscribers.
Speaking to representatives of various media outfits, Tandingan expressed that even if there is no monetary remuneration for being arts ambassadors, the call from NCCA is more than enough recognition for their talents and humble contribution to Filipino arts.