“The performing arts gather people because of an advocacy. People are not just involved because of the beauty of the art but because of the advocacy that’s in-line with it,” explained Afuang. “Art, in itself, is intentional in nature.”

Concerts have been cancelled, theaters are closed, and cinemas have shut down indefinitely. The new normal is an adjustment for everyone and everything, including the arts. However, that doesn’t stop an artist from performing.

Before the lockdown and before the pandemic, scrolling through Facebook gets you the occasional user rants, dank memes, and viral cat videos. These days, it has shifted to a cultural takeover: with musicians playing classical instruments and singers belting covers of high-pitched musical numbers.

Singin’ in the Internet

The shift began even before ABS-CBN released a recorded performance of the controversial, ‘Ang Huling El Bimbo’ musical on Youtube for a whole 48 hours. The two-day viewing was to fundraise for the network’s Pantawid ng Pag-ibig foundation that provides for families affected by COVID-19.

To publish a stage musical online at the most public video platform was risky, but effective. The foundation raised P12 million in donations and opened bigger possibilities for the local performing arts to have a stage online and a medium to give back.

A group of students and alumni from the Conservatory of Music in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) created a Facebook page to invite singers and instrumentalists to perform as a fundraiser for its staff.

Last June 5, the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) announced a record-breaking high of 7.3 million jobs lost due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff in the university were among those affected, especially with the upcoming shift to online learning. Around 50 workers—including garbage collectors, and cleaning staff for public areas in the university grounds—lost regular income.

Keisha Dela Cerna, a Pharmacy graduate and current violin major in the Conservatory, began extending help by providing UST hospital staff with a vegetable drive.

The fundraiser helped two sectors at once: the health workers in UST and the farmers from Benguet looking to sell their vegetable surplus. The quarantine from April to May cancelled marketplaces and limited transportation to and from provinces, which made it difficult for farmers to sell.

When Dela Cerna found that donations were continuously pouring  in, she opened the fundraiser to not only bring the vegetable drive to the maintenance staff of UST, but also provide cash assistance.

Public data from “Benguet to USTE / Ayuda para kina’t ate’t kuya

“I began thinking, why don’t we add to the demand of buying vegetables from our farms? If it exceeds, let’s give our staff workers money [for their everyday expenses],” Dela Cerna said.

As a musician herself, she knew the first few people to bring in to help her cause. There was a daily lineup of performances with notable artists, such as opera singer Melissa Camba, as well as lead singer and namesake of the indie band, SUD.

“If we can’t [bring] the news to others, they’ll be reached by those doing live performances,” Dela Cerna said. “because they have a steady stream of followers, they can help spread the word.”

Most of the performers reached out to the page in a bid to help out, as some could not afford to donate themselves. Dela Cerna also remarks that even those who donated, would sometimes be people that did not have enough for themselves.

“Those that give, they have nothing, too. They’re struggling financially, and yet they are the ones most interested to help,” explained Dela Cerna. “I highly appreciate the performers, even when they weren’t invited, they’d ask to help.”

The Arts is a Profession

Meanwhile, Husay Company—a startup that empowers the performing arts through their platform and website—had also launched KapwaMahusay, a fundraiser to benefit 100 artist-scholars to develop and monetize their talent and passion.

Leah Rasay, founder and CEO of Husay Company, did not want the pandemic to stop individuals from continuing to learn and understand the arts. They wanted to continue while adjusting to distance learning and to other people’s own limitations brought by the lockdown.

“Everything is going online,” said Rasay. “It’s expensive to transition online, so we had to fundraise. It’s for the [instructors] to teach their skills and talent — and for arts education to go online gearing towards monetizing, and more on being a professional artist.”

Students themselves come from different parts of the Philippines, some of whom may not have access to the internet. The pandemic has shown the shift to online learning in different education sectors is a difficult adjustment for both student and teacher.

As much as possible, they wanted to continue arts education for more artists to believe that there is a space for them to become professionals despite the pandemic.

Husay Matuto is the education arm of Husay Company that instructs artists and professionals-to-be, and empowers their talent to also make it into their livelihood. Debbie Afuang, one of their instructors and a professional dancer, believes that arts and culture needs more support, especially now during a crisis.

We can harness the power of the performing arts and also reach those apparent needs of society [during the lockdown].” explained Afuang. “It isn’t just a hobby, [like] what some parents tell you. People will realize that [art is]s relevant for people to live harmonious lives. A lot of countries [stay] connected because of the arts and culture sector.”

After a Hard Day’s Night

Arts and culture is a continuously growing industry, especially the performing arts. History has also proven that it becomes most needed during a time of crisis, as it can bring a community together towards one goal.

“The performing arts gather people because of an advocacy. People are not just involved because of the beauty of the art but because of the advocacy that’s in-line with it,” explained Afuang. “Art, in itself, is intentional in nature.”

“We are in a mechanical age. Any mechanical job could be replaced by robots or technology, and it is that creative aspect of humanity that can’t be replaced by a machine,” she adds.

Dancers, singers, painters, and actors — artists, as a whole, have become part of our daily cycle as we search for an escape through entertainment or an advocacy to support. It brings a variety of people together to connect their humanity.

“We need that reminder, too. That we’re just people,” Dela Cerna said. “In all its goodness, badness. We’re all tired, frustrated. Art is what ties us. It’s very humanizing.

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