All of us have a COVID-19-related story to tell. We experienced suffering in varying degrees and in various aspects of our lives. One of the often-discussed topics when the pandemic struck, which is relevant at any time, is mental health.
The CCP’s Arts Education Department, led by Eva Mari G. Salvador, acknowledges the challenges faced by performing artists, particularly freelancers and independent artists, whose livelihoods have been greatly impacted.
In response, they have developed the “Upskilling in Performing Arts” program, a series of workshops aimed at equipping artists with additional skills in art and wellness, festival management, and performance curatorship for modern museums. The initiative began with the Arts and Wellness component, with workshops held in Iloilo in 2022, followed by sessions in the National Capital Region.
The workshop series is an extension of the Sining Galing program, which focuses on harnessing the healing power of the arts and providing psycho-social interventions to individuals affected by natural disasters and other crises.
“To us, ‘galing’ means different things. Galing as in excellence, and galing as healing or recovery. We started Sining Galing in 2005 after a landslide happened in Quezon. Since then, we have partnered with UNICEF, DepEd, local governments, and non-government organizations to facilitate workshops on arts and wellness,” shared Salvador.
The Arts for Wellness program continues this year with a workshop held in Dagupan City, attended by approximately 30 participants from various towns in Luzon. The workshop was made possible through a partnership between the CCP Arts Education Department and the Office of Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher “Toff” de Venecia, the primary author of the Creative Industry Law.
Cong. Toff, who has a deep connection to the performing arts, expressed his commitment to Arts for Wellness during the workshop’s opening ceremony at the Lenox Hotel in Dagupan City. Prior to his political career, he was renowned in the performing arts industry as an actor and later served as the managing artistic director of Sandbox Collective, a Manila-based theater company dedicated to producing groundbreaking and innovative work.
“As a director and actor, one of the themes I resonate with is grief, and this is a material I often employ in my plays,” he said.
“As some of you may know, a tragedy struck our family in 2004, when our house burned and my sister passed. Throughout my 14-year career in the creative industry, grief has been a central theme in the materials I produce,” he added.
Cong. Toff recognizes the significant role of performing arts in the healing process. He personally experienced burnout during his career and understands the challenges faced by freelance artists in the Philippines. In response, the House of Representatives has passed House Bill (HB) No. 6718, also known as the Freelance Workers Protection Act.
This bill aims to provide protection and relief to over 1.5 million Filipino freelance workers, addressing issues such as abusive employers and the lack of a grievance system in the digital economy. It also seeks to institutionalize benefits like night differential and hazard pay for freelancers when applicable.
Marrying arts and science for wellness
The three-day workshop, held from May 25 to 27, focused on the healing power of art and upskilling performing artists to expand their income opportunities.
Dr. Luis Gatmaitan, an acclaimed children’s book author and physician, highlighted the physiological benefits of engaging in art-making, while psychologist Yeng Gatchalian emphasized the positive impact of art on mental well-being. The discussions were moderated by art trainer Tracey Santiago.
Dr. Gatmaitan explained that art activates the release of hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, and serotonin, which contribute to overall well-being. Gatchalian added that art reduces stress, enhances focus, and facilitates emotional processing. Both experts emphasized the importance of culture-based interventions during disasters and conflicts.
The workshop facilitators, including Eva Mari G. Salvador, recognize the significance of incorporating local culture into post-disaster initiatives. By conducting research and tailoring activities to the affected community’s cultural context, they leverage the power of art to assist in recovery and facilitate healing processes.
Salvador shared that this program is something they aim to continue doing at CCP as it benefits not only the artists but also those who can learn from them through a series of workshops for mental wellness through the arts.
“It has a domino effect. We train the artists and teachers so they can utilize their form of art on their turf whenever the need calls for it, an example of which is a natural calamity where many people are displaced, and doing arts can help them cope or feel a bit better, even if it is for a moment,” she furthered.
People have different ways of coping when a disaster or tragedy strikes, but certainly, harnessing the healing power of the arts is one of the most effective and sustainable ways.