EIGHT 43-inch screens are used by an installation at the CCP to showcase a timeline that highlights the overlapping of all Philippine art forms throughout history. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF CCP
Even during the time of the coronavirus pandemic, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the premier cultural institution in the country, is making strides and breaking grounds. It is able to circumvent the restrictions brought about by the quarantine, finding new platforms and mechanisms to sustain artistic productions and cultural work, and to disseminate cultural information. The primary way is through online platforms and apps such as social media, audio and visual conferencing programs and streaming services.
Thus, the CCP was able to hold its beloved theater festival, Virgin Labfest and the popular Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, successfully. Before the blighted year ends, it launched the digital edition of the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art (EPA), another milestone for an already monumental and pioneering work.
The EPA was first published in 1994, the first of its kind in the Philippines. Numerous writers, researchers, scholars, experts, artists and cultural workers contributed to the 10 volumes divided into peoples and different fields of art. The encyclopedia became the most comprehensive and authoritative resource on Philippine art history and culture. In 2018, an expanded and updated edition was launched with 12 volumes.
“Since its publication in 1994 and 2018, the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art has come a long way in ensuring that information on the history, developments and transformations in Philippine arts and culture are properly recorded in an academic manner,” said Margarita Moran-Floirendo, chairperson of the CCP Board of Trustees.
“This invaluable significance of the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art has made a cultural and artistic milestone not just to the Center, but also to our nation’s heritage,” she added.
IT comes in different formats and can be accessed through a website, an on-ground interactive installation and offline.
The CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Digital Edition (EPAD) was launched on 18 November 2020, through its Facebook page, making over 5,000 entries, written by over 500 contributors, accessible on digital format and through a website, epa.culturalcenter.gov.ph.
Moran-Floirendo said it is always the mission of CCP to democratize “the diverse, artistic knowledge by providing access to this information to every Filipino.”
“The digital version comes at an opportune time because it hopes to be of great use to teachers and students who have been forced by the pandemic to hold classes online. We, therefore, enjoin professors and scholars across the country to take advantage of this huge compendium of knowledge, because it contains much of what they really want to research or teach about Philippine architecture, visual arts, music, dance, theater, film, broadcast arts and literature as well as the cultures of 56 ethnolinguistic groups of the Philippines,” said Dr. Nicanor G. Tiongson, the encyclopedia’s editor-in-chief, who worked with a team on the project for two years, even during the pandemic.
Chris Millado, CCP EPA overall project director and CCP vice president and artistic director, revealed that “from the onset, we recognized the importance and the power of having a digital edition of this cultural resource.”
When the second edition of the encyclopedia was being conceptualized and written, he suggested “completely doing away with a print version and going directly to the digital platform.”
“That proposal was met with fierce opposition from the editors and writers who insisted that the print version was essential and important,” he recalled. “I’m glad to have been proven wrong because the print edition has become the best-selling publication of the CCP right after its launch in 2018 despite the fact that it weighs more than 100 pounds. The print edition became a must-have for bibliophiles and a staple reference for both public and private libraries.”
Tiongson said that EPAD “is substantially the 2017 printed edition but with entries updated and many more new entries added, especially in the major works and the major artist sections.”
“The CCP EPA Digital website is the online version of the encyclopedia that can be viewed with the need of an internet connection and subscription. The website comprises up-to-date information about different art forms, as well as additional visuals like videos.
The project is an answer to the challenge of contemporary times to access information right away without the constraints of distance and time,” explained Millado.
The EPAD website has nine sections. The section on Peoples of the Philippines contains the master essays on 54 ethnolinguistic groups, arranged alphabetically from Aeta to Yakan. The next eight sections focus on the eight arts: Architecture, Visual Arts, Film, Dance, Music, Theater, Broadcast Arts, and Literature. Each section is further divided into “Historical Essays,” “Forms and Types,” “Aspects,” “Works” and “Artists and Organizations.”
“The digital edition effectively broadens the reach of the encyclopedia in its contents, as it is now made accessible through your mobile phone, your desktop and other smart devices. The digital edition is also updatable, making the content continually relevant. It also allows us to enhance the content with features like sharing, auto-citation and interactivity. Many other enhances are being developed as the digital team keeps abreast with the latest strategies in digital content creation,” Millado said.
A notable feature of the digital edition are the videos. Aside from the more than 5,000 photos from the print edition, hundreds of video excerpts from plays, dances and music performances, all sourced from the vast video archives of the CCP, were incorporated. Many of these productions have become classics, and some are rare masterpieces that many people have never seen.
Aside from the website and mobile application, EPAD will be made available as an on-ground interactive installation and an offline version contained in flash drives, which can be given and used by those in far-flung communities.
The EPAD is a milestone in the efforts of preserving Philippine cultural knowledge.
The offline version is a compilation of the 12 volumes of the encyclopedia in PDF format stored in flash drives.
“Experts say history begins only when stories are written. The advancement of human race is built on the wealth of knowledge and experience of this people that is written and passed on across generations. In the Philippines, we might have lost our ancient records, but digital EPA affords us now to record our story as a people and as a nation,” Christopher Grajo, the project’s technical adviser, enthused.
“In the olden days, for a story to be remembered, it has to be etched in stone. In the present generation, the stone takes the form of digital media,” he added.
EPAD is also a major step in making the rich resource more available to the people, especially during the current pandemic.
Millado said, “The conditions of isolation and physical distancing brought about by the great pandemic lockdown have made this digital edition even more urgent and useful as our teachers and students seek digital resources that could help them in their remote learning.”
“Even now that we live in the ‘new normal’ environment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCP continues to face the challenge of bringing Philippine arts closer to the people. I am confident that this project will do so despite the closed theaters of the CCP. Art will still continue to matter to every Filipino,” Moran-Floirendo said.
While the current situation has made EPAD a useful and indispensable tool, it will always remain of great importance because, as Millado said, “the digital edition of the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art is not just a website, it is the portal to the Filipino soul and imagination.”
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