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ICYMI: Reimagining culture in the arts with MB Youth Talks

Important takeaways from our conversation with Frankie Pangilinan, Pepe Diokno, and Margie Moran

On Sept. 25, MB Youth Talks, a series of webinars in collaboration with entrepreneurship network Impact Hub Manila, delved into the timely and relevant question: What does culture in the arts mean to the youth of today?

Viewers were entreated to a lively discussion with young culture advocates like singer-songwriter Frankie Pangilinan and director Pepe Diokno, as well as our culture expert Margie Moran, the chairperson of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). Ces Rondario, the CEO of Impact Hub Manila, moderated the webinar.

Just in case you missed it, you can check out the webinar in full on our Facebook page.

MB Youth Talks: Reimagining Filipino Culture in Performing Arts

Didn't get to catch the first MB Youth Talk? Don't worry! The second session is happening on 📆 Friday, September 25 at 4:00PM! This session is all about Reimagining Filipino Culture. Get to know more about how culture has shaped the minds of the Filipino youth, how Filipino art has been a medium of culture and self-expression, and how it has evolved over the years. Join us together with our guest speakers, Direk Pepe Diokno, and Singer/Songwriter Frankie Cuneta Pangilinan, and Cultural Center of the Philippines Chairperson and Miss Universe 1973, Margie Moran! Register for this webinar here 👉

Posted by Impact Hub Manila on Friday, September 25, 2020

Here is a teaser of the important takeaways from the conversation.

Pepe Diokno: Where there are risks, there are opportunities

“I am a product of CCP,” said Pepe nostalgically, with fellow panelist, CCP chairperson Margie Moran, smiling in delight while hearing his personal story.

The 33-year-old director recalled that at the age of 17 he took his first playwriting workshop at CCP. Although underage at the time, his “fiery” English teacher fought for him to be enrolled in the CCP program.

“That started the ball rolling for me,” he continued. “I made a short film when I was in fourth year high school that showed at Cinemalaya, and that is where my world opened. It was at Cinemalaya where I watched these films, where I was really inspired, where I saw it was possible to become a filmmaker.”

Pepe added that Cinemalaya might be the only group crazy enough to give the then 21-year-old director enough money to make a movie. Engkwentro, his debut film, was screened first at Cinemalaya. It eventually went on to win Best Debut Film at the prestigious Venice Film Festival.

While some things have changed in the last 10 years, arguably a lot more has changed in the last 10 months. Noting that the traditional modes of distribution for films have been disrupted due to the pandemic, he concluded, “At the end of the day we just have to embrace it.”

You have to be a little crazy to be into the arts, in a good way, of course. But the arts are just as crazy to let you in. Crazy enough to bend the rules and give a passionate, yet underage, student a chance. Crazy enough to give a young director enough money to make a feature film that goes international. Crazy enough to embrace the challenges and the change thrown their way. So if there is anyone who can find a way to get through these uncertain times, perhaps it is the artists.

Organizations like the CCP, and their programs like Cinemalaya and Virgin Lab Fest, are there to provide opportunities to young artists and hopefuls. That, however, does not mean that they are not without risks. It may take some pleading, like in Pepe’s, or rather his teacher’s, case, but it could be worth it at the end.

Margie Moran proudly went into detail into some of the programs CCP, including music appreciation lessons with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and their recently concluded Virgin Lab Fest.

Margie Moran: Passion versus practicality, it shouldn’t be an “either, or” situation

“You cannot be in the arts if you don’t have passion,” said Margie Moran. “But you can’t eat passion, so you have to be practical.”

Like Frankie would say later on in the webinar, the quote ‘you can’t eat passion’ deserves to be immortalized on a tattoo or something.

While Pepe’s romantic personal tale of how CCP and Cinemalaya helped him become the director he is today, he also added that there are practical concessions that need to be made. That is why he also does commercial advertisements, allowing him to hone his craft in a way that comfortably pays the bills.

For an organization like CCP, Margie Moran recognizes that they need to be practical in terms of how they connect to their audience. They are reducing the lengths of what they stream online and are working to create dynamic programs that will arrest their younger audience.

“We are competing with TikTok and other apps that capture your imagination but only for a short term,” she mentioned. “The mind of the youth is captured only for a short time, they are not going to watch a three-and-a-half-hour opera.”

While the concept of the ‘arts’ is often held in high esteem, something that seems ought of our grasps, it is a mutable idea that changes with every successive generation, and with every individual it touches. Whether you are an artist or part of an art organization, there is always a balance that needs to be struck between personal passion and the practicality of being able to live off the arts as a career.

Frankie Pangilinan: “Everything has to be absorbed relatively”

It was Margie Moran who first noted that we have come a long way in terms of accepting arts as a viable career path. Not only that, there are opportunities to gain an education in the arts. One of the big questions for the youth interested in the arts is whether they should study the arts locally or abroad.

Frankie, 20, considers herself a product of a Philippine arts education with the various workshops and opportunities she has had in the country. She is also pursuing an education in New York, or at least was prior to the pandemic and the move to online schooling. With both the local and foreign education experience, Frankie has come to realize that more important than where we learn is how we take what we learn and apply it in our national and personal context.

“I was taking my anthropology classes in the States and it sparked a curiosity in me,” Frankie stated. Her classmates from the West had been riled up over certain issues, and although she recognizes that their concerns were valid, when called by the teacher she brought in a perspective as someone coming from a developing country. “Everything is relative, and everything has to be absorbed relatively.”

“If you learn things from abroad you have to bring them back here, you have to put them back into your national context and your personal context,” she continued. “Ironically, if I had not gone there [to America] I would not have realized that.”

Beyond the foreign educational experience, she touched on the fact that young people are exposed to foreign media in a way that could cause an identity crisis.

Perhaps that is why, now more than ever, culture in the arts is so important. The high and popular art consumed by the youth feeds into their identity, the identity that they will build on for the rest of their lives. Without infusing Filipino culture into the arts, our own historical and contemporary perspectives, the identity of the Filipino youth may become non-descript. We are this and that without being grounded in any particular place. If we cannot even find our footing, how can we even begin to add our own perspectives to a rich culture that will be passed down? And if we cannot even capture the idea, how can we begin to challenge the norms to redefine our culture in a way that accurately reflects who we are today?

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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