Baleriano performance artist Rommel “Mets” Espinosa is one of the 7 Pinoys who will participate in Art of Encountering – V a Performance Art event scheduled on September 28 to October 19 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. These seven artists are members of Tupada Action and Media Art (TAMA) collective. In 2009, the 6th Tupada International Visual Performance Festival was held in Baler.
Tupada started in 2002 with ambush performances by artists from diverse disciplines in various public spaces, exposing the masses to the artists’ creative expression where they themselves were on an overpass, in open parks, streets, cafes and alternative art spaces. It has since grown into an art collective holding international art events, establishing connections with local and foreign artists in the spirit of cultural and information exchange and getting together in creating an independent ground for art expressing concerns. TAMA aims to bring performance art in the Philippines further, involving new media and technology as currently available material and equipment to tackle issues, articulating them in today’s language. – See more at: http://batangbaler.net/2009/11/30/bunga-the-6th-tupada-international-visual-performance-festival/
Based in New York, his geographic location has not stopped distinguished artist Jeho Bitancor to mount a stunning collection that once again demonstrates not only his artistic and visual prowess, but his intellectual and philosophical nature as well. It is this combination of these two, the union of the tangible with the intangible, that embodies the marriage of form and substance.
“Squalid Splendor,” represents Jeho Bitancor’s visual exploration of the duality of our existence. He puts on canvas the contradiction between the reality which we strive for, in contrast with the reality which we actually live in.
For his latest collection Jeho Bitancor, wants to bring a message of hope and renewal, that comes with the realization that, “We all have the right to exist with dignity and not tolerate false values and venerations in the guise of ‘progress and development’.”
Jeho Bitancor is a Cultural Centre of the Philippines Thirteen Artists Awardee of 2006, who has exhibited extensively in the Philippines, Singapore, USA, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong. Trained in the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts (1984-1992), and the New York City Art Student’s League (1997), Jeho has won several awards and distinctions, and is collected by the Singapore Art Museum, Ateneo Art Gallery, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Aurora Provincial Government, Museo de Baler, as well as several private collections.
Fifty-one years ago, my ambition took me out of the Philippines to gamble my life into an uncertain and unfamiliar world. I matured in cold environments and lived most of my life in places that endured the seasonal assault of winter. But it had been in 1964 that I’d experienced a full-fledged winter of 150° below zero temperature. That was when I was assigned and stationed in the South Pole, where the only other population besides us, were penguins and polar bears. After the initial astonishment had passed (along with an impulse to shovel a mountain of snow), one thought remained and haunted me¾ the enchantment of the tropical climate. My longing for warm weather resurrect my memories of Baler seventy-four years back. I used to stroll along the shore of the Outer Banks; an island a kilometer away east of town¾ Sabang, Labasin, and Buton. The hamlet of Castillo at the southern tip was once a part of it. But that area was transformed and relocated by the tidal waves on the other side, east of Kinalapan-Pingit river during the seventies.
It was in 1847, that castillo (fortress) came into existence. Two were built, one was located atop Point Baja (Ermita), and the other was by the outfall of Kinalapan-Pingit River. The construction was an innovation of the parish priest, Fray Jose Urbina de Esparragosa assigned in Baler from June 7, 1840 to 01 May 26, 1853.
Accordingly, the fortresses were built as an observation post or a watchtower. It served to warn the community of marauders/pirates coming to Baler Bay, which happened on occasions. The most severe and catastrophic occurred in the summer of 1798. Marauders from southern Philippines plundered and swept the towns along the Pacific seaboard. In Baler, they had taken prisoner Fray Benito Zambudio or Zamudio, the parish priest, and held him for ransom.
Note: This is on permanent exhibit at the Museo de Baler. The texts are from the same exhibit and prepared by the National Museum. The burial site excavated was at Sitio Castillo, Brgy. Sabang just on the right side of the road before the entrance to the Carmen T. Valenzuela Elementary School.
Update 2014: The exhibit is no longer on display.
A Prehistoric Burial Site
Sitio Castillo, Brgy. Sabang, Baler, Aurora
(a permanent exhibit at the Museo de Baler by the National Museum)
In September 1989, then Governor Eunice Cucueco reported the discovery of artifacts and destruction of archeological site by pot hunters at Sitio Castillo to the National Museum (NM), a government agency mandated by law to protect and preserve the cultural properties of the country. Hence, the NM sent a team of archeologist to assess the site and save artifactual materials as well as to conduct an archaeological excavation in the area.
Surrounded by Baler Bay, mountainous areas, and Kinalapan and Castillo rivers, the Julio Site is located on a sand dune at Sitio Castillo about 3 kilometers south of the poblacion of Baler. In this site, the archeological excavation undertaken by the National Museum yielded a primary burial dated back from the 14th to 15th centuries A.D.
Exposed at the depth of 120 centimeters from the present ground surface underlying a recent garbage pit, a human skeleton was found in an extended position, lying on its back with arms laid parallel to the body and oriented to east to west direction. On top of the skull was a large blue and white porcelain bowl that was used as a head cover. A small stoneware jar with dark brown glaze was found in an upside down position on the left shoulder blade. Both tradeware ceramics are attributed to the Ming Dynasty Period. Other associated artifacts found were glass and shell beads, and shell bracelets. The camelian beads were found in a cluster at the left lower leg. On the other hand, shell bracelets belonging to Conus (Lithoconus) leopardus were found on each wrist rested on the pelvic bones. Other associated materials found on this layer were fish bones and shells.
The Julio site is the only archeological site ever recorded in the province of Aurora. This is a primary burial site associated with personal belongings and grave goods. This was a tradition among prehistoric Filipinos where they buried their dead with grave goods or funerary offerings, such as earthenware, stoneware, porcelain and stone and metal implements. It was believed that the dead needed food or material possessions as he journeyed from the land of the living to the land of the dead.
Furthermore, the recovery of blue-and-white ceramics, stoneware jars and carnelian beads provided evidences that Baler was a part of trading activities even before the arrival of the Spaniards.
Primary Burial in Julio Site
There are various burial practices in the Philippines. One is primary burial, wherein corpses are interred directly into the ground in extended and supine or flexed positions.
The human skeletal remains recovered in Julio Site, Baler was in supine position with arms extended on the sides or parallel to the body, and the head facing the east. It was associated with grave goods that can be dated to the Neolithic Period. These were tradeware ceramics, shell bracelet, and glass beads, funerary offerings known locally as pabaon. It has been common practice in the Philippines to bury the dead with objects believed to ease a soul’s journey to the afterlife.
The Aurora State College of Technology (ASCOT) held its 13th Commencement Exercises last April 9. The Guest of Honor and Commencement Speaker was Dr. Rafe M. Brown, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Assistant Curator of Herpetology at the University of Kansas, USA. Dr. Brown has been working on different environmental researches in the country in collaboration with the National Museum. This is his second time in Aurora.
Here’s the transcript of his Commencement Address:
It is a pleasure to be here on this beautiful day and a great honor for me to be invited to speak at this important event.
Today, you are graduating and leaving behind an extremely important period of your life and your personal development. When I think of the importance of higher education and the great significance of a studentâ€™s college career, my first thought is that the last four years have, in many ways, been some of the most important years of your life. You have learned to work hard, to take your required class assignments seriously, and you have hopefully come to appreciate what others in your society will expect of you as adults. As an adult you have learned that aside from the great fun and pleasure you can derive from life and its distractions, you also have great responsibility.
As a graduating senior, you are now part of something much bigger than yourself. The many institutions of college – your clubs, your fraternities, your graduating class, and now your association as an alumnus â€“ all make you part of something. When I look this graduating class, it occurs to me that you are now all members of society in a way that you were not before today.
from the Manila Standard Today online, another review of the Baler, Aurora book. By: Mae Gianina Cabalida.
As with all books, itâ€™s not important what writers have been through, but what the writers produce and itâ€™s not important what the book looks like, beautiful as it is, but what it contains.â€â€” Manuel L. Quezon III.
Baler takes the reader into a journey through the capital town of Aurora, a province situated between lush and formidable mountains, and a vast coastline opening to the Pacific.
The book describes in detail a town that has been witness, and sometimes casualty to, a rich and colorful history. Originally three miles closer to the shore, Baler was transferred to its present site after a tsunami in 1735 wiped off the original town, leaving only five surviving families: the Angaras, Bijasas, Bitongs, Carrascos, Lumasacs and Pobletes.