BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – I am Florenda Pedro. I go by the nome d’arte Dumay Solinggay. I am a poet writing in Kankanaey, Ilocano, and English. I am an artist based in the art haven of the Philippines, Baguio City. I need your help.
But first, I will perform for you.
I am raising funds to defray the cost of my plane tickets to India, where I have been asked to represent the Cordillera region and northern Luzon at the Hyderabad Literary Festival (HLF) from January 27 to 29, 2017.
Last December, award-winning poet and performance artist Vim Nadera asked me to join the 12-person delegation of writers, poets, artists, and academics for the prestigious HLF. The There’s the catch, however: I need to raise a minimum of P60,000 because there is no funding for the travel.
I called the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, but was told that travel grants work on reimbursements.
So I immediately posted on my Facebook wall that I badly want to join the festival, and that I need financial assistance. On same day, I received a pledge of P6,000; the following day, the pledges rose to P15,500. As of today I have P22,500 worth of pledges, and the money on hand is P2,000.
I have writer friends who are auctioning books and selling my zines. The two independent bookshops in the city, Mount Cloud and Bookends, are also strongly supporting my travel.
I have also sent solicitation letters to various government officials in Baguio City and in Ilocos Sur, and I am patiently waiting for their positive response.
And, finally, I am mounting a fundraising performance called CROSSING BOUNDARIES. This will be on Saturday, January 14, at 7:30 pm at Café Yagam here in Baguio. Tickets cost P100 each.
I will be performing dance and poetry. A tribe of spoken word artists will be performing with me.
I have conceptualized the performance CROSSING BOUNDARIES to spread the story that artists and cultural performers often experience when travelling abroad.
Four years ago, the first time I travelled outside the country, I was offloaded at the airport twice. The immigration officer inquired about the purpose of my travel. I told them I am a writer, a cultural performer, an artist. When I told them I am a dancer, that flopped everything away and I wasn’t allowed to fly even with a visa stamped on my passport. Perhaps I was suspected to be part of a humantrafficking scheme.
On another group travel with fellow artists, we experienced scouring our pockets to the last centavo just so every one of us could pay the travel tax. It is frustrating for us to have to pay a considerable amount to our own government when we are travelling to represent our country.
There’s also that visa requirement that most regular-earning artists get bothered with: bank statement. I have a friend from Indonesia who was able to travel to foreign countries representing the film scene of her region because she was given by her country a cultural visa. In the Philippines, there is no cultural visa.
For most Filipino artists or cultural performers, especially those coming from the regions, often travelling abroad to represent the country means crossing boundaries – like a refugees. One needs to pull every string there is because the state doesn’t provide enough assistance, if it provides at all.
But, for us artists and cultural performers, we keep going, we keep on pushing. And I am determined to push for this chance to represent my region, our country, at the HLF.
For us artists, the nature of our work is not only to express ourselves but to communicate. In communication we find connection. Visitors always say that Baguio’s art scene is very organic. A primary reason for this is that we have a formidable sense of connection to each other, to our tradition, to our roots – thus, the city easily appeals to kindred spirits, to persons seeking connection.
My main motivation to participate at the HLF is to extend this connection I have in my city to other communities. It is perhaps no coincidence that my own community is helping me raise funds to attend the festival. If I make it there, it means I brought my ili, my community, with me.
The fundraising is ongoing. If you wish to extend your assistance, please deposit to this account: Florenda Pedro, Account Number 5696 8242 92, BPI Family Savings Bank, Malcolm Square, Baguio City.
If you will be kind enough to help, you are not only sending me to the Hyderabad Literary Festival – we are, in a way, going there together! – Rappler.com
Florenda Pedro/Dumay Solinggay is a 26 year-old Kankanaey-Igorot, one of the indigenous peoples groups in the mountain region of northern Philippines. She is a member of UBBOG Cordillera Writers, a literary group based in Baguio City whose endeavour is to write in the indigenous languages of the Cordillera region. She writes and performs poetry in Kankanaey, Ilokano, and English. She is also a visual, dance, and performance artist.