CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – It has been two years since Typhoon Sendong came like a thief in the night and left with shattered homes, broken dreams and curtailed thousands of lives of Kagay-anons.
Fast forward, the residents of Xavier Ecoville (XE), the Xavier University(XU)-led resettlement project for Sendong survivors, commemorated their experiences during the catastrophe – and celebrated their progress now as a community – in their big show, “Straight from the Art.”
The show was held on November 30 at the Little Theater of XU-Ateneo de Cagayan. It served as the culminating activity of Sining Galing–A Xavier Ecoville Arts Program for the Youth, funded by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCAA).
Songs, dances and stories
Around 50 performers presented a rundown of artistic numbers during the night – folk dance performances, a group declamation, chorale presentations, comedy skits, storytelling, Christmas carols and a short play, among others. Their free-admission show attracted a lot of viewers who packed the theater house.
“This is a way to express what we have become two years after Sendong. It is also one of the few ways that we can set as examples that even though we went through a difficult time, we still help each other,” said Alexie Colipano, XE resident.
Including the family of Colipano, there are more than 500 families residing in XE, located in Barangay Lumbia.
One of the highlights of “Straight from the Art” was the soulful number, “Sa Xavier Ecoville,” an original musical composition by Paul Peji Aguiman.
The song chronicles the torment they went through when Sendong struck, the struggle to survive its aftermath, the rebuilding of their lives and now, life in their new homes. Toward the end of the song, some people got teary-eyed.
This hoilday season also marks their first Christmas celebration in their permanent houses at XE, following a formal turnover earlier this year.
Sharing talents and time
Under the auspices of the Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA), Sining Galing sought to help XE youth “find their artistic sides so they can creatively express themselves and tell their stories to the world.”
Prior to their performance night, they went through a slew of workshops every Sunday since August 2013 conducted by XCCA and members of different XU student organizations.
“The unique thing about this program is that the students from Xavier University have been given a chance to reach out to the Xavier Ecoville youth, to teach them,” said Xyla Mercedita E. Gualberto, one of the organizers.
John Andrew O. Bibal, a young painter himself and member of XU Circulo de Arte, taught kids and teenagers basic sketching and canvas painting.
“It was hard especially in the beginning because when I went there for the first time, most of them didn’t know how to sketch,” he recalled. “I had to find out what are the things they are interested to draw.”
Renante Magtahas, under the mentorship of Bibal is proud of his painting entitled, “Nature.” 16-year-old Magtahas said he was able to express his love for Mother Earth through his artwork and urged everyone to take care of our environment.
In an art exhibit, the second part of Straight from the Art, the paintings and photographs on display depicted everyday scenes in their community. The pictures offer hope to those who have been affected by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
‘Survivors helping survivors’
Alongside the showcase of artworks was the launching of the PagBAG-o Project, one of the major livelihood undertakings of the women of XE which also serves as their collective effort to help Yolanda survivors.
A large portion of the proceeds from handmade bags will be donated to Tabang Visayas, XU’s relief operation for Yolanda-ravaged communities. “It’s survivors helping survivors,” said Gualberto.
“Aside from having these bags, you’ll be able to help the families in Ecoville and the Yolanda survivors,” she added.
The first collection of tote and sling bags made out of katsa fabric has 6 monochromatic and minimalistic designs echoing the various catchphrases and battle cries of the University, namely: “Forming Leaders the Ateneo Way,” “Crusade Change,” “MISSion: Heal the Broken,” “Others First,” “For the Win” and “No ID, No Entry.”
PagBAG-o Project was initiated by Xavier Ecoville Multipurpose Cooperative (XEMPCO), in collaboration with several XU alumni for the designs and NGOs for skills-development workshops.
Through art therapy, the Sining Galing program has helped heal the scars etched by Sendong. For XE residents, this culmination event means more to them than the rounds of applause – it is a testament to moving on and a celebration of their resiliency.
As Aguiman’s song, “Sa Xavier Ecoville” goes, “Sa Xavier Ecoville, kami malipayon/ Tungod sa pagsinabtanay sa matag-usang panimalay/ Naningkamot ang usag-usa alang sa kausaban/ Salamat sa kahitas-an gidungog ang kabag-ohan namong tanan.” (At Xavier Ecoville, we are happy/ Because of the harmony of every home/ Each one of us strives for change/ Thanks to the Highest who granted progress to all of us.) – Rappler.com/with a report by Althea Dianne J Felix
Stephen Pedroza is a former Rappler intern from Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan.