20 Caraga artists honored in first-ever regionwide creative fest

Ivy Marie Mangadlao

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20 Caraga artists honored in first-ever regionwide creative fest

DANCE. A group performs during the opening ceremonies of the first-ever Creative Caraga Festival in Butuan City on February 20, 2024.

Ivy Marie Mangadlao/Rappler

Among the Caraganon awardees are actress Sylvia Sanchez and actress-director Laurice Guillen, singer and songwriter Bayang Barrios, and singer Grace Nono

BUTUAN, Philippines – Twenty artists in the Caraga region took center stage as they were honored in the first-ever Creative Caraga Festival held to recognize and celebrate the achievements of prominent region-born and -based homegrown creatives across various fields on Tuesday, February 20.

Dubbed the Creative Caraga Awards, it was part of the festival organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Caraga, recognizing various categories in the region’s creative industries, such as film, performing arts, visual arts, publishing, print media, design, and traditional cultural expressions.

Gay Tidalgo, DTI-Caraga director, said the event was a celebration of the “extraordinary achievements and remarkable contributions of Caraga region’s most talented creatives across a spectrum of artistic disciplines and entrepreneurial ventures.”

Adult, Female, Person
SING. Bayang Barrios, Creative Caraga awardee for performing arts, sings after receiving her award on in Butuan City on February 20, 2024. Ivy Marie Mangadlao/Rappler.

“Each of the 20 awardees has demonstrated a remarkable level of innovation, ingenuity, and artistic excellence within their respective fields, making us all proud as they inspire future generations of creatives,” Tidalgo said.

Brenda Corvera, DTI assistant regional director, said the awards considered the following five criteria for the selection: creativity and innovation, outstanding achievement in respective creative endeavors, impact and influence in the community, sustainability and entrepreneurship, and community engagement.

Among the recipients was Laurice Guillen, born in Butuan City, a prominent figure in Philippine cinema, recognized as an actress, film, and television director.

Guillen, who delivered a message through a video recording, said the initiative could serve as a window of opportunity, not just to honor those from Caraga who have excelled in their field, but also as a breeding ground for new and emerging talents.

“Perhaps, we can engage Caraga’s youth and introduce them to film and its related arts, encouraging them to dream differently and understand the realities faced by fellow Filipinos in the provinces,” Guillen said.

Nasipit, Agusan del Norte-born actress Jossette Campo-Atayde, popularly known as by her screen name Sylvia Sanchez, was also an awardee in the film category. She was represented by her mother at the awarding ceremony, who became emotional as she read her daughter’s message.

“Madami dami nadin po tayong nasungkit na mga awards pero sa totoo lang iba ang kurot sa puso ko dito sa award na ito dahil galing po ito sa inyo-sa aking mga kababayan dito sa Mindanao,” Sanchez’ message read in part.

(We’ve won quite a few awards, but honestly, this one feels special in my heart because it comes from you (Caraga), my fellow Mindanaoans.)

She said she will always cherish her roots in Barangay Punta in Nasipit, because it was the place where her dreams took shape.

Like Sanchez, Bayang Barrios of Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, a multi-awarded singer and songwriter known for a genre that fuses folk-pop music with Mindanao’s Lumad influences, also expressed emotions upon receiving her first recognition for performing arts from the region.

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“Mahirap i-please ang sarili mong lugar; hindi ka makikilala hangga’t hindi ka makakagawa ng pangalan sa ibang bansa o ibang lugar. Napaka-emosyonal din para sa akin nitong award dahil marami na akong natanggap na awards, pero ito yung first time  na dito mismo sa  lupang sinilangan,” Barrios said.

(Pleasing your own place is challenging; you won’t be recognized until you make a name in another country or elsewhere. I’m emotional about this because, despite receiving numerous awards, this is the first time I am being recognized right here in the land where I was born.)

The other recipients of the Creative Caraga Awards are as follows:

Audio-Visual (Film)

  • Laurice Guillen, Butuan City 

Performing Arts

  • Grace Nono, Bunawan, Agusan del Sur
  • Richard Vilar, Butuan City
  • Jojo Garbilao, Butuan City
  • Carlito Amalla, Butuan City
  • Marvin Gayramon, Butuan City
  • Aljun Cayawan, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur 
  • Thelma Villanueva, Butuan City 

Publishing and Printed Media

  • Greg Hontiveros, Butuan City
  • Fernando Almeda Jr, Surigao City
  • Eulogio Eleazar (Posthumous), Cantilan, Surigao del Sur


  • Resty Lagare, Butuan City
  • Lynn Sheryl Reasol, Dinagat Island
  • Klevin Bartolaba, Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte

Visual Arts

  • Luis Yee, Jr., Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte
  • Mariano Catague, Butuan City

Traditional Cultural Expressions

  • Marlyn Asis Ruiz, Butuan City
  • Margie Abaquita (Posthumous), Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte

The Creative Caraga Festival, a three-day event at Robinsons Place Butuan running until February 22, features various activities such as a fair exhibit, cultural and musical nights, creative industry talks, a fashion parade, and a stakeholder workshop.

Originally scheduled for December 5-7, 2023, the festival was postponed a day before the event due to a powerful earthquake that struck the region on December 2, followed by several aftershocks.

Banawe Corvera-Curato, DTI trade and industry development specialist, told Rappler that the decision to postpone, despite established connections and momentum for the event, was challenging; however, it was made to prioritize the safety and well-being of stakeholders and participants. 

“The silver lining was it gave us more chance to tweak the program and improve our collaborations, more time to prepare, so at least now we are readier,” Curato said. –

Ivy Marie Mangadlao is a community journalist writing for Mindanews and an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow for 2023-2024.

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