Temple Complexes & Tropical Storms

I regret leaving the Visayan Biennale just as it’s week-long activities began, but I’m grateful for the conversations & connections I made on my way back to Cebu (Ginoe Ojoy, of Silay, Negros; more on their work in coming Glucose Syrup Zine Fest!).

My dear friend, a fellow ACC fellow Frog/Dava Wing arrived for a brief visit in the Philippines. Her ACC studies funded research to meet shamans in Mongolia, drawing from experiences as a project manager at Lijang Studio in Yunnan, China with native Naxis peoples. It is always a breath of fresh air to be with another nomadic artist collaborator whose work intersects in performance, ritual, erotics, creative transmission of cultural heritage (see photo above, featuring Frog’s two-story high+ scroll apprentice archive of Dongba mythical tales in learned illustrated language).

Between cultural festivals organized by civic institutions of creative commons & quasi-civic artist-driven biennales, what does it mean to travel & gather people communally around the arts? Within this spectrum, what is “Art?” Being with Frog is always a reminder that life is art, “art is never finished” & mutates everywhere. Frog records everything through journal illustrations: Art in the mall park, in the waterfalls, in the sacred lands that became forgotten backyards of storytelling memory. Art. Land. Care. Ritual. Community. Culture. Politics. [A string of processes which we only differentiate in the language of Capital.]

Upon arrival, under a brief residency at Tropical Futures Institute, a tropical storm passed through the Visayas & paused our intended travel plans, upon which Frog ended up making 2 puppets out of wire, paper & tape: Lihangin (Visayan god of Wind) & Lidagat (Visayan god of Ocean). Making On our way down to Dumaguete, we stopped on a 2 day waterfall ~ecotourism~ trip in Samboan, Cebu, where we weaved mutual inquiries. We started putting together a zine of present tenses, past hauntings, future memories…

What does it mean to travel to places sacred by design, yet transformed from centuries of storms by spiritual colonization & capital co-optation?

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At some point, deep in the waterfall, hallucinating, anxiety really began to gnaw at my mind. What is arts architecture of cultural heritage without capitalism? Coming fresh from VIVA Biennale with talks on “Art” (art world art, y’know) & then smacked back into urban center plaza malls & jam packed highways (media saturated environments), on the way to street festival pilgrimage (mass municipal dance ecstasy), now cruising coastal ecotourist destinations… at one point, where do you draw the line between Self / Community / Ecology / Art / Media / Culture without the seamlessly weaved relations between them through Capital? 

After a week looking at “art” – I have to say, by what terms do we define ‘art’ & community-based art?

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Lidagat jumps into the water, with the guide in the background ready to go for another splash in!

Some of these places are living art installations literally carved out by community. In the photograph above, our tour guide explained how the families around the waterfalls had actually carved out the diving spots along the edge to climb up, as well as picking up the big rocks at the bottom to make the spot safe enough for tourists to come in #$s excited to take waterfall diving photos. 

The landscape of waterfalls, carved by community, contains art value as a background for selfies in social media digital ecosystems. People Pay a Pretty Penny to Be Photographed Here. Tourists (like us) come & go here, their relationship to land & space being entirely made possible through capital, not necessary relations to humans & lands. Is this how we want to be in intimate relationship to ecology? 

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We left this 2-day full moon sojourn & we arrived on the last day of the Dumagete Charter Day Fiesta – a day of parades honoring all the civic institutions of the city office. There are marching bands, marching girls whirling batons, floats with beauty pageant contestants & floats with beauty pageant contestants, anime characters, mga bayut (queer) elders & more. Have you ever seen the staff in the city hall, let alone seen them dance on the streets??? This is not quite the ‘festival’ of street dance that I’m interested & yet, it is mesmerizing & a thrilling sensory experience.

The structure of this parade is a blending of Spanish Catholic parade celebrations around the church & Protestant American construction of civic institutions around the plaza as part of their projects of empire in the Visayas, Philippines. It is a common ritual gathering & civic holiday practiced throughout the islands.

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En route to Bohol then Cebu, we stopped at Siquijor. An island knowns for its “mystical witchcraft” & mananambal (those with the knowledge of [plants])… As an herbalist, I’ve always dreamed to visit. Although it was not festival season, we did get to meet Noel Torremocha, husband of Juanita, who comes from a family of herbalists that hold tradition of harvesting plants for community ritual in what has blossomed into Siquijor’s Holy Week Healing Arts Festival. Though I won’t be able to make it there on this trip, I hope at another calendar wheel I can participate in the seven week harvesting rituals, where each week they gather plants, stones, barks, cave matter, elements from all different regions of the island to make a concoction that is then served on Easter.

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Frog’s sketch of Noel, the husband of Juanita who comes from. This is the house they have for treating guests on the hilot beds in the back, where we got hilot (philippine massage)…

With Frog, again, it was another hallucinatory experience of wondering aloud the fractals of cultural arts geometry ::: Where does “Art: Live in the Community? ::: in the gallery? theater? church? public spiritual rituals? oceans? waterfall backdrops? eco-tourist destinations? fiesta streets?

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While this may seem as a slight divergence from the festivals, for me this time reconciled an important encounter with eco-tourism aspect of Visayan regions. How do festivals organize alongside civic partners & networks of eco-tourism? 

What moves the people? Capital? Desire for Spiritual Encounter with Ecological Beauty? &/or mediated maps of place from the perspective of outsider’s gaze determining value…

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