By AA PATAWARAN
How has Covid-19 disrupted your life?
A couple of weeks before Covid-19 struck, I had barely arrived from a trip when my doctor advised me to stay home. I had hardly gotten over my jetlag and she was aware that in spite of that, I went straight to work and also attended some socials. Her advice to me was to take a week or two of rest so I could let my jetlag run its course. I looked forward to the prescribed solitude, but not too long after, Covid-19 happened and quarantine was imposed. Suddenly I was looking at a very long period of rest with no end in sight! Those were initially anxious moments, but I soon realized that in these direst of straits, the only way was to look up and surrender our suddenly more palpably uncertain future to God.
What did you find most challenging?
Not being with family is the most challenging and difficult part of quarantine, especially as the word normally applies to precariously sick people who need to be isolated from all possible sources of infection. It implies the inability to hold your kids and grandkids close, or to casually eat from the same spoon.
The personal shock of losing two close friends, Ito Curata and Bob Miller, to Covid-19, brought so much sadness, tears, and a realization of death as a much closer reality for each life on earth. Coping with their sudden loss was disconcerting, and I had to suddenly grasp at straws to accept how we stood so fragile in the light of God’s will. The pandemic gave life and death more purpose. I realized that time was precious, and my life’s priorities should change so I could be a blessing to family and special friends and even to people I had not met.
I should count my blessings, in full awareness that my fellowmen have the same basic needs for survival, and I should look toward being a more participative member of society when empathy and altruism are sorely needed.
How did these self-realizations move you to spend your days under quarantine?
I got surprisingly busy!
Pray, Love, Eat in that order invariably started my day. I always start my day with prayer. By love, I mean exercise, essential for the body. Breakfast follows, equally essential.
Together with the Filipina CEO Circle, I helped raise funds to distribute 6,300 PPEs, masks, and face shields to 80 hospitals. At the same time, I organized my files and magazines and discarded the old ones. I even discovered old calling cards belonging to deceased persons. I arranged more than 39,000 digital photos into albums. I had meetings, a press conference, bible studies, and cocktails with friends and family via Zoom. I attended lectures and forums on webinar. And I had time to read, watch movies on Netflix until the online performances on You Tube commenced with The Met Opera, the Bolshoi Ballet series, and of course the CCP performances online. Far from being humdrum, the lockdown has been a very personally productive time for me.
What is the role of art and culture in a time when the barest of necessities for survival take center stage?
Maslow’s theory of hierarchy of needs come to mind. The role of art and culture will depend on what essential needs of an individual have first been satisfied. Art and culture can only be appreciated if physiological needs such as food, water, and shelter needs are secured. Then security of health, resources that comes with livelihood, and the safety of the family must be more or less satisfied next. Only then can the appreciation of the arts be recognized.
Art influences societies’ mindsets. I see it as the balancer of worry for the first two concerns of the hierarchy, as art soothes the spirit. Communication across different cultures is so much easier now, and heavily utilized in this crisis. In the spirit of mutual support at this time of the pandemic, music brings together a community of music lovers, in symphonies, musical theater, opera, and dance from theaters around the world straight into private living rooms. The arts bring joy to the mind and that impacts very positively on people’s emotions.
What do you think is the impact of Covid-19 on our future?
I am neither a doctor nor a scientist, so all I know is what I read on social media and on international news. It’s been confusing and I don’t know whom to believe. But one thing for sure, the CCP has a budget reduction of 45 percent.
I am so thankful to Nick Lizaso, president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, for putting our artists’ and cultural workers’ interest at the forefront of much needed assistance, with an assurance of generous support for the arts, as was recently announced.
The closing of theaters cut off the lifeline of our various professionals in the performing arts, since live audiences can no longer contribute to theater revenues. And let’s not forget the seamen and the entertainers presently stranded on board major cruise ships, unable to dock in ports around the world. They will return, but only to be added to the list of the unemployed.
To survive, leaders need to be vigilant for opportunities in crisis situations. After a downturn, art companies can survive if their leaders are good crisis managers.
We will have few glitches as we transition to the new normal.
What are the major lessons of this global crisis?
I am a retired artist, but I fully understand their requirements and need for space, whether physical or emotional. I know very well that if they cannot sell or perform, they won’t be able to survive unless they find an alternative livelihood.
I wish we had funds to contribute to those who are affected. Our thrust at CCP is to transition to an online platform. It was planned as a future program, but Covid-19 mandated its immediate implementation. The artistic department, led by the artistic director, Chris Millado, will realign its artistic programs with the goal of protecting lives and livelihood by employing artists in the alternative platforms. These programs will commence with Virgin Labfest in June.
The silver lining in the aftermath of the pandemic is the willingness of Filipinos to support our products. The product of our center are the actors, dancers, singers, and musicians. We will have arts education and arts management speakers via webinars. It will be a very exciting time for the arts as we venture toward novel ways to broaden our base.
As a human being, I learned to respond with faith. I know that the pandemic brought instability in people’s lives, including mine, so to be ready is essential. I have confidence in the Lord Jesus because to know Him is to share our crisis with Him. Knowing this brought joy and assurance in the midst of the crisis. I learned to press on and not stagnate, knowing He is in charge. Consequently, I learned to prioritize and focus on what is important and doable from my level. Lastly, when this is all over, I will have been tested for my perseverance because I don’t have all the answers but proceeded to do my best anyway. My most valuable takeaway from all these is that leaders must walk their talk.