By Val Amiel Vestil
The culture and the arts of Silliman University, although oftentimes disremembered because of the distractingly sudden and inevitable changes of the times, has truly manifested itself in the heart of almost every Silliman graduate. It is a masterpiece, so to speak, that has transcended from generation to generation that remains to be the perfection that it was so since the very beginning. It has remained consistent and real and life-changing to a few, but unnoticed and forgotten to many. Not until today.
Last November 21, the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee (CAC) launched the coffee table book that will serve to be their ‘touchstone,’ Handulantaw: Celebrating 50 Years of Culture and the Arts in Silliman University at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium Foyer.
Imagine the first few Shakespearean plays held at the Amphitheatre, imagine members of the Grand Ballet Classique de France performing the ‘pas de deux’ at the Gymansium, imagine world-renowned pianists, violinists, and artists bowing in front of an audience at the Luce Auditorium, imagine stories of prime movers of culture and the arts in Silliman University… Imagine all of this unfold in the palm of your hands brought to life by rich texts and colorful photographs taken even before you were born. That is the Handulantaw – carrying you where your feet couldn’t. And this is the very first of its kind.
The word may ring a bell to the keen Sillimanian and the avid Luce Auditorium-goer. Handulantaw is coined from the Visayan terms handum/handumanan meaning ‘reminisce/keepsake’ and lantaw which means ‘looking forward.’ As is very fitting for a book that aims to piece together “significant fragments of the past fifty years and more” in the cultural history of Silliman University. Handulantaw is actually the theme of the 50th anniversary of the CAC coupled with various cultural exhibits, numerous shows under Silliman Performs, and of course the grand culmination of it all: the coffee table book.
Sponsored by Julio Sy Jr. and the Tao Foundation, this book is a living testament of the brilliance, creativity, and artistry that Silliman University has reaped ever since its inception up until today. The book is edited by five-time Palanca awardee Ian Rosales Casocot and is joined by no less than Warlito Caturay Jr., Sherro Lee Pinero Arellano, Diomar Abrio, Annabelle Lee-Adriano, Moses Joshua Atega, and Leo Mamicpic. Surely, with these names embedded unto the grains of every page, this book will never fall short of a breathtaking experience into the cultural limelight.
The coffee table book was launched after two of the biggest natural disasters in history hit the country—a 7.2 earthquake and a super typhoon—and how eventful it is that the national launching last year of the golden cultural season which is dubbed the Handulantaw took place after Typhoon Sendong ravaged parts of Mindanao. Is it an apt time to revel in the completion of this book despite these tragedies? Looking back, Dessa Quesada-Palm, director of last year’s launching, provided an answer and placed everything in a whole new light by saying: “Disasters bring a raw sensibility that is so urgent, so troubling, so compelling. It was a self-interrogation, which led us to the past again, on periods of strife and suffering, when artists did not succumb to despair and hopelessness, but instead resolutely created arts that healed, that probed, that tamed the chaos, that lifted spirits.”
Truly, when you flip through the pages of the book, you will find yourself trapped in the labyrinth of Silliman’s cultural history, and you will soon discover that it isn’t an confinement after all – it is more of a liberation from the ‘strife and suffering’ of an everyday artist.
Now, it is your turn to uncover Handulantaw.