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REDISCOVER the Cultural Center of the Philippines – part 2

Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2005

‘Commercialized’ CCP embraces the poor

By Ayn Veronica De Jesus, Subeditor and Lynda C. Corpuz, Contributor

Second of two parts

Cluster 4, or the Art Living Room, will be the complex’s high-density, high-rise establishment that will accommodate condominium buildings and exhibit areas. A sakayan, or modest transport hub, will be built to serve commuters—a testimony to the CCP administra­tion’s desire to open arts and culture to the masses—with generous open spaces and areas provided for the public.

“Though there are major thoroughfares in the area, we will have a public transport terminal that is accessible to all, meaning an egalitarian vision. Whether you’re rich or poor, you’re welcome, so public transport hubs are a must,” said Jardin.

A one-kilometer linear park river system will be the focal point of this cluster and will connect the residential blocks and the marketplace.

Cluster 4’s arts and cultural facilities include the Design Arts Museum, Juan Nakpil Boulevard Gateway, Arturo Luz’s Building as Sculpture, and Leonor Orosa Goquingco’s Dancing Fountain. Other facilities include the Sailaya and Sailud markets.

Cluster 5, or Seaside, is a mixed-use coastal zone or medium-density seafront shopping and film magnet, with high-end residential villas. Manahan said the cluster will be linked to the Gil Puyat Avenue extension.

The residential areas will be primarily allotted to arts and cultural workers.

Overall, the developed CCP complex will be oriented toward the sea to evoke the Philippines’ archipelagic topography.

“We really want to supervise [the project],” Bactad said. “Lessees will be free to innovate but only within the development plan and the CCP administration’s guidelines.”

To ensure that the complex remains organized and pollution-free, each outlet will be required to install a waste and water treatment plant to ensure cleanliness.

The interior designs for future outlets will also be required to comply within the complex’s overall design. For instance, if a fast-food chain applies to set up in any of the clusters, its blueprint must show structural designs with cultural value.

Bactad said the development plan integrated a study of arts and culture patrons to ensure that the complex is safe and convenient for pedestrians.

Unlike Makati’s Ayala Center, which was recently retrofitted with walkways after the establishments had been built, requiring breaking down walls of buildings and roads, the new CCP complex is designed with pedestrians in mind before its construction.

Walkways and open spaces, which make up the rest of the undeveloped portion, will be planted with trees, flowers and shrubs with cultural value, such as the talisay, nilad (for Maynilad), and tayum (for Tayuman).

Two to three buildings will be reserved for parking spaces.

The development plan stipulates, “Aesthetics will not be sacrificed to business. Business will not be sacrificed to aesthetics. The development will deliver an egalitarian social vision; the arts will be given ample context for multidisciplinary interaction. Moreover, artists will live and/or work with Filipinos doing other kinds of work, and the CCP will be an integral part of the metropolis.”

The business and master plan for developing the CCP complex is divided into four phases. The second half of 2004 fulfills Phase 1 of the plan, or the Interim Phase.  Phase 2 (2005-07) is the seeding phase; Phase 3 (2008-10) focuses on the real-estate play and full land development; and Phase 4 (2009-14) will mark the completion of all cultural facilities and investor projects.

The business of art and culture

According to Jardin, an initial budget of P5 billion for the first five years of the plan is required for basic infrastructure, land leveling and grading, roads, drainages, underground electrical, and water and communication facilities, among others. Another P8 billion is needed to finance the second half of the plan.

“Once you spend on this basic infrastructure, the value of the land increases.”

He added, “We do not plan to build the commercial facilities. The land for commercial development will be leased or undertaken under a joint-venture agreement.”

Because land development is not the CCP’s core competence, Jardin said,  “I’m not going to pretend that I’m the right person to develop the land, but I will oversee. I want everything to be clean, transparent.”

He consulted with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Executive Secretary (now Foreign Secretary) Alberto Romulo. “She said, ‘Go ahead, tell us when you need our help.’ But we can’t go to them for financial aid.”

The challenge now is where to get the P5 billion. “We don’t have money. We don’t even get money for our operations. The key is to capitalize on our asset, which is the land.”

Jardin added that one possibility of raising money is to borrow from banks or other financial institutions. “I don’t like to borrow or float bonds.”

The development plan estimates that each square meter of land in the complex has a market value of P45,000. As such, each hectare within the complex is worth P450 million a hectare. With the smallest cluster (Cluster 5–Seaside) about 6 hectares in land area, that cluster alone is worth P2.7 billion.

No projections, however, can be made of the revenues that a 24-hour arts and culture complex would bring.

“We still can’t project revenues,” Bactad said, citing that leasing parcels of land to developers would ease the burden of maintaining such a large and highly complex area as the cash-strapped CCP.

To help get the ball of capital generation rolling, the CCP administration will require developers to attract commercial establishments. “Before you have a new theater, a new museum, you will first save from your income, from the commercial development, then proceed with the new development,” Jardin said.

Ecotourism zone

To lure investors into the complex, the CCP administration will use the provisions in RA 7916, or the Philippine Economic Zone Authority law, which classifies the CCP as an ecotourism complex.

“This [ecotourism status] is important because it will facilitate the comprehensive development. It will also attract investors because of its incentives,” Jardin said.

The CCP also consulted with relevant government offices that would benefit from RA 7718, or the Build-Operate-and-Transfer law.

“We cannot sell our land. A BOT scheme, straight lease and joint venture are among the options we can offer [the developers]. We will go for whichever option is the best, the most advantageous to the CCP,” said Bactad.

Baltazar Endriga, a former CCP president and now the University of the East’s system president and chief academic officer, believes a BOT scheme is both beneficial and cumbersome.

Currently, the CCP as a prime land doesn’t make long-term leasing easy.

“Fifty to 75 years [of long-term lease] is already a lifetime,” says Endriga.

Giving arts a mass touch

Despite the finalization of the business and master plan for developing the CCP complex, an equally daunting challenge is “de-elitizing” the arts and culture in relation to commerce in a country where popular culture is so deeply entrenched.

“There is a common misconception. We have tickets for as low as P100. For students, our tickets are automatically discounted by 50 percent. How much are movie tickets? P130 and up,” said Dr. Nicanor Tiongson.  For this former artistic director of the CCP and current dean of the College of Mass Communication, University of the Philippines, it is still a challenge for the CCP to gain wide mass appeal.

“The CCP is elitist and colonial. We should de-eliticize it. [Promotion of] culture is not for the select few alone.”

Since 1986, however, efforts to reach out to the greater public have borne fruit through the CCP’s realigned vision and mission.

Among these efforts are to reach out to the masses by giving discounts to students and holding outreach shows such as conferences and festivals that open the theater to the public for free.

“I don’t mind popular culture. We should welcome that. Culture should be equated not only with high art alone,” said Endriga.

Jardin added, “We do that anyway at the Folk Arts.”

Dindy Minoza, an FM radio disc jockey, agrees that the CCP’s plan is welcome because “it is a good marketing strategy.” She thinks the plan is “a better approach in trying to inculcate a bit of ‘culture’ in the average Filipino.”

Public relations consultant Joan Orendain, however, is not in favor of the CCP plan. “How déclassé! Also, traffic in the complex is already awful,” she said. Orendain, who frequents the CCP as much as possible and attends its activities, added that the CCP should strengthen its strategies “for the masses to enjoy what we enjoy.”

Carlos Celdran, a tour guide and culture advocate in Manila, said: “I think the CCP should retain its classy image while being more people-friendly. Bring people up.  Do not bring the institution down. The CCP has tried too much to gain a wide mass appeal, which is failing, and has alienated a lot of the culturati [locally and internationally].

“There is also nothing wrong with foreign and Western shows.  The effort to be too ‘nationalistic’ is shallow and limiting.  The CCP should be a global as well as a local institution. It lost its way after Imelda Marcos. It might learn something by looking back to its original objective—but without the Imelda stigma. It doesn’t help anything to deny her role in its inception either.”

Celdran doesn’t believe the CCP is elitist both as an institution and as an edifice.  “It hasn’t been elitist in years; just physically inaccessible. Without commercial activity around, it really is an island unto itself. You cannot even eat dinner nearby after a show.  Look at the Ayala Museum and how it mixed culture and commerce.”

Tiongson stresses that the CCP as an institution is not equal to the CCP Main Building. The CCP plan, once it materializes, will assure the institution of financial stability.

Above all, with its grand plan now in the works, the CCP should not be politicized, says Endriga.

“[CCP officials] should protect the CCP charter. Preserve its integrity against any political expediency,” says Endriga.

This is the challenge to establish the brand-new Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2014


Written by Lynda C. Corpuz

January 20, 2009 at 12:22 am

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