By Wang Fengjuan
The Fourth China-ASEAN Youth Cultural Exchange Festival (CAYCEF) was held in Xi’an, capital of China’s Shaanxi Province, from August 6-11. About 200 teenage delegates from China and ASEAN member states gathered for this year’s event.
Victor Emmanuel Carmelo D. Nadera Jr. headed the Philippine delegation. He is the headmaster of the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) and an award-winning poet in the Philippines. During the event, he looked after all children in his delegation and encouraged them to make friends with their peers from China and other ASEAN countries.
This is Nadera’s third time attending the event as the head of the Philippine delegation. In past decades, he has never stopped his pursuit of literature and art achievements while making efforts to promote cultural exchanges between China and the Philippines.
Father of the Philippines’ Performance Poetry
Victor Nadera, also known as Vim, is renowned not just for his poetry but also his work as a playwright and an essayist. He is considered the father of performance poetry in the Philippines, and has won various prestigious awards for his writing such as the National Book Award and the Southeast Asian Writers Award. Nadera holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, which he earned from the University of Santo Tomas.
“With a long history, guzheng [a traditional Chinese plucked zither], Peking Opera, calligraphy and Chinese painting are very attractive and worth sharing with the world,” Nadera said. He hopes that he can learn more about traditional Chinese culture as inspiration for his writing.
“Human emotions are interlinked. A combination of poetry, photography and film will have an amazing effect,” Nadera said. Some of his poems were turned into wearable art by Lorina Javier, photographed by Dominique James, set to music by Fer Edilo, designed by Mannet Villariba and translated by Arvin Mangohig, Vic Nierva and Francis Quina. In 2006, he traveled to Bangkok to accept the SEA Writers Award from the King of Thailand. In 2008, composer Paul Val Peña turned some of his poems into songs, releasing an album called Katoto.
“Events like the China-ASEAN Youth Cultural Exchange Festival are of great significance, and we should encourage more exchanges between China and the Philippines,” Nadera said.
Expecting More Cultural Exchanges with China
Nadera’s school was chosen to represent the Philippines at the 4th CAYCEF. PHSA is located on the hillside of Mount Makiling, and the school’s campus offers breathtaking views.
“The performances we chose this time are inspired by our experiences in the first two communications with China,” Nadera said. “I saw very small Chinese children performing Peking Opera, which shows the inheritance and protection of their traditional culture. So I think the Philippine children could also try to perform ancient arts.”
Nadera submitted a proposal to the Association of Philippines-China Understanding (APCU) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), suggesting he take a group of children to China to perform traditional Philippine dance. His proposal was approved. Makiling Singers, a band composed of students from PHSA, gained popularity when they performed with the Mabuhay Singers during the opening ceremonies of the first Performura Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2015. In fact, they had previously received training from Ms. Ray Lucero, the original member of the Mabuhay Singers, who conducted a workshop during the Makiling Inter-Cultural Arts Festival (MAKILINC) in February 2016.
During the 4th CAYCEF, the Makiling Singers sang Leron-Leron Sinta at the welcome dinner. During the gala night, they wowed the crowd from China, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. They performed Calesa by the Philippine National Artist Ernani Cuenco, Jocelynang Baliuagarranged by Chino Toledo, and Sa Kabukiran by Juan Yee Benasa and Manuel Velez.
“It is so inspiring to see them, consciously or not, continue the tradition of their ancestors,” Nadera said. “And that is the same reaction we gathered from our kids who are the so-called Tsinoys, or of Chinese Filipino descent, like Jet Chong and Chirbee Dy. They are transported to the past when their forefathers and foremothers were still alive and kicking, trying to make ends meet just to survive in parians－ districts assigned or designated to the migrant Chinese. The parians were outside the walled city of Intramuros, which eventually became Chinatown in Binondo, Manila. That’s why we treasure the cultural exchanges between China and the Philippines since we Filipinos, as historians put it, all have Chinese blood.”
At this year’s CAYCEF, the Philippine delegation won applause and praise for their wonderful performance during the Youth Cultural Exchange Evening Gala. For Nadera, he was optimistic about the future of this type of performance. Although the artists are teenagers, they have succeeded in reviving their traditional culture and injecting new vigor into their artwork.
“Victor Nadera and his students are all very friendly, and they like Chinese culture very much,” said Lin Panlong, a volunteer from Xi’an International Studies University. He added that the Philippine students seemed very interested in Chinese classical musical instruments during their visit to the Xi’an Youth Culture Palace.
“In the Philippines, American-style education is the mainstream. But that leads to the loss of its Asian features,” Nadera remarked. After participating in three events of cultural exchanges with China, he is now trying to advocate improved educational courses. Persuading the authorities is not easy, but Nadera wants to realize his goal.
“Events like the China-ASEAN Youth Cultural Exchange Festival are of great significance, and we should encourage more exchanges between China and the Philippines,” Nadera said. “The Philippines is part of ASEAN and a neighbor of China, so there should be more communication among Asian countries.”