To begin its plans in developing its 9.5-hectare property in Parañaque into a Creative Hub within an Urban Forest, the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) partnered up with the Creative Content Creators Association of the Philippines (SIKAP) to host an Umpukan sa Nayon.


Nayong Pilipino as Creative Hub
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To begin its plans in developing its 9.5-hectare property in Parañaque into a Creative Hub within an Urban Forest, the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) partnered up with the Creative Content Creators Association of the Philippines (SIKAP) to host an Umpukan sa Nayon. With guest speakers coming from different creative sectors across South East Asia, the event was able to gather varying insights and ideas. 

Moderated by SIKAP President Magoo del Mundo, the Umpukan took place via Zoom last April 16, 2020. It was titled “Umpukan sa Nayon: NPF as a Creative Hub,” and was streamed live through the Facebook pages of the two organizations. Mr. Del Mundo posed the question, how can NPF set itself apart as a creative hub based on its goals. 

Ms. Cris Dumlao, a producer from Kampilan Productions, commented that by design alone, NPF is already unique. Usually, a space is either just a gallery or just an ecoforest, but because of how it plans to be built, she noted that ‘Nayon’s strength is in its ability to combine cultural preservation and natural preservation. “It’s a space that both nature, natural things, and man-made objects can come together and be preserved in unity and harmony.”

Silver Media Group, Singapore Founder and CEO Gin Kai Chan agreed with this, however, he opted to shift to a different angle. “I think the set-up [of NPF] itself is really special,” he said. “But I think bringing it further would be how do you go from preservation to popularization.” Mr. Chan explained that while there is a clamor for cultural preservation, most of the time, it is being done by a few people who are protecting it from the majority who do not care about it. For him, it is equally important to answer the question, “How do we make people fall in love with nature and with culture?” Because according to him, this will turn them into people who not only want to just protect it but to also propagate it.

This idea of exploring popularization is also supported by Mr. Jasni Zain from the Malaysian Digital Economy Incorporation and Ms. Minxie Villaver from the Karakoa Productions in Cebu, when asked how do they think the NPF Creative Hub can possibly address the ongoing concerns of their respective sectors.

“Having a great grassroots movement is fantastic, having a great concept of conservation of heritage is great but at the end of the day, having a commercial angle—something that would drive private money and investments— [just] gives you the value that you’ll need,” explained Mr. Zain. He added that while it is a great effort to produce something heritage-driven, going to a more commercially driven route promotes engagement and sustainability. 

Ms. Villaver added to this by explaining the idea of mainstreaming and translating culture and history through visual means. 

“I am seeing a really huge demand for native Filipino films that actually give justice to our culture, to our heritage, and not something that’s hastily done, not something that’s done without proper research,” she said. Ms. Villaver also encouraged the modernization of some of our cultural elements by displaying modern native houses or showing fashionable clothing that are native-inspired. “Display what’s cool about us, what’s cool about our culture. Because that’s what actually inspires the youth to preserve it.”

On the other hand, Ms. Hieu Nguyen from Da Nang Tui, Vietnam took a more emotional approach in answering the question. More than the incorporation of equipment or emerging trends, she noted that it is important to develop a sense of belonging within the creative hub. These were also echoed by Mr. Anh-Tuan Nguyen, the Artistic Director from Heritage Space, Vietnam. He commented that a “fancy facility” is not needed to “save the artists.” Rather, a Creative Hub must be a place where artists come together as a community—to collaborate while also learning from each other.  

“I think this is a very good point. It’s not what you built, it’s not the facility you built, it’s the community you built around it that is so much more important,” Mr. Zain said in agreement. 

When asked what are the recent trends in content creation they are seeing emerge, most of the invited speakers agreed that many content creators are now leaning towards self-publication. Many artists and creators are embracing the popularity of digital platforms.  

However, something to note according to Ms. Nguyen Ngo, also from Da Nang Tui, is the recent emergence of podcasts and other audio platforms. “We are seeing that the audience is seeking for more insightful and more prepared content rather than quick consuming content like the other years,” she explained. 

Mr. Chan also shared his observation on globalization and how through this, things that were once considered niche are now accessible to everyone. 

“Even a niche audience can be millions because of how globalization works,” he said. “But what happens with people being exposed to a very wide variety of different art forms or a variety of different cultures is that people go very broad, but people don’t go very deep.”

He further explained by using the recent live action ‘Mulan’ movie as an example. While many purists criticized the movie for its inaccuracies especially in not using era-appropriate settings, the film was a commercial success so it was able to popularize many historical Chinese elements to a wider and more global audience. Often, Mr. Chan noted, that when certain things attempt to reach the general public, it is not anymore according to what really is true in how it was.

“So I think that’s an important thing for us to think about, as we try to preserve what we have and at the same time try to bring it to the masses. What kinds of adaptations are we willing to make in order to keep up with the emerging trends?” 

Ms. Dumlao and Ms. Villaver responded to this by saying that there must be a focus on striking the right balance between research and creative liberties, incorporated with respect to the material being used. 

As the discussion flowed, CNN Philippines then posed the question “What is the role of the creative sector as a unifying entity in the overall development of society, particularly in your respective countries in this post-pandemic era?”

According to Ms. Ngo, artists and creators provide an opportunity to help other sectors grow. Especially when it comes to tourism, the exploration and presentation of a country’s culture through art can provide support to the economy. 

Going back to his previous point of globalization, Mr. Chan mentioned that instead of viewing the pandemic from a medical or economic point of view, people should try to view it through an emotional lens. He noted that this pandemic has shown that many individuals are depressed and worried about their futures, going through a lot of emotional distress. 

“I think the creatives and the creative hub can play a role where we can really help people to see that, hey, what you’re going through, we are going through it together, and we can overcome it,” he explained. According to him, the pandemic has unified the world in a bigger way than ever. “We are all going through the same experiences. [And through art], we can show how someone in Asia is going through the same thing as someone in Africa.”

To end the discussion, Mr. Del Mundo then asked why it is important for the government, and its attached agencies, to develop and build a creative hub.

Ms. Villaver was first to answer by pointing out that the more the government ignores the plights of creatives, the more they will be subjected to not receiving opportunities that are enough to actually help them achieve their potential and be secured in their careers. She emphasized that there are many talented and skilled Filipino creatives who are discouraged in pushing through with their careers simply because they lack the financial support that larger agencies, including the government, can provide. 

Agreeing with these statements is Ms. Dumlao who expanded on this issue by saying that now more than ever, as many have been affected by the ongoing pandemic, the government should step in and produce venues and projects for the different types of creative sectors. “The private sector cannot [do it alone]—economically speaking, they cannot.” 

She also took this opportunity to thank NPF for its continuous support for the creative industry. 

“Nayon has been around for decades,” Ms. Dumlao said. “And they continuously create programs despite the loss of their land, despite the long history of changes. They still have programs to support the creatives and the cultural workers.”

Mr. Zain shared that from his perspective, the creation of a creative hub by the government is a “nation-building effort.” He continued by explaining that creative spaces are key parts in bringing together a unique play of investment. “It attracts creatives who may not necessarily have other avenues to pursue and at the same time attracts foreign money to come into the country to invest and be a part of our community,” he said. 

“The government is a representative of the people, and I think that it should be firmly focused on trying to build a better place for its people,” he concluded. 

The first Umpukan of 2021 was launched so that the foundation can learn from the best practices of hubs from the country’s ASEAN neighbors. In doing so, NPF can better champion the development of strategic programs by the government in collaboration with the private sector.

Having gathered all these perspectives, Dr. Laya Boquiren of NPF’s Heritage Space Program closed the Umpukan by reassuring both the speakers and the audience that NPF understands the pain of creatives.

“As everyone comes together to help heal the nation, NPF is envisioning a more sustainable future by achieving its sustainable development goals through the betterment of cities and communities. We believe that creatives can help us realize that dream,” she said. 

Boquiren explained that the new NPF intends to build a place that aggregates creatives, scientists, historians, and heritage professionals. It shall be a creative hub that not only provides opportunities for research-based creations but also fosters talents, conducts training, and builds partnerships and linkages, all while being a means to stimulate creativity surrounded by nature. Since the pandemic, Nayong Pilipino has been conducting research on how to make the creative practice sustainable and how creativity can also sustain our cities.

“We believe that creatively we can green and heal as one.” Boquiren concluded. 

Umpukan sa Nayon is a part of NPF’s participatory design approach as part of its mandate (P.D. 37, 1972) to engage different public and private sectors for consultations and to enliven conversations.