Chinese-Filipinos of young & old converged in the Atrium of the Shangri-La Plaza Mall on the night of January 29, 2016 to celebrate the Gala Night of the 10th year of the Spring Film Festival, which is one of the premier projects of Ateneo Celadon.
With the Atrium adorned with gorgeous lanterns, the Gala Night featured an exhibit of various Chinese paintings, while the VIPs were escorted around the exhibit by Celadonean volunteers dressed in yellow. Among the major VIP attendees were: current Ateneo Loyola Schools President Fr. Jett Villarin, Vice-President for Global Affairs Fr. Jose Cruz, Dr. Ricardo & Rosita Leong, former Loyola Schools President Fr. Bienvenido “Ben” Nebres, Chairman Director of the Confucius Institute of the Ateneo Dr. Cynthia Liang, Richwell Trading Corporation CEO Myrna Yao and Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran founder Teresita Ang-See.
Dr. Sidney Bata of the Ateneo Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies served as the host of the event.
The gala night kicked off with a lion dance from Philippine Tong Sun Dragon & Lion Dance Group, followed by welcoming remarks from Fr. Jett, who emphasized the diversity of Philippine culture as a blend of several other traditions, including Chinese culture.
Dr. Liang gave a special message about her hopes of continual friendly ties between the Philippines and China through the activities of the Confucius Institute of the Ateneo and the Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies.
Another speech given by Fr. Ben echoed these sentiments, with him saying, “Our dream is that more and more young Filipinos and young Chinese will become friends and that their friendship will be the basis of continuing to work together and continuing cooperation between our countries, but friendship and cooperation begins with meeting and with understanding each other. And so, it’s our hope that this film festival, the paintings exhibits here, and all the work that we do will help us to know each other better.”
The event culminated in a ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by cocktails given to the guests of the event. The visitors were later serenaded by performances from singer Dondi Ong, and violinist Karl Kopio and pianist Cheska Rebosa.
During the break, the guests expressed their optimism of promoting Chinese culture through art, such as the films featured in the festival, and the paintings exhibited in the Atrium. Mrs. Teresita Ang-See felt the similarities of Filipino and Chinese culture could help bridge the divide between both countries.
“We call this the ‘soft power’ that we can understand that we are Asians. If you look at the paintings, you look at the food, you look at the dances, you hear the music, you’ll know that we are one family in Asia. We have a common origin and there are a lot of similarities,” she said. “We can highlight the things that bind, so that the things that divide can be sublimated.”
Fr. Jett expressed that the intercultural relations between China and Philippines brings out the humanity from both fronts, saying, “despite on the political front, we know that there is something that’s deeply human here that’s something that we deeply share with one another — these two cultures. We’re human beings, and our dreams are the same. I hope that we can make these bridges stronger.”
Dr. Sidney Bata noted that multicultural appeal of art through the festival, stating, “Arts and music have no boundaries, so this is the best way. Filipinos love arts, Filipinos love music, Filipinos love movies. This is our own way of bridging these two culture.”
He also expressed hope that they could expand the festival to different areas of the Philippines. “We’re really hoping that the audience will be growing, because aside from Manila, we’re trying to move the same films to other places like Baguio, Davao, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Naga […] so this is our way of uniting two cultures and possibly two nations in harmony.”
The lion dancers returned to escort the guests to the mall’s Cineplex 4 to view the festival’s premiere film, Coming Home.
After a national anthem ceremony, Dr. Ricardo Leong gave a message expressing his thanks for the event, while Celadon president EG Dizon gave another speech introducing the organization to the guests. Co-project head Miguel Gana read a synopsis for the movie before Coming Home is finally shown to the crowd.
As the volunteers and organizers celebrated by taking pictures on the stage, project heads Miguel Gana and Peter Lawrence Co reflect on the journey they’ve had through heading this event.
When asked on why he was drawn the festival in the first place, Gana expressed, “I think film is a universal language. It’s like a medium through which you can understand other people, other cultures, and it’s very accessible.”
Meanwhile, the prestigious nature of the event was what appealed to Co. “It’s in Shang, and it involves movie screenings — ‘free’ movie screenings — and also it involves the participation of VIPs and high-status people, so in a way it’s a prestigious event,” he said.
Previously only a programs member, Gana never expected to be a project head the next year. “Of course I was intimidated, but then you also have to realize that you and your project head — you don’t work as an individual, you work as a team,” he said. “And that team will always be there to help you.”
Ultimately, the two believed that the festival would help Filipinos empathize with their Chinese counterparts. Co states that, “A lot of Filipinos wanna watch free movies, and a new genre of films can [light] a fire in them in terms of their viewpoint on Chinese people and Chinese culture.”
Gana adds, “I think movies are always an accessible medium because movies aren’t really pieces of art, but you have to deeply into them to understand them. That’s why, I think, whatever happens in the Spring Film Festival, the movie audience, just by watching the films, just by looking at the scenes, just by watching the characters’ reactions, characters’ experiences — they’ll just find out that Chinese people in the end are just like us. They may have a different language. They may have a different culture. But in the end, we have the same wants. We have the same challenges in life, [and] we have the same troubles. We all have a shared experience.”
Written by Joel Lim
Photo by Sean Lee
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