Galila Arts Festival: A New Home For Philippine Creatives

Photo by Tessa Martinez

The 10-day-long event marks an innovative first for the arts sector in Pangasinan.

On March 10 to 19, Pangasinan successfully launched Galila Arts Festival, a 10-day-long kaleidoscopic celebration of art, music, performing arts, and more. The festival was a first for the district, which is positioning itself to be the country’s next creative hub.

Galila Arts Festival 2023 Pangasinan Flags
Galila Arts Festival was held in the fourth district of Pangasinan, marking the first in many initiatives for the arts sector in the province. Photo by Tessa Martinez

With Galila meaning “come and visit” in Pangasinese, the festival featured over a hundred artists who showcased their skills, creations, and learnings in front of a crowd of like-minded attendees. The event was spearheaded by 4th District Representative Christopher “Toff” de Venecia, alongside festival director Jodinand Aguillon. Galila In an exclusive interview with Vogue Philippines, de Venecia talks us through Galila’s genesis.

De Venecia has been involved in a multitude of areas in the creative sector, from performing arts, to visual arts, writing, publishing, fashion, and more. He tells us that the concept first started as the Anakbanwa Arts Residency program in 2021, an initiative that invited a variety of artists to conduct research, immerse in the province’s cultural heritage, and learn about local artistic practices. The idea came when Art Fair Philippines co-founder and member of the National Committee for the Visual Arts at the NCCA, Dindin Araneta, came to visit Pangasinan.

“She’s a personal friend and a close collaborator from all the creative industry advocacies that we championed, especially during the pandemic. She visited [Pangasinan] and I took her to the Tondaligan beach boardwalk that we have in Dagupan,” de Venecia says. “I brought her to the creative hub along the strip where a lot of artists, graphic designers sort of set up, temporarily, their creative headquarters.”

Galila Arts Festival Sunset Sinehan Film Screening
The festival hosted a whole range of arts centered activities, including a sunset sinehan—a film screening held by the shore. Photo by Tessa Martinez

De Venecia explains that Araneta then had the idea of setting up an arts residency program. The two then hashed out a concept that might work for the district. “I think Art Fair then, which was virtual, [held] some talks from like the different proprietors of the arts residencies across the country,” he continues. “We sort of studied their model, took inspiration, created our own sort of infusions into our arts residency program.”

The residency, which first took place just two years ago, was invited earlier this year to participate in the first physical Art Fair Philippines since the pandemic. “Shortly before the Art Fair participation of Anakbanwa, we were already thinking of ways by which we can bust open the gates of creativity and accommodate even more creatives to join our program and provide them a platform to showcase their content.”

According to the congressman, the challenge was finding out how to accommodate more creatives. Thus, the idea for Galila Arts Festival was born. With the festival’s phenomenal success, this marks the first, in what the organizers hope will be an annually recurring project, alongside the ongoing Anakbanwa Creative Residency, which opens its applications in June.

The activations included collaborations with other creative hubs around the country, like the Orange Project from Bacolod, Agini Kolektibo, Sarag Mi, CVTY Collective, and more. To culminate their efforts, they mounted the Wall-Walan Finale in one of the DSWD’s abandoned facility, which used to house the vulnerable sectors of the population.

“These artists brought me there and said that this abandoned area has so much potential for cultural regeneration if you just infuse arts, culture, and creativity and the space, this abandoned space will come alive again,” de Venecia says. “Now the whole thing is sprawling with murals and large public art installations, even some multimedia [artworks]…It’s becoming a creative hub and a creative haven.”

Beyond visual arts, the festival also held a drag event called DRAGupan, music performances, a sunset sinehan, and more. With each event as promising as the last, suffice it to say that it’s looking to be an exciting time for Filipino creatives across the board.

For more information about the upcoming projects of Galila Arts Festival and Anakbanwa, check out their social media. Learn more about Pangasinan Districe 4 here.

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