Here and There

International ‘art center’ in Zambales town?

By Gerry Garcia

SAN ANTONIO is a small town in Zambalez, with population of some 24,412 and an annual income of P9.7 M which has a special spot for tourist attraction: a concert hall in the middle of a mango plantation. Its originators and owners, Zambalengo balikbayan from the US have named it Casa San Miguel, Center of the arts in San Antonio which conductor Oscar Yatco of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra considers the best center outside Metro Manila.

The concert hall, which opened 12 years ago in March, became a haven for urban artists, especially musicians – a weekend rendezvous. The mind behind the art center in Zambalez was 30-year old Coke (Alfonso) Blipata, Violinist, with siblings Jed (Jaime), pianist, Chino (Ramon), cellist. Sisters Rica and Maria Socorro were encouraged to pursue something else while Plet took up painting.

The concert hall named after their grandfather Ramon Corpuz, has become the venue of the Pundaquit Festival of the Arts, this country’s answer to the Tanglewood Festival in Vermont, USA.

The Pundaquit festival is a yearly event which opened with a chamber music series participated in by musicians from other countries. In special inaugural performance at the concert hall was the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of violinist- conductor Oscar Yatco.

The festival has received good feedback not just from the townfolk but also from foreign tourists. Both local and foreign artists enjoy performing on the unique festival stage which has a view of the mango trees. Marka Gustavsson who played viola in the charming Terzetto in C Major during the festival opening, was ecstatic, “I’ve never seen such a beautiful landscape before.”

Right now, Ramon Corpuz Hall boasts not only of a concert hall but an art gallery, a new library for the arts and restaurant offering organically grown vegetables.

Also especially notable by their presence at the Pundaquit Festival launching were National Artist Lucrecia Kasilag, who just recently passed away; Madrigal Singers’ choir leader Andrea Veneracion and painters Federico Aguilar Cruz and Anita Magsaysay Ho, book author Rosario Licad, mother of Cecile Licad, the country’s petite piano virtuoso, the first Asian to win the prestigious Leventritt Gold Medal; who has often appeared in recorded performances with the symphony orchestras of Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Boston, London as well as here in here native Philippines.

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