News from the Kamarin



A month ago, Kristian Sendon Cordero and I made no less than a sojourn in the home of the late Cesar Natividad and his family. For Kristian, it was one of those trips he would bravely make all, to use a cliché, for the sake of arts. He was to negotiate with the Natividad family to make available for a retrospective Cesar’s paintings. For me though that afternoon was a sentimental journey to a past of this person who was daring enough to bring arts, formal arts, to the city when there was nothing of this structure yet in the area.


Cesar, Zarex to close friends, opened a small café-cum-bar-cum-art space along Elias Angeles Street, where the present Ramaida Complex is. There used to be a small apartment then and it was there, where he set up a place called The Gallery. On the wall were his paintings and in the space was a band of writers and stage actors all under the tutelage of Rudy Alano (he would hate that title). We belonged to a generation where we addressed all our teachers and professor by their first name. The local society then had not yet developed this plebeian tradition of addressing people with “Sir” or “Ma’am”, or worst, “Kuya” or “Ate.”


From Ateneo de Naga College, which served as our arts laboratory, we brought to the Gallery our short one-act plays and performed them before people who either were extremely interested to view them or who couldn’t care less. We could not care less either. We breathed art and we were short of dying for it, among the other hot causes of the 70s.


Then, we left the city. Or we grew up. Cesar flew back to Manila and to the Philippine Refugee Processing Center, where I would meet him years later: he was with the communications group of the center and I was with research.


The Gallery is gone. But then this year, something similar is finally being realized. A bigger place has been created that partly pays homage to the Gallery. Expanded into a space where a full-time, full-blown restaurant, Tugawe Cove Café, occupies the second floor of the Lirag ancestral home and the Savage Bookshop lords it on the ground floor, the art hub welcomes its new addition: Kamarin, a cinema bar and hot art space.


Imbued with a free spirit, Kamarin is meant to be a place for film buffs, theatre people, writers, and singers.


For days now, online photos of the place have been intriguing people online. Already, Jay Altarejos, the filmmaker, has dubbed the architecture “brutalist.” And yet when one moves deeper into the structure, one is met by an unpainted staircase marked at the bottom by a lamppost. The sight of this design has urged people to recall staircases and stairwells that have graced scenarios of great theatrical pieces. The site reeks of entrances and exits, which is really what theatre – or Life – is all about.


At present, Savage Mind and the Ateneo de Naga University Press have been utilizing the dining areas of Tugawe Cove Cafe to mount poetry readings. Every first Friday, with the aura of a first Friday Mass, Cordero and company invite poets and writers to confess desires, passions or share the rhythms of verses. The program was inaugurated with a tribute in January to Luis Cabalquinto, one of the major patrons of Savage Mind. This was followed in the next month by a tribute to Luis G. Dato of Baao and Frank Peñones, poets who belonged to two generations of Bikol literature. For the month of March, it being Women’s Month, poems by selected women writers like Merlinda Bobis, Merlie Alunan, Beni Santos, Gen Asenjo, and Dinah Roma were given voices by doctors from the Bicol Medical Center.


Other readers representing groups and professions are scheduled for the celebration of poetry and poets.


Starting in the month of April, not the cruelest in this part of the world, Kamarin will play host to a series of events that range from presentations of excerpts from theatrical pieces to lectures and roundtable discussion on societies and cultures. There are workshops and discussions already scheduled on film criticism and film education using the many film materials donated to Savage Mind by Luis Cabalquinto.


Being a gallery, the Kamarin walls will honor Bikolano visual artists and masters from other regions. Already, the first panel of wall as one enters the place is now covered with the cats, owls, naked women with trees and anguish for appendages as portrayed inimitably by RoxLee. The legendary artist is threatening to do his performance art pieces once he is back from Germany where he joins a rock opera by Khavn de la Cruz in one of the most avant-garde theatres in Europe.


The second panel will be devoted to the collage/art installations of found objects by poet/visual artist Frank Peñones. Like Lee, Peñones breaks rules in meanings, which enlivens the boring binaries involving the profane and the sacred.


On another panel will be mainly the works of Venancio Igarta, the first Filipino to have participated in an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, whose works are part of the massive donations given to Savage Mind by Cabalquinto. The said valuable art pieces are part of the many support he has given and will give to the group behind the bookshop and cultural hub.


The remaining panels are reserved for David Medalla, Santi Bose, Allan Derain, Cynthia Buiza, Boyet Abrenica, Panch Alvarez, Rustom Pujado, Josh Acampado, Aldrin Camacho, Dan Nacario, Paolo Guerrero and other artists whose works are in the Savage Mind collection.


Initiated last year, the singing of the Pasyon will continue as Holy Week tradition for the Savage Mind community with the Kamarin, which stands for the storage of ideas and ideals, as a fitting venue.