December 22, 2020




DECEMBER 19, 2020 

Good afternoon to our participants attending this afternoon.  

Foremost, I wish to note how important and timely this talk is for many of us as it addresses many concerns.  

It is a privilege for many to live in a time where our entire well-being is discussed, analyzed, and prioritized. There used to be a stigma when you hear that a person is being anxious or undergoing mental challenges. Instead of addressing the issue, most are trained to suppress feelings of unwellness. We were encouraged to either endure or shrug off strong emotions that challenge our well-being. 

This is why it is fortunate that in this day and age, we have champions and experts who openly discuss the need to take care of one’s self, of one’s well-being. Beyond our basic need for food and shelter, as exemplified by Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it is imperative that we feel protected, cared for, and have a sense of belongingness. 

During the lockdown, the US National Library of  Medicine National Institutes of Health conducted a study that examined the prevalence of psychiatric symptoms and identified the factors contributing to the psychological impact in the Philippines. 

It concluded that during the early phase of the pandemic in the Philippines, one-fourth of the respondents reported moderate-to-severe anxiety, and one-sixth reported moderate-to-severe depression and psychological impact. The study can be used to devise effective psychological support strategies.

Personally, one of the most effective strategies that I see in combating these feelings that challenge our general well-being is arts. All forms of art will do — traditional or contemporary arts; dance, music, theater, visual arts— we can depend on art and creativity to bring into our lives the feeling of being well. 

Whether by listening to music, watching a movie, or viewing an online exhibition, art provides a platform that allows us, not to escape, but to overcome our realities. Art gives us hope and allows us to see things differently. Art and creativity enable us to get past the physical walls and times of uncertainty. Art’s greatest benefit is that it allows us to connect with friends, families, and communities. 

In fact, during the first phase of the lockdown, we have seen how art and the community can move people to action and pursue social change. Italy was one of the hardest-hit countries by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early stages of the pandemic, the world’s eyes were on Italy as it clocked in unbelievable numbers of death,  stories of hardships, and the seeming hopelessness of the situation. 

During this time, a video was posted on social media that showed a man singing in the dead of night, his baritone voice bouncing off the walls and the empty pavements of  Siena, Italy. He was then joined by his neighbors, and together they sang Viva la nostra Siena, voices penetrating the forced isolation, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. The video went viral as it had touched many people. The world was moved. People saw how serious the pandemic was and how fragile we are as humans. Such authenticity is a clear example also of how healing can be a collective endeavor, which can be achieved through art.  

Sadly, we may think that this pandemic, which has taken all of us by surprise, may have created a space for collective trauma. But underneath each trauma, one should consider also the fact the healing space that was also unexpectedly created. The healing space generates the energy of empathy, understanding, compassion and commiseration, which trickles down, permeates, not only to one’s self but also to the rest of community.  

This is thus the value of the talk today presented by the  Metropolitan Museum of Manila, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and my  Office through the Philippine Arts in the Venice Biennale Committee. 

May we find relief in knowing that we are not alone in experiencing challenges and that we find hope and inspiration from the artists discussing how they cope with these challenging times to achieve balance, well-being.  

Thank you and enjoy this webinar.