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as principle guiding the

SSC-R Manila Center for Culture and the Arts

by

Joey G. Vargas

(At this point when the school is beginning to plot the direction the institution will take in its celebration of its 73rd year until the celebration of its 75th year, the theme is suggested also to serve as a principle by which all endeavors must be guided. Said principle is the title used for this article, which presents a view on how this may guide one and all units. The writer is presently the Artistic Director of the SSC-R Manila Center for Culture and the Arts, the Editor-in-Chief of the croSSCuRrent (Official Administrative Reports), and the Festival Director for the upcoming 73rd Foundation Anniversary Celebrations. )

At the beginning of the second year of the SSC-R Manila Center for Culture and the Arts, I have written:

A year after the creation of the SSC-R Manila Center for Culture and the Arts, I am led to these reflections and decisions.

Majority of the members of the SSC-R Manila community must be led to understand the value of the arts in the institution. They must be led to understand that the development of the arts also depend on the development of the other aspects of the school such as that of the propagation of the faith and that of education. The arts are by-products of minds and hearts molded in or through – and fortified with – knowledge and wisdom. This knowledge or wisdom necessary for artistic creation does not only come from subjects such as those focusing on language, literature, and the like. This comes from a guided combination of various principles and concepts learned from various or all subjects. I think that must be expected from an academic institution: development of a holistic point of view among its constituents, or individuals who are able to see the interdependence of different areas of thought. I may, therefore, say that a well-developed academic culture inevitably creates a well-developed artistic environment.

To set the identity of this artistic environment that is to be created in San Sebastian, though, there is always a need to make sure that everyone and all endeavors must be founded and grounded on faith. Ergo, the academic culture that must be developed must be fortified with Gospel values and paradigms that are taken from the Word of God. Without reservations, I must state that the ultimate paradigm the institution must follow in molding its members must only be the One and Triune God.

That is to say, in a figurative sense, faith must be the ground on which education is the tree that is planted: the arts are its fruits. We may go on to say, though, that this is a cycle. The seeds from said artistic fruits shall also nourish said grounds of faith.

In truth, these three concepts – faith, education, and the arts – must be perceived as intermingled, affecting one another. But everyone must not be led astray. These three things must be given attention to; but the greatest of these is faith.

In order, therefore, for the Center for Culture and the Arts to be able to accomplish its mission, it must work towards collaborating with the various units of the institution in making sure that each of the three areas mentioned is given ample attention and importance. It must design and implement projects geared towards the development of all three if it seeks to succeed in making the SSC-R Manila truly a center for culture and the arts.

The four major thrusts – Research Development, Academic Laboratory, Repertory Building, Linkages – of the Center are expected, then, to strengthen each of the three: faith, education, and the arts. They also are meant to solidify the relationship between and among these areas.

At this point, I would like to discuss the concepts of center and of culture.

Let it be clear, this early, that when I say or write SSC-R Manila Center for Culture and the Arts, I mean to refer not just to one office within the SSC-R Manila community; I also refer to the very goal of that particular office, that is, to make the SSC-R Manila a center.

One very interesting and significant definition of center is: a point of origin, as of influence, ideas, or actions. Taking this definition, I would like to state that it must be the goal of the SSC-R Manila Center for Culture and the Arts to work towards establishing San Sebastian College – Recoletos Manila as a center or as a point of origin, as of influence, ideas, or actions. This means that the institution must be an active participant in plotting the course of personal histories of individuals it comes to work with, and of the history of the nation and the world. This shall require a deeper understanding of the humanities. The Center shall work towards molding the hearts of SSC-R Manila’s constituents. It shall focus on their humanity.

The office shall strive to make the institution a center of excellence when it comes to culture and the arts.

But how do we come to establish this culture of excellence? If SSC-R Manila becomes a center of excellence, if it must become a point of origin, then I would like to state that this point must indeed be rooted in the Gospels proclaimed and propagated by the Roman Catholic Church. No other institution shall be able to understand the humanities more than the Church does, with the Church being deeply founded on the Word of God made flesh, made human.

I, therefore, state that the Center shall assist in establishing a culture of excellence among SSC-R Manila’s constituents. This refers to excellence in various aspects: faith, education, arts.

To concretize this, therefore, I worked to establish this sense of foundation on faith by understanding the very paradigm that must guide all endeavors of the institution: the Augustinian paradigm captured by the word Recollect.

I, more concretely, started to use this paradigm in directing the processes of one of the repertory groups of the Center, the San Sebastian Recollect Dance Troupe.

In the past, the group uses DT to shortly refer to the group. This simply stands for the very generic dance troupe. It seemed to me, in the past, that it does not have its own identity and direction.

Sometime last school year then, I started the process of moulding the group’s identity, taking inspiration from the very operative word: Recollect. This, even in dance, serves as principle and sets direction for the group, i.e., that in order to reach heights of glorious existence, it is imperative that the members be trained and deeply grounded on the rudiments of dance.

The name also naturally echoes the principles by which the Order of the Augustinian Recollects stands; thus, the members must also be led to develop themselves in the light of the Word of God. I then began to use The Recollects to refer to the group, and began the process of exposing the members of the group to various theories and philosophies, and various realities of life, and the process of using this knowledge for creation. I have written, thus:

RECOLLECTS shall be the principle by which all efforts of the San Sebastian Recollect Dance Troupe must be founded.

Recollect is from the Latin word, recolligere, which means to gather again; i.e., from a combination of the prefix re- and colligere, which means “to collect.”

Recollect, therefore, may mean different things in different contexts but with similar acts:

  1. to recall to mind or to remember something; have a recollection;

  2. to collect, gather, or assemble again (something scattered); or

  3. to recover or compose (oneself).

In the context of the arts, what must be recovered or remembered are memories of human life, particular or general. Art, therefore, must always capture that which the human mind may remember.

It may remember a dream of a future that may seem impossible to occur, or a past that may not necessarily have happened, such as magic or those that cannot be accomplished by science.

It collects thoughts or desires for a better life or a better existence, and it recollects them.

It gathers questions – which may even lead to more questions – and tries to look for answers to these questions.

It recovers pieces of lost things, confused thoughts, shattered memories; and tries to make sense out of all of them by composing a whole out of the various parts.

To keep on remembering, one must strive to go on living; to go on living, one necessarily goes on making memories; with new memories come endless possibilities of creation from remembering, from gathering, from recollecting.

To recollect must also mean being founded on the rudiments of art, not letting go of basic truths amidst new discoveries or explorations.

To recollect, ultimately, must be founded on the very origin of all creative thought, or the origin of all thoughts, the origin of all: the Creator.

Thus, all works of art that The Recollectsmust produce shall be founded on the truths presented by the gospels; or it must be an exploration towards understanding the human person in the light of the Word of God. The troupe, therefore, shall only move forward taking in new theories and knowledge only to let these new discoveries become vehicles for ancient truths; or to let them become vehicles that shall take the human being back to his nature and origin: God. All these with the faith that only in God can man find his fulfillment.

All these will not be possible, though, if the troupe will only rely on human strength. It must always be remembered, therefore, that the work is God’s and not the troupe’s. God must always be ahead of the troupe, behind the troupe, and beside the troupe; taking lead, serving guide, standing guard.

Making a little turn here, it must also be imagined that recollectsis written thus: RE+collects. It must be remembered that RE also means –other than againabout. And the plus sign (+) must lead the troupe to remember Jesus the Christ who gave Himself up on the cross so He may gather everyone to Himself.

RE+collects, therefore, must manifest that members of the San Sebastian Recollect Dance Troupe believe that all efforts of the troupe must always be (RE) about (+) Jesus Christ who collects everyone to Himself in glory. He collects all our hurts, our pains, our sins; so He may transform all this darkness and turn them to light. He collects all our memories and desires; and turns them into hopes and joys.

The San Sebastian Recollect Dance Troupe must then, from here on, be also known as The Recollects, or those who believe that glory may only be found in Him who has overcome death and sin.

The Recollects shall, in all their efforts, must gather all and give back to Him Who is the Source of all. To Him shall be all the glory forever and ever.

Saint Augustine is known to have written: “Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.”

I would declare then that this foundation that the institution must be founded on is the Recollect Identity or paradigm. I believe that each of the various units of the institution must also work towards excellence or greatness from this very same point. If – like that which Paul wrote to the Corinthians about faith, hope, love – greatness is the manifestation of love or charity, and greatness is our calling, I do strongly declare:

Greatness Awaits One Who Recollects!

It must, even now, be remembered that greatness is not the end but the way towards achieving lofty things. As I said, this concept of greatness must be seen as a manifestation of the very same love that Paul spoke of in his letter. In 1 Corinthians 12:31, he wrote: Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

Then, he goes on to write that treatise on love.