Actor-director is new CCP president

Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso with President Duterte. He thinks the arts can help in the administration’s anti-drug campaign.Photo from the FB post of Lizaso.

The June 13 elections of the board of trustees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines highlighted the latest changing of the guard in the country leading temple of the arts.

Born in Sta. Maria, Bulacan in 1935 and a grandnephew of Jose Corazon de Jesus, Hari ng Balagtasan and the lyricist of Bayan Ko, new CCP president Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso said he is no stranger to the arts as some detractors say he is. “I directed plays at the CCP, I watched ballets and attended concerts and conducted theater workshops all over the country even before I became a trustee of the CCP since 2010. I think I have better arts exposure compared to people who claim to be spokesperson for culture and the arts,” he told Vera Files.

A product of San Beda High School and the University of the East where he started his love affair with theater, Lizaso was founder of the UE Dramatic Guild and has appeared in theater productions of PETA and Repertory Philippines.

The late theater icon Fr. James Reuter cast him as Professor Higgins in the local production of “My Fair Lady.”

The new CCP president said he has been conducting theater workshops and doing lecture on culture and the arts even before he has set foot at the CCP.

In a statement Lizaso said that as the new CCP head, his mission is to continue what he has been doing for many years and that is bring the performing arts to the masses.

“As a CCP trustee, I brought the national orchestra to the PGH to perform for indigent patients,” he pointed out. “I have been doing this very personal apostolate for art and culture for some time. Now that I head the CCP, I think I can do more and will continue to reach out to those cannot afford to go the CCP.”

The new CCP head pointed out that culture and the arts has been perceived as elitist with previous heads catering to the demands of a well-off minority. “I do believe the arts can save us as a nation, as people and a part of humanity,” he added. “True or not, the CCP continue to be reflective of the of the political power that emanated from imperial Manila whose perspective of arts and culture made quality global performances accessible only to the elite. On the other hand, we also have to pay attention to the traditional and indigenous forms of art and culture being passed down to the next generations of Filipinos.”

Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso with actress Nora Aunor, writer Ricky Lee and showbiz writer Baby K. Jimenez at CCP. He has better arts exposure compared to people who claim to be spokesperson for arts and culture.Photo from FB post of Lizaso.

Told that the CCP has been doing outreach programs, Lizaso said a few outreaches concerts a year is not enough. “I believe we can do more. We cannot guarantee livelihood for young artists given exposure in two or three token concerts a year. On top of that, we have to mobilize a dormant audience who think the arts are only for the privileged few.”

Lizaso said CCP should be more than an edifice and symbol of the arts. “CCP should not be a stationary solid edifice of cultural and artistic performances reserved for the few. I see it as a living enabler and should reach out to the remote area of the country. Yes, it’s true. Decades after the CCP was founded, some remote islands like Catanduanes as you said have yet to hear a live symphony orchestra. Wherever the artist may be — singer, dancer, painter, sculptor, filmmaker, actor, or writer — CCP should be able to reach out to them. Otherwise, it is just an expensive building where artists cannot fully connect with.”

Lizaso is the first actor-director to head the CCP which has been under previous personalities of different backgrounds.

Prominent businessman Jaime Zobel the Ayala is the first CCP president whose term started in 1969 and ended in 1976.He was followed by composer and music educator Lucrecia Kasilag who is now National Artist for Music.

Of the rest of the presidential appointees, two were finance people namely Francisco del Rosario, Jr. and Baltazar Endriga under the term of Fidel Ramos and another is an arts patron Armita Rufino during the term of Joseph Estrada.

Others followed namely a former character dancer of Ballet Philippines Nestor Jardin, former ambassador Isabel Caro Wilson during the term of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo with pianist and then UST Conservatory head Raul Sunico coming in during the era of Benigno Aquino III.

On the whole, the new CCP head is expected to connect with the heart and soul of the Filipino artists always widely regarded as the last priority in any administration’s agenda for nation-building.


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About Vera Files

Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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