Monday, 14 February 2011 05:27 josef
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San Antonio, Zambales
Set amidst a mango orchard, facilities include an artist’s residence consisting of 7 bedrooms, a sunken terraced garden designed to offer visitors meditative retreat while waiting for the beginning of the performance. Zambales own version of center for culture and the arts and the venue for the annual Pundaquit Arts Festival. The center is committed to the continued development and support of the Filipino artist and to the development of the new artist and audiences for the next generation.
San Miguel has every reason to earn the title of “CCP of Zambales”. It is the sole house of art in the province, with no less than an internationally-lauded violinist as master, and a group of young and talented musicians and artists who have graced the stage with canons in the world of art as students.
Located in San Antonio, Zambales, and CASA San Miguel stands at a family retreat property by the sea built in 1921. When the old house burned, acclaimed violinist Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata established an art center after returning from his studies at the Julliard School of Music in New York and the University of Indiana. This art center was to become CASA San Miguel, the playground of music, theater and visual art prodigies of Zambales.
To start up an art center is no small feat and Bolipata certainly had his share of difficulties. But his desire to expose the community to different cultural forms, particularly classical music, was simply overpowering. This brought him to offer workshops designed to identify and develop potential talents in classical music, theater, shadow play and visual arts. He even taught the children of farmers and fisher folk for free.
Located in the midst of a mango orchard, in a town surrounded by the mountains and the sea, the center encourages and inspires artists to hone their skills freely as they play harmoniously with the sounds of the surrounding scenery. The heart of the mango orchard is a grand three- story brick building that serves as the home of the Bolipata’s protégés. On its first floor is the Ramon Corpus Concert Hall, which has housed several chamber orchestra concerts, theater plays, operettas, and ballet productions.     Even outstanding pianist Cecil Licad has graced the halls of the building during a recent concert. He hall can uncomfortably accommodate 300 persons and has full air-conditioning, a seven foot grand piano, and crisp, clear acoustics; quite impressive for a foundation’s concert hall. The hall also offers a view through tall panels of the mango trees in the orchard that surrounds the hall.
Upstairs are separate concert halls’ for intimate performances and music less0ns. Further up, at the third floor, are seven bedrooms with views of Mt. Pundakit and Mt. Maubanban on one side and the South China Sea on their other, all for CASA San Miguel’s visiting artists who are given free accommodation in exchange for teaching the children. The artists can also hold exhibits at the Anita Gallery, whose wide spaces and translucent walls are a blank canvas for creativity and have displayed the works of brilliant artists like Carlo Gacubo, Don Sanlubayba and Borlongan.
The artistry, of course, doesn’t end inside the walls of the bricks house. CASA San Miguel has a 1,000-seateee circular outdoor theater that serves as an alternative venue for productions. The theater was built as such to incorporate and utilize the natural surroundings in the creative process. That means when it comes to inspiration, sky is certainly the limit. Perhaps even just starting at the colorful mosaic artworks by the gate (and reflecting on how much work and time went into making them) would give one enough inspiration to work on a masterpiece.
Training Zambales’ Gifted Children
If you visit CASA San Miguel at the right time of the year, you might chance upon children in session.
According to caretaker Lucy Pabunan, CASA San Miguel regularly holds classes for violin, cello, viola, visual arts, theater production and shadow play every three months. Students attend classes every weekend. A class is given one-on-one training by Bolipata and assistant teachers. As of this writing, CASA San Miguel has about 3500 scholars who are fortunate to have had the opportunity to discover one’s creativity and be exposed to various art forms. Classes culminate with a performance or exhibit held at CASA San Miguel.
Virtuosos at Center Stage
Some of the graduates of CASA San Miguel’s programs make up what is known as the Pundaquit Virtuosi, CASA San Miguel’s homegrown talents. The group is divided into two: those skilled in arts are known by the name Quadros, and those in music, Cuedras.
The Pundaquit Virtuosi has had the honor to perform with the famed New York sextet of Juilliard School, violinist William Harvey with violinist Frank Shaw, and cellist Jeremiah Shaw, last June 6, 2007 in Makati City.
CASA San Miguel also makes it a point to participate in festivals to fulfill its part in linking the multi-sectored communities of artist, educators, children, farmers. And fisher folk, Its resident ensemble, Pundaquit Chamber Players, performers at the Pundaquit Festival which is held every year between October and April, as collaboration with various organizations and the community.
Art, Yours for the Taking
If you long to bring home some of CASA San Miguel’s artistry, drop by CASA General Store and choose from the available books, postcards, community crafts and souvenirs. Purchasing any item from the store is a noble act of remembrance, because aside from indulging on a personal whim, a visitor also supports the CASA San Miguel students and selfless people who work hard to let children learn music, theater production and visual arts for free.
Fourteen years after its establishment, CASA San Miguel has grown from a playground for the Zambales young talents and the center of the arts in the province. It shall continue to grow, in size and in influence, as the center maintains an active role in the society, making CASA San Miguel, truly, a haven of art.


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