By NICKIE WANG/ Manila Standard Today
Art’s influence is encompassing; it opens the mind to infinite perspectives and possibilities. To be given a chance to study art under brilliant instructors is a rare opportunity because talent can further be developed through an approach where a more solid inclination and passion to art and to its different forms are expanded and given more attention.
The Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA), located on the slope of mystical Mt. Makiling in Laguna, is a unique residential secondary school run by the government. It was established in 1977 to specifically create a perfect environment to artistically gifted and talented children.
PHSA is currently accepting applicants to the Annual Nationwide Search for Young Arts Scholars (ANSYAS). Children with exceptional talents from Metro Manila are welcomed to apply until Jan.15, while the deadline for provincial applicants is on Jan. 31.
“There’s nothing like this school. PHSA is a special school with special students,” veteran character actor and PHSA executive director Nanding Josef told the Standard Today. “We need a new batch of scholars, about 30 to 40 students.”
The state allots an annual P300,000 budget per PHSA scholar. The amount includes tuition, board and lodging, classes with master teachers, and a monthly stipend.
Specialized curriculum at the arts school includes various disciplines in Music (instrument and voice), Dance (ballet and folk), Theater Arts, Visual Arts, and Creative Writing. In addition to arts-oriented curriculum, it also offers Basic Education subjects prescribed by the Education Department.
Art school complex
We were given a chance to visit the picturesque campus of PHSA on Dec. 8. After a two-hour drive from Manila, our sight was welcomed by nipa hut-inspired cottages that serve as classrooms, science laboratories, library, instructional media center, computer room, and practice rooms.
“We have another 30 cottages here that serve as residence for more than 130 students, and 40 teachers and support staff,” Josef said.
Other instructional facilities in the 13.5-hectare complex include the state-of-the-art Tanghalan Maria Makiling, rehearsal studios for Folk Dance and Ballet, Visual Arts and Photography Studio, and Journalism Room. The administration office, faculty room, meeting room, medical clinic, counseling office and the Executive Guesthouse, which once served as Imelda Marcos’ rural villa, complete the facilities at the state-run art school.
“During the term of former President [Fidel] Ramos, the complex underwent rehabilitation through a P90-million budget approved during a Cabinet meeting held here,” Josef disclosed.
The school operation depends solely on the budget given by the government and from the monetary donations coming from generous individuals and institutions that recognize the importance of culture and art development.
Artistically gifted students
“The officials are always hard to convince. They say P200,000 [the former budget per scholar] is too big to support one student. So sa tuwing may budget deliberation kailangang ipakita sa mga officials ang mga students para mag-perform, and they are instantly convinced,” Josef related.
We didn’t have to take the word of the veteran actor to believe and consider the artistic talents of the PHSA scholars. During a half-day visit, we had the chance to see how classes are conducted in the special school. Students majoring in Music and Folk Dance showed us sample performances.
After a lunch prepared by the PHSA at the well-maintained Executive Guesthouse, Josef whispered: “I get inspired by seeing really young artists with exceptional artistry in different fields,” pertaining to the students from Music who performed an ethereal version of “You Raise Me Up” by the group called Secret Garden.
The Folk-Dance majoring students performed a number entitled “Cordillera,” which we were told they themselves did the choreography. The dance is their definition of love and courtship inspired by the natives of the Mountain Province. With the use of gongs, native bamboo instruments, and tribal drums, the students rendered a jaw-dropping performance just like professionals do at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that it was just a sample of what these students do everyday.
The scholars, whose ages range from 12 to 16, need to maintain a 90 percent grade average, which is the passing mark, in all art subjects to maintain their scholarship.
“Tinututukan ang bawat estudyante pag bumababa ang grade kahit sa General Education. They are given special or extra sessions. The objective of the school is to make them stay and finish their courses. The faculty and staff members do official and unofficial tasks like acting as surrogate parents to these students with completely different characters,” Josef explained.
PHSA scholars are being trained to be the best artists of this particular time by pushing the limit of their artistic potentials and, at the same time, making them better people. “We praise and criticize them. That’s how I matured as an artist and as a person,” the veteran actor concluded.
Applicants for the scholarship must be graduating Grade VI or VII pupils for the school year 2008-2009; of above-average intelligence, proficient in oral and written Filipino and English; without any debilitating illness; and willing to study in a residential high school.
They must also be willing to pursue a college degree in Dance, Creative Writing, Architecture, Fine Arts, Music, Theater Arts, Journalism and other related courses.
Application forms and the list of requirements per art discipline may be downloaded from the PHSA Web site http://www.phsa.edu.ph. All documents and requirements must be sent directly to ANSYAS 2009, PHSA, National Arts Center, Mt. Makiling, Los Baños 4030 Laguna. For inquiries, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call telefax (+6349)536-5971 to 73 and 536-2862.