Monday, April 22, 2013

ASIATOPIA’S CHUMPON APISUK (First of four parts) (April 08, 2013)

Asiatopia's Chumpon Apisuk (left) and his wife Noi Chantawipa Apisuk who founded Empower Foundation

Chumpon Apisuk invited us to the Sex Workers of ASEAN (SW-ASEAN)

Art Exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) in Thailand.

Last week we were supposed to take part not as a sex worker, of course, but as a performance artist – though the two are at times akin.

But we had to beg off because of the 52nd University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop in Baguio just to be with this year’s fellows in Charmaine Carreon, Thomas David Chavez, Ralph Semino Gálan, Richard Gappi, Anna Maria Harper, Gabriela Alejandra Lee, Jim Libiran, Chuckberry Pascual, Rommel Rodriguez, Beverly Siy, Emmanuel Velasco, and John Jack Wigley as well as panelists in Gemino Abad, National Artist Virgilio Almarion,Romulo Baquiran, Jr., Jose Dalisay, Jr., J. Neil Garcia, National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, Charlson Ong, Jun Cruz Reyes, and Rolando Tolentino!

Add to that, because of the annual Araw ni Balagtas celebration last 2 April: first, the early morning wreath-laying ceremonies the Balagtas Shrine in Pandacan with Manila mayor, Alfredo Lim, and his cultural attache, Gemma Cruz Araneta, collaborating with Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas’ Secretary General, Dr. Mike Coroza and Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo represented by R.R. Cagalingan, Kriscell Largo Labor, and Atty. J.C. Cuñada, among others, and, for the first time, Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino whose new Chair is National Virgilio Almario volting in with dynamo Director General Roberto Añonuevo; second, the KWF’s commemoration of Balagtas’ 225th birth anniversary through the revitalized Talaang Ginto crowning Joselito De Los Reyes as the Makata ng Taon 2013 followed by other firsts in honor of the two Tungkung-Kalan pillars who with Rio Alma modernist in Filipino poetry in the 60s: Rogelio Mangahas who delivered the Panayam Balagtas and the Lamberto Antonio who was awarded with Dangal ni Balagtas!

Anyway, why did Chumpon choose us?

During our stay in his parents’ ancestral home which he named Mae Kumpaeng House in Nan, he learned about our research on the effect of Poetry Therapy on Persons with AIDS back in 1999 at the San Lazaro Hospital's Bahay Lingap in Manila.

Last year, we were able to talk about it when Tupada Action and Media Arts’ Rommel Espinosa sent us to represent the Philippines to the 14th Asiatopia Performance Art Festival which he founded.

Indeed, we are happy and honored to be the only Filipino to be accepted to its 1st South East Asia Artists Exchange when it opened in his hometown in Baan Namkrog Village where we shaved our head as a monk for our Kiping ritual.

From 5 to 25 November, we were in for twists and turns with a couple of couples such as Singaporean renaisance man Lee Wen and his Japanese wife Satoko Lee as well as the Thai terrific tandem in Paisan Plienbangchang and Jittima Pholsawake.

Completing this very diverse batch was Changmai’s pride, sculptor Boonsong Rodtap, who helped us like their entire “Dream Team” composed Mr. Yang, Xao, Pranee, and the DASTA (Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration) staff.

In Bangkok, he assisted us in our Cold War performance where we broke a big block of ice at the BACC. When we moved to Korat -- with Australian Adonis Yiorgos Zafiriou, Burmese ruby Zoncy Phyu, Singaporean rocker Arif Ayub, another Thai power partner Mongkol Plienbangchang and Aor Nopawan -- he was so consistent in being a Good Samaritan so we gave him our props and costumes we brought from Manila as a token of our appreciation. Same thing we did to generous trio of Toyting Chularat, Kun Permpooka, and Sittichai Petchtalay. They, too, were instrumental in extending their hands to young art students, who collaborated with us in collecting garbage and all, for our art project called baZOOra.

Eventually, this endeavor evolves into e-baZOOra after we -- representing Foundation AWIT (Advancing Wellness, Instruction, and Talents) presided by our lifetime partner Dinah Palmera Nadera -- collaborated with Integrated Recycling Industries’ Lee Salvatore Echiverri and Commission on Information and Communication Technology’s Toni Torres who has mobilized her i-school links with state universities and colleges in time for the International Mother Earth Day celebration on 22 April.

At the Technology Ratchamongkol University in Korat, as in Silpakorn University in Bangkok, these energetic “environmental artists” like Tungmay Chompoosee and her friends became our “classmates” during the workshops offered by the indefatigable Irish Sinead O’Donnell and the ageless Swiss mister and misses Ruedi Schill and Monika Gunther, who conducted workshops like the American action drawing master Morgan O’Hara whom we met in Osaka, Japan during the Nippon International Performance Art Festival two years ago.

Everything was made possible by Chumpon and his wife Noi Chantawipa, our newfound role models.

As born organizers, they are unstoppable as awesome twosome since last year’s Asiatopia or this year’sSW-ASEAN symposium at the BACC Auditorium.

Or, surely, in the upcoming 11th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok this November.

With or without their Empower Foundation, the Apisuks will always be remembered for their love.

Not only for the arts but for humanity.

Vim Nadera: What is Asiatopia?
Chumpon Apisuk
 Asiatopia is a performance art festival I started with friends and colleagues in Thailand way back in 1998.

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