Filipino-Australian model, visual artist, and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray will grace this year’s celebration of the vibrant and joyous “Sikatugyaw Festival” in Palawan.

The event is part of the National Arts Month (NAM) through Ani ng Sining: Philippine Arts Festival, which will be spearheaded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

Ceasar Sammy Magbanua, program manager of the Palawan Culture and Arts Program (CAP), said Sikatugyaw, the acronym for “Sining, Kanta, Tugtog, and Sayaw”, aims to present and chronicle excellent artistic expressions; create awareness for the distinctive cultural identities of local communities in the province; gain support for local cultural programs, and develop opportunities for local artists.

The opening of Sikatugyaw is on February 4. It will be celebrated until February 29, 2020.

Magbanua said Gray will arrive on February 4 to mark the opening at the City Coliseum of Sikatugyaw with NCCA and local government officials as an “Arts Ambassador”.

“Isa siya sa mga kinuhang cultural ambassador this year. Apat ang arts month celebrations na gagawin, meron sa Luneta, Metro Manila, ‘yong sa Luzon dito sa atin, and sa Ormoc sa Visayas, at sa Mindanao. Pero ang pupuntahan lang ni Catriona is Palawan,” Magbanua said.

By virtue of Presidential Proclamation 683 issued in 1991 by late president Corazon Aquino, the month of February has been dedicated as National Arts Month every year to celebrate arts and culture in the country.

Gray was proclaimed “Arts Ambassador” this year with singer-actress Julie Anne San Jose and KZ Tandingan as “Music Ambassadors”, and actress Maja Salvador, among others.

She was chosen to become a representative of the arts because of her love and patriotic spirit when she paraded a gown made of indigenous materials from the Philippines in the Miss Universe 2018 pageant which she won.

Magbanua said Sikatugyaw’s big celebration this year was through a P500,000 grant from the NCCA.

It will allow the event to invite participants from as far as Coron and El Nido to join workshops for contemporary dance, music, strings, percussion instruments, and others.

“Tayo ang pinili ng NCCA, tinanong tayo if we will be willing to host the National Arts Month. Hindi ba last year, ginawa naman natin? Two years ago, meron na rin. Parang mas lalo lang nating pinalaki ang celebration ngayon kasi may nakuha tayong grant from the [NCCA] para dito,” he added.

“Malaking tulong ito sa atin, sa mga workshops pa lang mula sa NCCA sa dance, sa music — kasi nga syempre alam naman natin na experts sila sa fields nila so, matuturuan ang mga dancers natin ng mga bagong techniques, sa voice ganoon din. May mga churches na gustong sumama dahil sa mga choir nila,” he said.

He said 200 individuals have already signed up to join the workshop for choral singing.

The celebration will also honor artists who have contributed to the enrichment of local arts and culture, such as Dinggot Conde Prieto, Jane Timbancaya Urbanek, Louie Oliva, posthumous to Fe Tria Fernandez, Al Linsangan, Pedrito Ensomo, Jonathan Benitez, and others.

Sikatugyaw, which is anchored on the theme “Ani ng Sining”, is a partnership creative event among the NCCA, the City Government of Puerto Princesa, and the Province of Palawan.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.