Advocating arts as a tool for physical and mental healing in this time of COVID-19, the NEDA Region VI Office and the Regional Development Council of Western Visayas, in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), conducted a Webinar on Arts for Recovery of Physical and Mental Health on August 13, 2020 via Zoom platform.

The third in the series of webinars of the Western Visayas Online Orientation on Filipino Culture and the Arts during the COVID-19 pandemic, the webinar was attended by 85 participants composed of representatives from regional line agencies, planning and health officers of the local government units, private sector representatives, representatives from the academes, members of the RDC-VI Regional Culture, Heritage and the Arts Committee (RCHAC), and members of other NEDA Regional Offices.

Mr. Ferdinand Isleta, Head of the Arts Section of Policy Planning, Formulation and Programming Division of NCCA, delivered an opening message and shared the many inspiring arts interventions made by various artists and cultural workers, both online and offline, in order to address the challenges of the pandemic.

In his welcome message, Governor Esteban Evan Contreras of Capiz, the RCHAC-VI Chairperson, pointed out that the far-reaching change in the environment and the drastic change in the social behavior of people brought about by the pandemic has resulted to anxiety, fear and stress to many people. Governor Contreras underscored the importance of the webinar as a way to educate people in finding ways or alternative approaches towards physical and mental recovery, such as the use of a channel that is close to everyone’s heart, the “arts”.

To jump start the discussion on arts as a tool for recovery, Ms. August Melody Andong, Senior Economic Development Specialist of NEDA-VI, presented a briefer on “Empowering and Mobilizing Communities: The Artists for Crisis (A4C) Experience in Western Visayas”. One of the rehab and recovery program of NCCA, the A4C adopts various theories. One is Paolo J. Knills’ Theory on Expressive Arts Therapy as an arts-based approach of psychotherapy. Another is Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed Theory that established a set of technique on how humans, as actor and spectator, can amend, alter and adjust his or her actions in order adjust and change the world. The last is Dr. Judith Lewis Herman’s Theory on the Fundamental Stages of Recovery. She also highlighted the various A4C projects implemented in the region from 2009 to 2014 and its psychosocial healing impact particularly among survivors of the typhoon in the Ati community in Barotac Viejo and the children in the island of Pan de Azucar, Concepcion in Iloilo, and the survivors of Violence against women and children (VAWC) in Capuchin and the CICL rehabilitees in Bahay Pag-asa in Bacolod City.

The other resource persons of the webinar were: Dr. May Ann Soliva-Sta. Lucia, Unit Head of the Health Emergency Management Staff of DOH Western Visayas Center for Health Development, and Ms. Dessa Quesada-Palm, the Founder and Artistic Director of Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA) and Vice President of Women Playwrights International-Philippines.

Dr. Sta Lucia discussed “Mental Health Resilience during the COVID-19” wherein she elaborated the many symptoms of stress experienced by people in the midst of the pandemic and during the quarantine periods. These include feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety, and fear; changes in appetite, energy and activity levels; difficulty in sleeping and having nightmares due to upsetting images; and other physical reactions such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems and even skin rashes. She then provided tips to build resilience such as communication among family, friends and peers; identification of uncontrolled things and do the best to address it with the available resources, increase sense of control by developing consistent daily routine, be informed of true facts about COVID-19, and to take breaks from repeated watching or reading of upsetting stories in social media.

On the other hand, Ms. Quesada-Palm presented “Kulay, Awit, Tiktok: Surviving the Pandemic (Reclaiming the Senses)” highlighted the creative means done by various artists of different art forms to address anxiety, fear, isolation and helplessness of the public during the pandemic. She discussed the importance of using arts to reclaim the sense of S.P.A.C.E. which means Safety, Possibility, Agency, Connection and Energy. She cited on Peachy Gonzalez Fernando’s creative methods for psychosocial processing and healing that provides creative outlet for emotions and feelings that are painful, intense or unclear to express verbally. She also provided varied samples of arts and creative interventions organized by individual artists and cultural organizations in order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on physical and mental health.
The presentations were followed by a lively exchange of questions and answers and sharing of ideas and experiences among the speakers and the participants.

The webinar concluded with the closing message of NEDA ARD Arecio A. Casing, Jr. who thanked the resource persons for sharing their expertise and the participants for actively taking part in the webinar. (PFPD, NEDA6)