Ma. Cecilia Locsin – Nava, Ph.D.
It is one of the supreme ironies of life that while the clutch of Visayan islands lie close to each other, it is easier for Visayans from Bacolod to reach Manila by air than it is for them to go to Bohol or Antique. Conversely, communications from Manila reaches the Visayan islands faster than those coming from individual islands to reach out.
This is because unlike Luzon and Mindanao where the main population centers of the provinces are normally accessible by land, Visayas is fragmented by the irregular configuration of the archipelago. Thus to get to Dumaguete from Bacolod one has to endure a punishing eight hour overland trip or take a 30-minute flight from Bacolod to Cebu then another plane ride from Cebu to Dumaguete. This fragmentation in the midst of proximity is underscored by the fact that while there are basic similarities shared by the different Visayan dialects, the linguistic differences are such, a perfectly innocuous word in Cebuano takes on an obscene meaning in Ilonggo.
Viewed in this context, the first Visayas Island Visual Arts Exhibition and Conference (VIVA EXCON) held in February 22-28, 1990 at Mambucal Resort, Murcia was a herculean achievement. Spearheaded by the Black Artists in Asia (BAA) of Bacolod under the leadership then of Norberto (Pewee) Roldan and sponsored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), it brought together visual artists not only from Negros and the neighboring cities of Iloilo and Cebu but those from Manila and Baguio whose participation added prestige to the gathering.
Designed as both an exhibition and a conference, the exhibition component of VIVA EXCON I, was meant not only to “showcase contemporary works of visual arts from the different islands but also to promote visual arts forms reflective of the islands’ cultural influences, historical traditions and current social situations aside from encouraging innovative, experimental or collaborative works Visayan visual artists” (VIVA EXCON Folio, 1990).