Saturday, 2 May 2009

Olang Arts Park

I have written the first draft of this article in July of 2007, initially on an attempt of introducing the park to the artists who willingly donated their artworks for an art exhibit, the proceeds of which were intended for its soft opening held in July 28 of the same year. The said activity was organised by the Center for Arts Foundation. A part of the write up has been published in the Barkada Magazine where I shared the authorship with my expatriate editor Roshan T. Jose. After her retirement from the University of the Philippines(UP) she has has resettled(perhaps for the meantime) back to her native India. This has been reedited in December 2007 purposedly for the Olang Arts Park website but since it has not been activated yet, I thought of posting it in my blog as the park has been, and always be a lovely place for me.

Olang Arts Park: A Sanctuary for Artists and Nature Lovers

the Olang Arts Park " greeter", photo by Ian Michael

Located just in front of the National Highway and close to Salagdoong Beach Resort in Barangay Olang, Maria, Siquijor Province is a sanctuary where art and nature commune- the Olang Arts Park. Aptly named and depending on one's talent or interest, he or she can sing with the chirping birds, paint, write songs and poetry, dance or simply sit back, relax and enjoy watching the sunrise best seen from the tree house and the sunset best seen from the performing arts centre. The sound of crickets, night birds and other forest sounds lull you to sleep after a night of stargazing at the open terrace or from the treehouse.

This property was acquired by then “balikbayan”(a Filipino term for those who opt to come back home after many years of living overseas) Eufemia Solomon-Crouse, fondly called “Tita Minnie”, and her associates in 1995. A tourism volunteer for “Bring Home A Friend” while she was based in the United States of America, she was not only instrumental in encouraging friends to come and revisit the Philippines, she opted to stay herself. Minnie was born and raised in Urbiztondo, Pangasinan and was captivated by Siquijor Island’s charms on her first visit to the island in 1993. Finding solace, and realizing that she had found her own place under the sun, she decided to stay. An artist herself, she rose from being a summer workshop student of the UP Film Center in Diliman to being a multi-awarded filmmaker bringing her to the Brussels Film Festival in 2002 for her first short documentary film about an environmental concern.

In 2005, ten years after deciding to settle in the island, Minnie started to build structures in Olang to fulfill a dream. Most remarkable is building the Performing Arts Centre, a name suggested by Minnie's relatives based in the United States, where villagers find themselves entertained by their own children showing off what they learned from attending free summer workshops, conducted by the artist friends who came to visit the island. Even before the art facilities were built, Minnie initiated film showing and did acting workshops among the Olang kids since 2004 and realizing that these children have their own artistic potentials, she was greatly inspired to start making her dream a reality- to bring the arts to the island.

Minnie’s younger brother Eli who visited the place for the first time in 2007, has largely contributed towards the construction of “finishing touches” and other structures in the park. He was pleasantly surprised about how his sister Minnie has transformed the place and was present during its soft opening in July 2007, through a convention of artists organized by the Manila based Center for Arts Foundation through its Director Jerome Vinarao.

For me, the highlight of the said event is watching the Olang children singing the song(from the well loved musicale turned to film " Mamma Mia") " I Have A Dream" with Minnie joining towards the middle part of the song. For some reason, majority of the audience were so touched that they either cried while the song was sung, or perhaps tried hard to hold back their tears. During that moment, I was thrilled thinking that the performance by Olang kids, is a part of the realisation of Minnie's dreams for the Siquijor Island, for the town of Maria and for barangay Olang. That number is a fruit of numerous workshops and rehearsals by various artists . I even teased Minnie afterwards that she surprised me a lot by carrying the tune almost perfectly. Watching the exhibit of visual artworks all over the place by various artists has been a wonderful bonus, I reckon.

Siquijor College Dance Troupe at the Performing Arts Centre, photo by Ian

The idea of making the then “Centro Arte Olang” was formally conceived in December 2005 with the vision of making it a Sanctuary for Artists and the mission to provide a space for art, artists and artistic expressions. Accordingly, it has the three -fold objectives: 1) to provide a home for artists to meditate, be inspired / create, come together / collaborate, 2) a venue for artistic presentations, exhibits, live performances: readings/dance/theatre,film productions and 3) a place for education in the arts- through workshops, seminars / fora, conventions and festivals.

Minnie’s major concern and considers it her dream to share a love for the arts in various forms with today’s youth and the future generation initially from Olang, adjacent barangays, towns and eventually the whole island. She envisions that this centre will benefit the youth having the inclination for arts and are interested to learn through free summer workshops and seminars given by visiting artists.

Belen, Minnie’s academician friend from the UP Diliman thinks that the venue could also be used for a week or short term like summer art classes. I am looking at it as a perfect setting for a romantic wedding, with the sunset rays serving as the backdrop. It could also be used for reunions or birthday parties and of course for live performances during festivals or any other special occasion/s. It is still undergoing finishing touches though but as of my last visit in July 2007, it has accommodated a couple hundred or so artists and educators for a whole day activity organised by the Manila based Center for the Arts.

Use of the venue depending on the purpose would of course, come with equivalent charges, either by four hours or daily. This would cover for the electricity and maintenance costs of the park.

the Cozy Mia, from Minnie's photogallery

The Cozy Mia is a place where you would love to linger, and can make yourself cozy. It was built to remember Minnie by, thus the name. Fondly called ”Mia” in her younger days, Minnie enjoys entertaining friends and associates by serving food and drinks, that she has joyfully prepared, being an excellent cook herself. Cozy Mia is a place meant to make Minnie’s close friends and associates to hang around. This is a place where one would be happy to dine, prepare his or her own food and drinks, and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while reading a book, having conversations with Minnie and her associates, or simply enjoying the scenery.

I however believe that with Yang and her mom around, a visitor can probably have a taste of the island’s native food and its products. I myself have tasted how the local “tablea”(a tablet made of cacao seeds that we bought from the public market) was turned into a hot chocolate which tasted heavenly. My friend Mirana has this idea of utilizing a part of the CoziMia Grounds as a display centre for native products, arts and crafts done by Olang and neighbouring barangay and towns. I agree, remembering the restaurant I had dinner in Puerto Princesa, Palawan in the 2008 Baragatan Festival, showcasing the island’s fashion accessories and other native products on a concession. This could provide an income-generation potential for the housewives who can use their creative skills after their household tasks are done.

Minnie Bionic Studio, from Minnie's photo gallery

A few meters away from the Cozy Mia, is the Minnie Bionic Studio. The studio is where Minnie love to stay for obvious reasons. It is very close to the Cozy Mia where foods are prepared and from Minnie studio’s terrace, one can see the Performing Arts Centre and the mahogany trees where the Meditation or Prayer Area would be placed. It has also an open terrace where friends and neighbors could chat with much gusto. The open terrace is Minnie's favourite spot as she can view the structures that she has built over the years. This also serves as a "receiving area" for guests who drop by for a visit en route to the Cozymia.

open terrace in front of the Minnie studio, from Minnie's photo gallery

Not very far is the proposed SpringB’s Garden. Initially, the area will be planted with flowering plants of various colours, but eventually, would have a lagoon or fountain as an added attraction, close to the wooden bridge leading to the mahogany trees and the tree house. “Spring” could mean the Spring season where flowers are in full bloom, spring as “a continuous water source,” or spring as “sprouting,” all giving that “alive” feeling. “B” may mean “blossom,” or “bee,” which is naturally attracted to flowers or may mean “a group”. The garden is meant to remember “Spring” in its many permutations and simply perk your day up.

early morning at The Malengreau mansion, photo by blogger

The Malengreau Mansion was built and named in honour of Minnie’s Belgium based filmmaker friend, Robert Malengreau. He has visited the island and enjoyed coming back to Siquijor Island since 2005.He has been very supportive of Minnie’s documentary filmmaking ventures and greatly helped in giving her the chance to show and win international recognition for her first short film as “ Best Short Film for A Cause” in the Brussels International Film Festival” in November, 2002.

Contrary to everybody’s notion of a “mansion” as a huge structure, it is a twin unit studio where Robert usually stays for a few days, every time he visits the art park. Close to the twin- unit is the road to access neighbouring Salagdoong Resort. Blogger thinks that spending the weekend as a well- deserved rest after long duration of tedious tasks doing business or as an employee in any of the twin studio as a sort of bed and breakfast treat would be great. Due to its closeness to the trees in the nearby Salagdoong Beach, one could clearly hear the sound of crickets that could either scare or lull you to sleep. The effect on me is the latter, although I have only slept on one unit for a night.

the bridge leading to the Meditation Area and BalayMir, from Minnnie's photogallery

A Meditation Area has been identified in the center of the mahogany trees. Staying at the proposed meditation area could encourage someone to talk to the Greater Deity or to do reflections or simply have a quiet time. Not too far is the proposed Artists’ Village. Minnie wishes to build structures made of native materials from the island and hopefully, could house visiting artists to conduct free workshops in the fields of visual arts, performing arts, media and literature. As of December 2007 it has four cottages built using the Filipino nipa hut as an inspiration.

the tree house, BalayMir in July 2007 , from Minnie's photogallery

The most loved entity in the park is a tree house. This is a fulfillment of a wish from Minnie’s film mentor and collaborator, Miranamedina. Having a built -in bed and a balcony, this was recently named BalayMir where one could find the joy of being alone and quiet. Mirana thinks that it is the best place to review Minnie’s films for editing. Viewing the park from the balcony should inspire Mirana to rediscover her talent as a visual artist. During the soft opening of the Olang Arts Park, this structure was the most popular among the visitors. I love the structure because of its simplicity yet giving the feeling of contentment. In the entire arts park, this is the place where I have greatly enjoyed communing with nature and where I will spend more time whenever I get the chance to go back.

Getting There :

From Overseas
Take a flight directly to Manila or the Cebu International Airport. Please refer to the succeeding instructions, either from Manila or Cebu.

From Luzon or Manila.

By air, take a domestic flight -Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific or Air Philippines via Manila to the neighbouring islands of Dumaguete or Cebu. (Those coming from abroad may take the direct flight to Cebu International Airport )

Another option is having a boat ride from Manila or taking the Roro or land travel to Cebu or Dumaguete. There are also regular inter-island vessels from both Dumaguete, Cebu and Bohol that could take you to Siquijor Island

From Cebu
Take an inter-island vessel from Cebu that travels directly to Siquijor port for around 8 hours.

From Dumaguete:
Inter-island vessels travel to Siquijor Island via Larena( 2 hour trip) or Siquijor (one hour trip) ports

From Mindanao
Take the Davao to Cebu flight via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines and take the inter-island vessels from Cebu to Siquijor. Alternately, you may take the boat ride from Plaridel in Misamis Occidental to a six hour voyage to Larena port.

Siquijor to Olang
From the Larena port, a private vehicle can be used or you could hire a local PUJ(Multicab) that will take you to an uninterrupted less than thirty minute trip to Brgy. Olang, in Maria town. Alternately, there are public vehicles like the regular jeepneys for a thirty minute trip to the area.

It takes about forty five minutes slow paced drive from Siquijor port.

The Olang Art Park is right along the National Highway.

Contact Person/s

Cielo Lumacad, a native of Lazi, Siquijor is the Resident Artist. He is a musician by profession and has composed/arranged musical scores for various movies from the 70s to 80s era, played in various international cruise ships, upscale hotels and entertainment arenas in the country and abroad.

Minnie wishes that the arts park would remain “freelance” and any activity by artists and educators in Siquijor and neighbouring islands and eventually by some interested entities in the future will be welcome. If you have some questions regarding this matter please contact:

Eufemia Solomon-Crouse
11232 Promesa Drive, San Diego, California
Email address:

Or simply visit :

Olang Art Park
Barangay Olang, Maria,
6229 Siquijor Island, Philippines

Acknowledgement on related facts and figures re: Olang Arts Park from Rubelyn Tayros, Minnie Crouse, Ron Henri Tan and Cielo Lumacad, and is deemed correct as of 5 December, 2007


1 comment:

kim said...

hi maam minnie, how are you?
this is kim.. a member of the octava choral society...

God Bless You Always...

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A kaleidoscope of people, landscapes, seascapes, skyscapes and things which, to my perspective- are wonderfully made. It features, but not limited to the faces of people who makes me happy and vice versa,man-made creations, lovely places where I have been-and wish to go to when I can.