On May 1, world-class art exhibit will cap Himala

As the Himala sa Buhangin! Festival makes its third year comeback on May 1, the majestic expanse of the Paoay Sand Dunes will be transformed once again into a haven of avant-garde art installations.

Governor Imee R. Marcos believes that the Ilocanos are given the chance to be exposed to world-class artworks as the provincial government aims to promote and conserve the province’s culture and heritage through the festival.

Resident visual artist Leeroy New returns this year to give a renewed and distinct soul to the festival with his art installations.

As an artist who is internationally-acclaimed for his massive, public space interventions, New’s art installations in the Interactive Sculpture Park which was launched last year create an ideal combination to the vast area of the Paoay Sand Dunes.

This year, thousands of revelers will bear witness to New’s upgraded Interactive Sculpture Park as it will continue to dominate the main areas of the festival’s location.

“The art installations we put up last year using repurposed and recycled materials from the llocos Norte’s Provincial Engineering Office was only the first phase. This year, we will be expanding and improving on the already existing Interactive Sculpture Park”, New said.

With the park’s inspiration drawn from the Australian post-apocalyptic movie Mad Max which was filmed in the area, New highlighted that the art installations “will definitely have more interactive elements.”

A centerpiece to the park is the “Chrysalis,” a large-scale art installation he created in 2012 which symbolizes the province’s budding tourism industry and serves as an artistic representation of the toppled galleon that delivered the image of La Virgen Milagrosa to the shores of Ilocos Norte.

Unique to the province, New said that the Paoay Sand Dunes leads the beginnings of the first Interactive Sculpture Park located in the middle of a desert in the Philippines as well as in South East Asia.

“Ilocos Norte is going the right direction when it comes to harnessing the creative strategies of art and design to provide solutions for developing the region,” noted by New who hopes that more artists will be invited to contribute and design structures to make Paoay Sand Dunes a colony of art in the future.

Meanwhile, a few meters away from New’s park is Gerry Leonardo’s life-sized statue of Elsa, the iconic character of Nora Aunor in the movie ‘Himala’ which was filmed in the Paoay Sand Dunes in 1982. With its unveiling last year, the town of Paoay has been recognized as the ‘Center of Film Tourism’ in the Philippines.

As an addition to Aunor’s Sculpture, Himala sa Buhangin! Festival this year will honor the late Fernando Poe Jr. through a sculpture of Flavio, the legendary character he played in the classic series ‘Ang Panday’ filmed in Paoay as well.

Aside from the art installations, musical acts headlined by the popular Filipino rockband Parokya ni Edgar and various sand sport activities like 4X4 rides, sand boarding, zorbing and sand-castle making are included in the whole-day festival.

“We used to curse the sand dunes of Paoay. A lot of Ilocanos are farmers, and it saddens them because you can’t really grow anything there. Over the years, we have already transformed it into a lively, eventful and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country providing a source of income for the locals through the Himala sa Buhangin! Festival,” said Governor Marcos.

Recognized as the biggest outdoor arts and music event in the north since its launching in 2012, the festival is one of the highlights of Ilocos Norte’s Fiesta honoring the province’s patroness La Virgen Milagrosa.¬-John Michael Mugas, PGIN-CMO