Interview by AA PATAWARAN

MA CHERIE AMOUR Before launching her art movement Yakap Sining, Cherie Gil tried to pick up new skills under quarantine, like cooking and farming. Among the many artists who participated in the "Yakap Sining" pilot were Sitti and Martin Nievera

MA CHERIE AMOUR Before launching her art movement Yakap Sining, Cherie Gil tried to pick up new skills under quarantine, like cooking and farming. Among the many artists who participated in the Yakap Sining pilot were Sitti and Martin Nievera

There is a gypsy in actress and everyone’s dream contravida Cherie Gil. By her own admission, she has always been a restless person. “I’m looking for action all the time,” she says. This time, though, with the global lockdowns in place around the world, she has had no choice but to stay put, not even able to travel to New York, where her children Bianca and Raphael Rogoff are. From the beginning of the community quarantine, I’ve watched her openly deal with the turn of events. “At first, I tended to my own needs, from trying to master my cooking skills to learning to bake bread and to tend a vegetable garden,” she says to me. “While watching my garden grow, along with my dog’s hair and nails and mine, I felt the need to reconnect with humanity.” Thus began Yakap Sining, an art movement that was born out of Cherie’s restlessness. A direct response to the challenges of Covid-19, it is also an intimate gift from the soulful actress. “Art has been that most essential vehicle for me to heal. I want to share this personal belief. With hope, it will inspire more souls to be enriched during these most difficult times,” says the actress, who believes there is no turning back to how life used to be. “I don’t even know what life will be like for me as an actress after this.” Here are more snippets from our socially distanced yet intimate conversation.

Let’s talk about Yakap Sining

Yakap Sining: Paglikha para sa Paghilom is a movement that sprouted from a deep concern for everyone’s mental and emotional wellbeing, including mine. Needless to say, our medical frontliners deserve all our attention, but the crisis also brought me to think of those locked down for who knew how long?

This is very personal to me. Since childhood, I’ve been exposed to the gamut of “dramas” in my life. I fought hard. With the help of enlightened friends, self-help books, and a number of therapy sessions, I’ve found ways to fight the stigma of mental health and its myths. As artists, we are extra sensitive and vulnerable to every human condition. I have learned to embrace that. 

Under quarantine, I’ve had many unsettling moments. There have been productive days and there have been days I just wanted to sink into the sheets and watch Netflix all day. While I’ve learned to say to myself that that’s ok too, it can also take its toll. Almost all my life I’ve been immersed in my craft, which has allowed me to heal and, at the same time, serve the community with stories they could escape and relate to. Now all that has come to a halt. I realized things could never go back to the way they were. All of us will be left with a deep scar. 

Thus, “Yakap Sining” was born, through which we can express feelings we otherwise can’t. I hope that with this campaign everyone will discover the creators in them. If we are able to reach many communities with this initiative, I believe that we—and the planet—will all be the better for it. Of course, I could not have moved forward with this idea if not for the Rebelde team headed by JE Tiglao, who readily supported it.

Cherie in the kitchen

Cherie in the kitchen

With everyone focused on the barest essentials, and commerce, how can Yakap Sining bring art front and center?

Sadly, for every historical crisis, it has always been the arts that get kicked back to the bottom of the totem pole. But there’s an art revolution happening all over the world. We need art more now, especially here in our country. It is essential.

So the team behind Yakap Sining has decided to create a campaign through four live streams. We launched it with “Unang Yakap Musika” on May 3. It was truly gratifying, I must say, having the support of so many artists who generously gave their time and music with us.

We hit a bump on the road soon after with all the untimely events happening in our industry, from ABS-CBN ceasing to broadcast to Peque Gallaga’s passing, and also my dear friend Sandy Higgins, all in a span of a week. It was important for us to allow ourselves the time to grieve. After all, our advocacy is all about our mental and emotional wellbeing. But their passing has inspired me to march on with more vigor. We will re-launch with “Pangalawang Yakap Pinta” on May 24, “Pangatlong Yakap Pelikula” on June 7, and finally “Pangapat na Yakap Tula” on June 21. 

In between those live stream Sundays at 8 p.m. on Yakap Sining’s FB page, we will also have the artists share their secrets. We invite everyone to post on their social media platforms using our hashtags. We have a curating team to trace these works that we intend to feature on our livestreams and Yakap Sining IG and FB galleries. The main intention is to fill the viral world with beauty and art, for the people by the people. 

We aspire to also raise funds through generous donors to help sustain Hopeline, a 24/7 hotline dedicated to mental health. It was established by the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation, led by Jeannie Goulbourn. My dream is to see it flourish through more holistic outreach programs, both virally and on ground, all the way to the grassroots level.

Filipino bossa nova singer, Sitti

Filipino bossa nova singer, Sitti

What do you consider your most profound self-realizations in this crisis? 

This is the perfect pause to reflect on how to begin the next chapter of my life. It has given me the impetus to take mindful action more fearlessly. It is the moment to temper (and taper) everything about myself, letting go of all that didn’t work in the past. I am turning 57 next month. I just want to be able to pay it forward and spend less energy on the mundane. But I’m still learning to be better than I was yesterday. 

When this is over, we will step out into a changed world. What changes do you foresee? 

We will be all paranoid for a while. It is possible we will be in a rush to get back to the way it was when, really, there is no turning back. Unfortunately, Filipinos have this tendency to be impatient, to feel entitled. I suppose, through history, we were always taught to fight, to push, to gain our identity back. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think, for as long as we are all on the same page marching together toward peace and respect for one another, many would be so willing to join hands. This is my fervent wish—that we blossom into this kind of people. 

I call on the art gods to touch us in our most vulnerable, most selfless, most loving parts. We were all innately born with this gift of creativity. It’s time we touch base with it again, whether through music, painting, the spoken word, or storytelling.

I personally don’t see the world ending just yet. I have hope. Most important, my faith in my higher power has never been stronger.

Source: Manila Bulletin (