AMBASSADORS. Actress Julie Ann San Jose (left) and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray (right) were named Music and Arts ambassadors, respectively, early this year. They are joined by singer KZ Tandingan (center) who has been NCCA's music ambassador since 2019. The NCCA says the industry has been among the most hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, as live events and production were put to a halt. (PNA file photo by Cristina Arayata)

MANILA – The temporary shut down of movie sets, concerts, and theatres due to the pandemic has pushed performers in the entertainment industry to the sidelines, and now have been trying to adapt through the internet.

The industry is among the most hit by the ongoing health crisis. Since March, live events have been prohibited in areas under general community quarantine. Freelance cultural artists and workers from various sectors such as dance and music were greatly affected as there are no gigs and events.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) estimated there are about 14,500 freelance cultural artists and workers affected by the pandemic.

When the quarantine began, musician Israel Tandoc was among those who had to stop bringing beautiful music to a sudden halt.

"It's difficult now because there are no live concerts or even bar gigs -- totally none right now. Some of us who don't have a day job are stuck, to the point that they are selling their own musical instruments in order to get by," Tandoc told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Sunday.

The government and some private firms have extended aid and are continuously finding ways to help the artists, as well as provide them with an avenue to showcase their talents and entertain the public.

Cash assistance amounting to almost PHP69 million was given to close to 10,000 affected workers as of August.

This cash assistance came from the National Endowment Fund and from the budget for NCCA's programs that cannot continue due to the pandemic, according to chairman Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso.

NCCA deputy executive director Marichu Tellano earlier said that after giving cash assistance, the NCCA would look at other possible platforms where the artists and workers could showcase their works. The Commission is also eyeing to retool them, she added.

Lizaso said the NCCA is planning for different programs under the "new normal" such as conducting webinars and lectures online.

Private firms also did their share and have used the online platform to stage performances and concerts.

Music solutions agency, Homonym, for instance, have showcased performances and talks via the Sonik Philippines 2020 from October 15-17. Performers included the Itchyworms, Assembly Generals, Shades of Native, Peregrine, as well as foreign acts such as Lightcraft (Indonesia), Hyangni (South Korea), Deep Set (Malaysia), among others.

Globe Telecom, on the other hand, provided an avenue for rising P-pop group SB19, Ben&Ben, Kiana Valenciano, etc., to entertain fans via the G Music Fest last September 26. American alternative rock band, LANY, was also part of the lineup that the public was able to watch for free, whether they are Globe subscribers or not.

Meanwhile, the government also has a long-term plan for the industry. In a webinar over the weekend, Pangasinan Representative Christopher de Venecia said the House of Representatives is working closely with the NCCA to strengthen the country's music industry.

"We need to have a roadmap so the industry can have the key industry indicators, the same thing that Kpop was able to do in Korea," he said.

De Venecia added that a bill was already filed for the creation of the Music Development Council of the Philippines, which would stimulate and promote the creation and rendition of good music by means of grants, loans, and other forms of assistance to qualified persons and institutions. (PNA)