RAMON AREVALO OBUSAN, dancer, choreographer, stage designer and artistic drector, has achieved phenomenal success in the Philippine dance and cultural work. Also known as researcher, archivist and documentary filmmaker, Obusan has broadened and deepened our understanding of our cultural life and expressions.
Aside from his own numerous productions on stage and in the streets, directing pageants and festivals at home and abroad, Obusan has influenced other dance artists and researchers worldwide. Through the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group (ROFG), he has effected cultural and diplomatic exchanges utilizing the multifarious aspects and dimensions of art of dance.
His group’s performances abroad have enriched and strengthened our ties with the contemporary world, especially with Europe, the Americas (particularly Mexico), the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific. -His acumen as scholar- artist, virtually the one in folk dance in our midst today, gains redoubtable respect for himself and the Filipino citizens.
His repertoire for ROFG is ever vitalized by Obusan’s intensive and extensive research in Philippine culture. At the same time, he sustains a continuing equitable relationship with the people, including children, living in their communities. Recognizing them as artists themselves, he encourages them to participate in his group’s performances.
Beyond the often formulaic panoramic survey of the Philippine rituals, dances, and music, he sometimes chooses a unified thematic construct that gives a total picture of our variegated cultural expressions, and the writes- as in his early Kayaw and the more current Vamos a Belen- an image of continuity and communality portraying us a nation.
Obusan’s obsession in harnessing the potentials of dance in Philippine society today is unparalleled as he unreservedly and incessantly creates a living reflection of ourselves, showing us who we are.
In 2006, a few months before his death, Obusan was conferred as the National Artist for Dance.
Ramon Obusan was born to Dr. Praxedes Obusan of Camarines Norte who was the first doctor of the Manila’s airport, and Josefina, a music teacher from Albay. Obusan was born to a family of scholars. He studied in the University of the Philippines where he graduated with a BS in Fisheries. He then went to teach courses in fisheries in Aklan Polytechnic Institute. It was in Aklan where his love for Philippine folk culture was born. He was attending an Aklanon wedding when when he was smitten by the richness of the Philippine countryside culture.
Obusan later went back to UP where, inspired by his teacher, Dr. Espiridion Arsenio Manuel he decided to study anthropology. He then joined the Bayanihan Dance Company where he began his career in the 1960s, first as an instrumentalist, then eventually as a dancer.
Ramon became critical of the Bayanihan’s approach to folk dances, which he felt gave too much emphasis to formulas, appearances, and overdecorated costumes. To Obusan’s mind also, Bayanihan was too elitist and classicist, concentrating too much on the looks and the social status of its dancers. He also disagreed with Bayanihan’ s costume mistress Isabel Reyes’ reinterpretation of indigenous clothing with brightly colored sequined costumes and of Bayanihan choreographer and fellow National Artist awardee Lucrecia Urtula’s treatment of folk dances with exaggerated clockwork precision movements all in the name of theatricality and showmanship. In 1971, Obusan founded the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group (ROFG), which was acclaimed for its faithful and authentic Filipino folk dance performances.
In 1982, he was designated as Artistic Director of the first Asian Dance Company. On the same year, he directed a documentary for the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) entitled “Sayaw”, which won the grand prix award in the “International Video Dance Competition” in France.
In 1992, he was given the Patnubay ng Kalinangan award by the City of Manila for his contributions to the preservation of traditional Filipino dances.
In 1993, he was conferred the CCP Gawad Para Sa Sining Para Sa Sayaw for his researches in Philippine Folk Dances and other art forms.
In 1998, Obusan was commissioned by the Department of Tourism in designing floats themed with historical significance during the parade for the centennial celebration of the country’s independence.
Apart from being a maestro in dancing, Obusan was also a collector of Filipiniana wardrobe, an authority in folk rituals and a expert in fisheries.
Obusan wrote Dances of the Philippines, a compilation of all the researches he has done on Philippine folk and ritual dances. He also has the largest collection of videos and research on Philippine dances.