Elmo's House
Artist Residency

Batan, Aklan

Searching for the Unique with Karilynn Ming Ho

Searching for the Unique with Karilynn Ming Ho

Multi-disciplinary Artist
Vancouver, BC

November 2017

From observation, it seems pageants, talent searches and other forms of competition is a significant part Batan’s traditions and customs. Contests provide an avenue for people to engage and contribute to the community. It can be a vehicle for propagating cultural traditions, learning from others and celebrating the arts. It seems the competitive factor of these events add a level of drama that trigger spectators into a joyful frenzy, while contestants live out their Hollywood dream in lightning speed. Star idols and everyday heroes are created, if only for a brief moment in time. 

Competitive events are integrated in school functions, religious holidays and town festivals. It has become an expected part of every organized event. 


Unique Batan was a community project by multi-disciplinary artist Karilynn Ming Ho. Riffing off the town’s love of performance, Karilynn sent out an open invitation called, ‘The 30 Second Talent Show’ to anyone willing to share their unique talents, beyond the standard singing and dancing. To subvert the common structure of showcasing talent, as well as the type of talent usually celebrated, Karilynn’s project called for the eclectic and the unconventional to share without a win/lose end goal. Each participant only had 30 seconds to demonstrate their talent as an equalizing factor. 

Unique Batan was advertised through Facebook, posted flyers and word of mouth. While canvasing and distributing the invitation, the concept of the project was explained as a collaboration and not a contest. There is no prize and everyone who participates will be part of the show. This was decided by the artist and Elmo’s House to reframe the exchange as a give and take. Everyone’s time is valued not by money but by the project itself. This deviation from the normal talent show structure, caused some confusion. As many pointed out, this kind of thing has never been done here before. 

EH Talents Flyer R2.jpg

Unique Batan’s strong community engagement concept, opened for a practical and much anticipated collaboration with the Local Government Unit (LGU). The LGU legitimized the project and brought in additional support from Batan Elementary, Batan Academy, and trust from Batangnons. Karilynn Ming Ho was given full access to the town meeting hall for the project location, as well as some needed equipment pre and post production. The location at the top floor of the Municipal Building was symbolic as most Batangnons has never before accessed this pubic space. 


In anticipation of the large crowd expected to turn up for Unique Batan, snacks and tetra-pack juices were ordered the day before the shooting. Doors were opened 30 minutes before show time just in case. The first hour or so however, was disheartening when nobody showed. 

An emergency meeting convened instead on how best to re-strategize. How can this project be more attractive to potential participants? Should we take the project to the streets? With so much going on in town, that was not possible. The equipment on hand could not accommodate the ambient noise and variable lighting that would complicate the editing process. 

Although it was disheartening to sit among all the steaming pork buns and video equipment on standby, the set back was a lesson in accommodating for the unexpected. Fortunately, friends and key LGU staff called acquaintances, and canvassed the streets and pulled people to the show. People eventually came and Unique Batan took shape. 


All the difficulties and adjustments to the project added to the narrative, making it a true reflection of what makes Batan unique. 


The vision changed slightly. With less participants, more time was given for each person. All the difficulties and adjustments to the project added to the narrative, making it a true reflection of what makes Batan unique. 

The completed video was projected in front of the Residency facing the town hall, as part of ‘Pag-Unawa’ group exhibition for the yearly Batan Fiesta in December 2017. Unique Batan ran for five consecutive days two times between 7-8pm when the sun went down. There was no special announcement aside from the tarpaulin posted in the wet market about the show. As the video ran, people stopped, sat on the steps of the plaza and enjoyed the show. People watched their friends and neighbours perform on the big screen, sharing their talents with pride. 

Learn more about Karilynn Ming Ho
What grows in Hard Garden

What grows in Hard Garden