Senator Loren Legarda’s Privilege Speech
Bridging the Indigenous and the International
in Philippine Art and Culture
11 February 2014 – Senate Session Hall
History chronicles the attempts of individuals and institutions in recognizing the significance of art and culture from antiquity to contemporary times. Through private and public patronage, they signaled their unwavering commitment to honor their rich traditions and, simultaneously, understand their critical roles in society. As a result, massive temples and soaring cathedrals were built, palaces were turned into cabinets of curiosities and galleries, and ruins great and small were preserved to withstand the ravages of time. All in the name of art and culture.
This universal predilection to honor the past and chart the future through the material evidence of its peoples is also shared by many modern nation-states like the Philippines. Despite the vicissitudes of its existence from pre- to post-colonial days, our country immediately learned the relevance and benefit of supporting the arts and culture, which have the power to cultivate, strengthen and disseminate the value systems and beliefs of the Filipinos especially in a time of political, social and economic crisis.
In the past, various administrations inaugurated museums, sponsored artist exchange and education abroad programs, collected and commissioned artworks, and led the documentation and conservation of historic artifacts, monuments and sites. Through the rule of law—presidential proclamations, executive orders and other government policies—they advanced the cause of the arts and culture to develop and promote the nation. Indeed, our presidents came and went, but their state support serves as testament of profound appreciation and profitable investment.
Proclamation No. 683
In 1991, former President Corazon Aquino signed Proclamation No. 683, Declaring the Month of February of Every Year as National Arts Month, to establish continuity in terms of state patronage of the arts in all disciplines, including theater, dance, music, visual arts, architecture, literature and film. As a result, allied government agencies were enjoined to comply with this proclamation through a series of activities, which consequently attracted, engaged and educated local and foreign audience and viewers.
For more than two decades, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has successfully led our country through competitions, exhibitions, performances, conferences, lectures, workshops, screenings, sessions and tours during this month-long nationwide festival. As the primary agency of the Philippine government charged with the responsibility to preserve, develop and promote Philippine arts and culture, the NCCA creates diverse opportunities to celebrate the artistic excellence and creativity of the Filipinos in the seven arts.
Arts and Culture Advocacy
As this is the month of February, I have the privilege to share with you my personal and political advocacy for the arts and culture. In pursuit of the mandate of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, which I chair, I spearheaded several initiatives and programs that aimed to promote and protect the cultural diversity and sovereignty of our people through the powerful technology of exhibitions. With this technology, I am able to bridge the indigenous and the international realms of my advocacy.
Housed at the invigorated National Museum, Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles, for example, is the first permanent textile gallery in the country to present ethnic, ceremonial, and heirloom garments and tapestries woven from indigenous textiles using traditional looms, as well as more recent adaptations. Complementing these displayed artifacts in climate-controlled vitrines or worn by mannequins are the ancillary events of bringing members of these communities to demonstrate their weaving practices, as well as scholars to share their cutting-edge research through lectures and workshops.
Another permanent exhibition in a designated gallery at the National Museum is Baybayin: Ancient and Traditional Scripts of the Philippines, which explores our tangible heritage and vibrant ancient script still used by some indigenous communities in Mindoro and Palawan today. Realizing the urgency of preserving this unique writing system, I have filed a measure mandating government offices, departments and agencies to use Baybayin in their official logos.
Supporting these exhibitions are several bills that I filed in the Senate to create the Department of Culture, to preserve the country’s folk arts through the National Museum’s regional branches, to safeguard the cultural property rights of the indigenous communities, to guarantee equal employment opportunities to the members of the Indigenous Cultural Committee, to include ethnic origin in the national survey, and to prohibit discrimination based on ethnicity, race, religion or belief, language, disability or other status.
While my commitment to recognize the unparalleled contributions of those who make it possible for us to remember our roots remains steadfast, I am equally determined to promote Philippine contemporary art and culture at home and abroad. I believe that our indigenous communities who continue the tradition of our ancestors inspire and inform the current practices of the Filipino artists whose works also constitute our cultural legacy.
By showcasing the cultural capital of our nation through national and international exhibitions, we achieve these two primary objectives:
First, we foster the critical development of Philippine art and the professional growth of the Filipino artists within and outside the Philippines.
Second, we strengthen the role of the Philippines in the local and global community as a nation of and destination for contemporary art in the 21st century.
Towards the goal of transforming the Philippines into a responsive, collaborative and pioneering patron of the arts and culture, I vowed to continue my advocacy in building the bridge between the indigenous and international. Through exhibitions of the everyday and the epic, we have the opportunity to commemorate our ancestors and learn the lessons of the past and celebrate our contemporaries and pave the way for their bright future.
In the spirit of the National Arts Month this February 2014 and my utmost belief that arts and culture are indispensable tools of national integration and international diplomacy, I invite you to join me in this bold and far-reaching endeavor to establish the necessary local and global links to better serve our nation and shepherd our people with pride, dignity, and honor.
Thank you, Mr. President.