Privilege Speech for National Heritage Month 2014
06 May 2014 – Senate Session Hall
In November last year, we warmly received the news that the Philippines has won a seat in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. It was certainly great news especially after the unfortunate earthquake that damaged several of our heritage churches in Bohol.
This successful election could have been triggered by several achievements in the country’s heritage conservation programs, among many factors.
The year 2012 saw the removal of the Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras from the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger following serious efforts to preserve and manage the once- threatened treasure.
It was also in 2012 when the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act was recognized by the World Future Council as a model policy for marine conservation; while the Historic City of Vigan was awarded the Best Practice for World Heritage Site Management by the UNESCO.
These recognitions prove that we can successfully preserve our heritage and that our efforts can even become models for other nations to follow. But I also wish to highlight the fact that for a nation that is overflowing with tangible and intangible masterpieces as well as natural and man-made heritage, we still have to work more and harder to promote and preserve these cultural wonders.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has been spearheading programs for the conservation of cultural heritage, particularly in developing cultural industries, undertaking research and documenting indigenous knowledge systems, agricultural practices and customary laws, supporting the enrichment of festivals in the country, among others.
The NCCA’s Philippine Arts Festival displays the brilliance of Filipinos in architecture, cinema, dance, literature, music, theater and visual arts; while the Dayaw: Indigenous Peoples Festival gathers the ethno-linguistic groups all over the country to celebrate their culture and way of life.
It has established a program called Schools of Living Traditions, where the young learn about arts and crafts, music, oral traditions and other indigenous practices. It has also opened the NCCA Gallery for contemporary Filipino artists to exhibit their works.
The NCCA has also used the internet as a tool for promotion of Philippine culture. It has come up with a music video and an interactive game to promote the Sagisag Kultura ng Filipinas, a registry of the country’s cultural icons, including notable Filipino individuals, items of heritage, remarkable products of Filipino imagination and intelligence, historical sites, native flora and fauna, inventions and important researches by Filipinos.
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 our heritage and the artistic excellence and creativity of the Filipinos in the seven arts.
Admittedly, we need to do more and Congress has a big role in the promotion and preservation of our culture, which is a unifying, humanizing and modernizing agent of our society.
As we celebrate National Heritage Month this May, I would like to reiterate the need to establish a Department of Culture, which shall be a centralized body that will develop, manage and be responsible for the implementation of policy, legislation and strategic direction for the identification, protection, preservation, conservation, regulation and promotion of culture; as well as to foster, strengthen and accelerate the convergence of various cultural offices and agencies, and rationalize their organizations and functions.
The proposed Department will be composed of the Office of the Secretary, which shall be headed by a person recognized as an accomplished culture or cultural heritage manager or advocate, or a distinguished scholar or practitioner in the fields of arts, anthropology, history, cultural diplomacy and other fields of endeavor related to culture or cultural heritage.
Five bureaus will be established within the Department to focus on core areas of: protection and regulation; management and development; information, education and training; cultural institutions, industries and practitioners; and the Rizal Centers or Sentro Rizal envisioned by Congress to be the Philippine counterpart to cultural networks of other nations.
For a country rich in cultural heritage and where culture and arts are important in the enrichment of the Filipino identity, we must have a Department of Culture to ensure that our heritage or ‘pamana’, which defines our being Filipinos, must be rightfully passed on to the succeeding generations.
Mr. President, amid screaming headlines of burning political issues, which define boundaries that divide us, we must be reminded of that common identity that ultimately unites us. It is the great national pride of being Filipinos as bearers of a rich cultural patrimony. It is our cultural heritage that will help us move forward as one people.
Mabuhay ang kalinangang Filipino!