National Heritage Month 2012
Senate Session Hall
May 22, 2012
Amid screaming headlines of burning political issues, which define boundaries that divide us, I rise to remind everyone of a subject, which reinforces a common identity that ultimately unites us. It is the great national pride of being Filipinos as bearers of a rich cultural patrimony.
It is often said that historical and cultural sites, stories and traditions convey our values, beliefs and aspirations that lay the foundation of who we are as a nation—the Historic Town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur brings people back in time and gives a bittersweet feeling as it reminds us of the challenges our ancestors had to overcome during the colonial rule, but the magnificent structures carefully preserved bring awe to visitors; the Hudhud Chants of Ifugao symbolize special episodes in the life of the Ifugaos such as times of harvest and weeding rice, during funeral wakes, and when they perform bone-washing rituals; while the Darangen narrates the beliefs, values systems and ways of living of our ancestors, particularly of the Maranao people in Lanao del Sur. Meanwhile, the festivals that we celebrate are usually linked to the feast of patron saints, most notably are those that revere the Sto. Niño such as the Sinulog of Cebu City, the Ati-Atihan of Kalibo, and the Dinagyang of Iloilo. More than the merriment, these feasts keep us rooted to our history and give a sense of renewed faith.
As we celebrate the National Heritage Month, I invite everyone to reconnect with our roots, reflect on the legacies of Filipino cultural history and renew our hope in our people.
This year’s theme, “Taoid: Crossing, Caring, Carrying On”, is a powerful reminder for us to continue the journey of protecting our culture, its richness and abundance. Our taoid, an Ilocano word which signifies legacy, needs to be shared and handed down, nurtured and valued and ultimately, it needs to be preserved for us and for the future generations of Filipinos.
Last March, I personally visited one of the sites inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Ifugao is the home of the world-renowned rice terraces, a clear testament of remarkable harmony and synergy between man and nature, a true gift from our forefathers. My visit to one of the terrace clusters, located in the barangay of Bangaan in the municipality of Banaue, was an unforgettable experience. It was the first time I have actually seen a cluster of the terraces and I was immediately captivated by the enchanting and picturesque landscapes. I was enthralled by their magnificence.
However, its deteriorating state is a cause for alarm. Some rice terrace clusters were abandoned, while others were damaged. Clearly, these telltale signs prove that the terraces are in dire need of succor and intervention.
In the same visit, your Committee on Cultural Communities did an on-site consultative meeting and among the concerns raised was the reported small-scale mining operations in Barangay Hapao in Hungduan and Ducligan and Bangaan villages that host the rice terrace clusters. This is a grave concern as mining poses a threat to the already rapidly deteriorating state of the heritage site.
I also visited a small Ifugao village in Bangaan. Full of excitement, I expected to see a traditional Ifugao village, replete with Ifugao huts, made of stones and logs, roofed with bamboos and cogon grass, structures which for me, are truly and inherently Filipino. Indeed, the houses were there, and so were modern structures made of cement and topped with galvanized roofs.
In an effort to embrace the aesthetic value of these huts that form part of our ancestors’ ingenuity, I have decided to restore one of the villages back to its traditional feel. This will be part of an initiative to promote Bangaan as a “Living Cultural Landscape”.
Our heritage is a fundamental source of socio-economic empowerment, especially for cultural communities that have been struggling to relive traditions in this modern day and age.
But how do we preserve and sustain traditional arts, crafts and local industries deeply ingrained in the Filipino culture? How do we support our culture bearers so they do not give up their crafts and instead encourage them to pass on their skills to the next generation? How do we create harmonious connections between tradition and modernity?
Let me cite some of the ways by which we can do this.
1. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is undertaking capacity-building activities on festival management, visual arts, theatre arts, music, local history writing, establishing art galleries or artists’ villages, proper conservation practices for built heritage, and establishing archives offices and safeguarding archival documents, among various facets of preserving our heritage.
2. The Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) has been working closely with other agencies to strengthen the tropical fabrics industry, using Republic Act 9242 or the Philippine Tropical Fabrics Law as leverage to promote the use of indigenous fibers such as piña, abaca, banana and Philippine silk.
According to the PTRI, there are about 1.4 million government employees who must wear uniforms made of tropical fabrics. To complete just one set of uniforms for all these employees will require either 571 metric tons of piña fibers or 691 metric tons of abaca fibers or 627 metric tons of banana fibers containing 20% of the natural fiber in the yarn. To revive observance of the law, PTRI initiated the production of enhanced poly-piña fabric for use as 2012 uniforms of DOST officials and employees.
3. In Davao del Sur, I supported the development ofcultural villages of the Ata-Talaingod, the Mandayas, the B’laan, and the Bagobo Tagabawas in various activities of their Schools of Living Traditions, which teach the young generation the traditional arts, crafts, music and practices of the village.
4. I have collaborated with the state universities in the Cordilleras to document indigenous knowledge and practices, particularly in the area of agriculture and environment protection. Our indigenous peoples are the epitome of the tradition, the skill and the creativity of the great Filipino mind, and recording this ingenuity will allow traditions to stay alive and flourish.
5. In a related matter, I am proud to announce that we have recently inaugurated the first permanent textile galleries in the country, the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles. The galleries house the National Museum’s extensive textile collection, such as the Abel Iloko from Vigan, Tinguian blanket from Abra, Gaddang garments from Ifugao, Textiles from Polomok, South Cotabato and Maranao garments from Southern Mindanao, to name a few. It is not only an effort to celebrate indigenous artistry but also a way to revitalize our weaving traditions and open doors of opportunities for local cultural communities.
Apart from this exhibition, I helped the National Museum organize the Lecture Series on Philippine Traditional Textiles and Indigenous Knowledge, which aims to enrich the citizens’ knowledge on tropical fabrics and the culture of weaving, and explore the local technology, adaptation and innovations to perform and renew weaving customs. This will bring together indigenous peoples, professionals, educators, students and decision -makers who can contribute to the enrichment of the weaving tradition.
Meanwhile, in the near future, we shall launch the Baybayin Gallery, which will showcase the ancient and traditional scripts of the Philippines. Through this exhibit, we intend to feature and promote awareness of the writing systems used by ancient Filipinos, as manifested in archaeological artifacts, and we also aim to highlight the continuing tradition of script writing among a few remaining indigenous communities in Mindoro and Palawan, particularly among the Hanunoo, Buhid and Tagbanua peoples.
These are just a few of the many approaches by which we can usher a cultural renaissance.
Another way is to celebrate the life and works of steadfast champions of the Filipino cultural identity. I gladly take note that the President issued Proclamation No. 283 declaring May 1, 2012 to April 30, 2013 as the Centennial Year of National Artist for Music Felipe Padilla de Leon. By weaving ethnic and folk themes into his musical compositions– from the “Muntawit” Song Sonnet for Voice and Orchestra that reminds of the country’s indigenous forms of music like kumintang, kundiman, tagulaylay, or to the more popular “Pasko Na Naman” and “Noche Buena”, which already acquired the status of folk songs, Felipe Padilla de Leon successfully Filipinized western forms of musical genres and provided recognition to our cultural worth as a nation. For this reason, I urge the Senate to adopt Senate Resolution 771, honoring the late Felipe Padilla de Leon, who championed the cause of nationalism by expressing the meaningful events in our history thru music.
Our taoid has crossed time and boundaries. The culture passed on to us by our ancestors should never be buried in oblivion. There is no other way for us but to preserve these treasures as they reveal the meaning of who we really are and help us move forward as one people.
Mabuhay ang kalinangang Filipino!