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Legarda: Bring Culture closer to the people, reawaken citizens’ pride in the Filipino Culture

May 20, 2021

In celebration of the National Heritage Month with the theme “Victory And Humanity: Upholding Filipino Heritage and Identity,” three-term Senator, now Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda underscored the need to increase the level of cultural heritage awareness to preserve and protect our age-old knowledge, traditions, and practices that we inherited from our forefathers.

“Our culture as Filipino people is threatened by rapid scientific and technological advances. Some may take for granted anything that is considered ancient as we gratify ourselves with what is on-trend. I am happy to know that amid this globalization, there are young people who patronize the Filipino culture and promote the preservation of cultural heritage by supporting local artists, farmers, and communities. I happened to meet some of them not only in the 43rd episode of my Stories for a Better Normal with the topic, “Makati Poblacion: Empowering Local,” but also as I went around the country in the past decades,” Legarda shared.

“As we commemorate the National Heritage Month this May, it is but fitting to help bring our culture closer to our people, to reawaken the citizens’ pride in our culture, history and heritage, and to strengthen our nationalism. The Philippines is a country rich in cultural heritage and our diverse traditions and culture have helped shape our identity as Filipinos. We have to explore initiatives on reintroducing, especially to the newer generation, our culture and traditions. We have to gather more heritage warriors for us to effectively conserve and protect the Philippine cultural heritage,” Legarda, co-author of the National Cultural Heritage Act, said.

In her aim to strengthen culture-sensitive governance and development, Legarda authored in the House of Representatives House Bill No. 6891, An Act Strengthening the Conservation and Protection of National Cultural Heritage through Enhanced Cultural Heritage Education Programs and Cultural Mapping, and House Bill No. 634 or the Department of Culture Act. To develop the handloom industry, Legarda has also filed House Bill No. 636, also known as the Act Providing for the Development and Protection of the Philippine Handloom Weaving Industry.

“We should not let our diverse culture be forgotten. I believe that each locality has its own cultural heritage to showcase and it is important that we identify and document these resources for purposes of appreciation, conservation and development. The goal of cultural heritage mapping is to inform, educate and help the nation realize its rich heritage, helping people realize what they stand to lose if we do not give importance to it and what could be possibly gained if we protect and promote it. Whereas, for a country 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’ must be rightfully passed on to the succeeding generations,” Legarda said.

Legarda, who was conferred the Dangal ng Haraya Award: Patron of Arts and Culture by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), has advocated and initiated various programs for the promotion and preservation of Philippine Art and Culture. She spearheaded projects covering the protection and promotion of various cultural traditions, including Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles and the Philippines’ first permanent textile gallery; and the Baybayin Gallery, the Philippines’ permanent ancient scripts gallery in the National Museum, among others. She is also the prime mover for the Philippines’ comeback after 51 years in the Venice Biennale. She supported weaving communities all over the country, such as those in Ifugao, Bulacan, Palawan, Camarines Norte, Aklan, Antique, South Cotabato and Zamboanga del Sur. She has provided support for local artisans and communities through the Assistance for Artisans program of the NCCA. She also envisioned the Likha-an in Intramuros, a space and repository for Philippine traditional arts, and has supported and honored the Manlilikha ng Bayan (National Living Treasures) through the establishment of cultural centers and a permanent gallery at the National Museum of the Philippines, having launched as well a module for teachers to learn more about them.

Moreover, Legarda promoted adaptive reuse and protection of built heritage. Among her projects are the restoration and retrofitting of Antique’s Old Provincial Capitol building, which was originally constructed between 1905-1910; the renovation of the only remaining Balay nga Bato in Antique; restoration of Gabaldon heritage buildings and of the Parish of St. John of Nepomuceno in Anini-y, Antique; and the restoration of the Prudencia Fule Ancestral House in San Pablo, Laguna, and the Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan, among others. She also initiated efforts to protect the rights of the Indigenous people. She authored House Bill No. 7811, or the Traditional Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and a resolution calling for the creation of a comprehensive cultural archive of cultural properties of the different ethno-linguistic groups of the country, to record, classify, organize and protect them. Legarda also conceptualized Dayaw, a documentary series on indigenous culture, which she hosts and is produced by the NCCA and the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), and Buhay na Buhay, a documentary series also featuring the study of Prof. Felipe De Leon, Jr. on the eight living cultures of the Filipino.

“Our Filipino pride begins with awareness of the rich and diverse heritage of our country, which we must protect, preserve and rightfully pass on to the next generation. Change is inevitable because it is part of a country’s growth and development. I encourage you to embrace change but I also encourage you that, as you do so, always bring with you the legacies of Filipino cultural heritage because it is what differentiates us from the rest of the world. It is what shapes our Filipino identity,” Legarda concluded.***