“National Heritage Month Celebration 2011”

May 18, 2011

Our rich Filipino heritage is our birthright, our identity and our legacy. It is however unfortunate that as we face globalization, many of us have lost our connection with our roots.
In the season of celebrating the National Heritage Month, it is but fitting to help bring our culture closer to our people, to reawaken citizens’ pride in the Filipino culture and history, and to strengthen our love of country.
Mr. President
Our culture as a Filipino people is threatened by rapid scientific and technological advances. We take for granted anything that is considered ancient as we gratify ourselves with what is new, popular, the latest gadgets and the things that make our life convenient.
A while ago we were fortunate to hear the exceptional chanting of Federico Caballero, one of only eleven awardees of the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or the National Living Treasures Award. His skillful rendition of the ten epics of Panay was passed on from his mother, Anggoran, who acquired this skill from his great-grandmother, Omil. Tay Pedring willingly embraced his birthright, mastered it and continues to pass this on to the next generation.
We have a lot to discover and rediscover in our culture. The land tilled by our forefathers, the centuries-old structures built with their bare hands, the colorful fabrics intricately woven to bring out the beauty of its wearer, the dishes and delicacies that are cooked with joy and love, the songs that narrate the story of our past, the rare stories told by our lolas to lull us to sleep, the dances that express our emotions, the values that keep our families intact, the principles that make our souls stronger – these are some of our ancestors’ inheritance to us. These constitute the soul of the Filipino, which ought to be preserved, promoted and enriched.
The Senate was not remiss in vigorously pursuing the protection of our cultural treasures. In 2004, we have passed the Philippine Tropical Fabrics Law, which seeks to promote the country’s natural fabrics through the use of such materials for official uniforms of government officials and employees, with the end in view of strengthening the local fiber industry. In 2009, we have also legislated the National Heritage Act, which aims to protect, preserve, conserve and promote the nation’s cultural heritage, its property and histories, and the ethnicity of local communities.
In line with this, I have recently filed the proposed “Traditional Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.” This bill seeks to protect the tangible and intangible property rights of indigenous peoples and ensures that these traditional cultural properties remain as their exclusive property and communally owned by their ethno – linguistic group.
Individually and collectively, we can bring our culture into full bloom again.
We can start with what we wear every single day. It is a basic human need and many of us, especially women, are fond of dressing ourselves in beautiful garments. One of my cultural advocacies is to promote the country’s indigenous and tropical fabrics. I have visited numerous weaving communities all over the country and have seen precious fabrics woven by hand, stitched with intricate designs, each thread, each fabric telling a story, many of which were passed from generation to generation from our ancestors.
It is timely that the theme for this year’s National Heritage Month, “Taoid, Weaving Our Stories, Threading Our Paths”, makes reference to weaving, for the National Museum will soon house a permanent textile museum, as part of this representation’s advocacy for the safeguarding of our culture, specifically our textile and handicrafts industry.
It is quite a difficult task to make our people embrace our culture since many may have long forgotten about it. But if they refuse to visit our history, we must let history visit them.
It is for this reason that this representation organized an exhibit here in the Senate to unravel the stories behind the Atis and Panay Bukidnons of Panay Island and showcase their talent and skills through various artworks, fabrics, and other handicrafts. We also show contemporary handicrafts, which are rooted or influenced by these indigenous processes.
Mr. President,
We can use technology to revive our citizens’ interest in our culture. The internet is a strong tool to help showcase Filipino culture not only to Filipinos but to the international community.
In closing, our pride in being Filipinos fundamentally begins with the awareness of the beauty of the Philippines – the land and its people – our heritage or ‘pamana’ which we must rightfully pass on to the next generation of Filipinos.
We must all work together to hear the chants of our elders, move with the dances to the deities, weave organic fabrics, learn sustainable agriculture and cure sickness through effective traditional healing methods that have stood the test of time.
We must find common ground in all these efforts and weave them together, creating one unbreakable fabric that is the Filipino soul. So that wherever we go, we know who we are, where we came from and take pride in our being Filipino.
Mabuhay ang kulturang Pilipino.
Thank you, Mr. President