“Heritage month requires us to look back. The colonizers made us forget our memories. A person without memory is easy to subjugate. We want to celebrate our national heritage because we want to remember, we want to recover our memories, our pride and chart a more vigorous course for the future.”
The speaker was National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario, chair of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), who recently launched National Heritage Month (NHM) in Davao City. The celebrations nationwide include exhibits, lectures, performances, tours to heritage sites like churches and museums, theater productions and fashion shows.
Theme of NHM is “Pambansang Pagkakaisa para sa Pamana” (National Unity for heritage).
Performing groups gave what amounted to an overview of the richness and diversity of talent in Philippine art and culture. These included Ka’gan Group from the Kadayawan Village (a bravura act with Muslim gongs); Teatro Ambahanon from GenSan City; Philippine Opera Company led by soprano Karla Gutierrez (art and patriotic songs); Madayaw Cultural Ensemble (with breathtaking lifts and balancing of poles); and Mebuyan from Davao City.
In the Youth Forum on Heritage at the Training Hall of Davao City Hall, John Delan Rubillos, head of NCCA’s Subcommission on Cultural Heritage and National Committee on Art Galleries, enumerated a long list of intangible heritage which included social practices, rituals, performing arts, knowledge concerning the universe, traditional rights, craftsmanship and shamanism.
“Even jokes which may be recalled 50 years now are intangible heritage,” he said, to everyone’s surprise. “Even old streets are classified as cultural heritage.”
Robillos asked the students: “Why do we need to care (about cultural heritage)? Because it’s ours. Knowledge of indigenous traditions become a source of pride, and the community benefits from cultural tolerance. No matter how diverse, it’s Filipino, it’s us. You gain a sense of freedom. Cultural heritage is life.”
He added, “Preserving cultural heritage can have far-reaching effects, like a basis for urban and regional planning, platform for political recognition, intellectual dialogue, (developing a sense of) ethics, and a basis for economic development.”
Lucille Malilong-Isberto of the Heritage Conservation Society said, “We are making history today. All our actions today will determine what the people will want to preserve a 100 years from now.”
She outlined “a vision for cultural heritage—a balanced atmosphere where the historic past coexists in harmony with modern society. It’s not only the past which is precious. We are stewards for the present and future generations.” –CONTRIBUTED