Arts and culture appear to be an esoteric subject only for intellectuals and “artsy-fartsy” rich matrons with tons and tons of money to burn. Well, at first blush, arts and culture may seem to be very far apart from the mundane, practical, and harsh world of journalism.
But arts and culture are very much a part of our lives as Filipinos. When we appreciate beauty in whatever form, when we perform rituals that make our lives more meaningful, when we celebrate marriage, birth and death, when we pay homage to our ancestors, we indulge in arts and culture.
Arts serves a variety of purpose to honor the dead, to recall the experience of great rulers or dear relatives, to give visual forms to gods, to create churches and other sacred places, to display wealth, to teach and to give pleasure.
Culture, on the other hand, is what makes us unique as Filipinos. Our traditions and beliefs, customs and traits are all parts of our culture as a people.
Hence, culture is the glue that binds us together. In spite of our ethnic and regional differences, we regard ourselves as belonging to one race, or one nation, because of our culture.
So we have the responsibility as media men and women to promote arts and culture. We have to remind our people who we are and where we came from.
As a people, we value close family relationships, thrive on close community cooperation, embrace the bayanihan spirit, respect authority, love, peace and order, work hard, respect one another’s religious belief, and many other good things beside.
We have to remind our readers and listeners because the onslaught of technology and the advent of globalization have somewhat blurred the distinctive shape and color of our culture.
Foreign technology and globalization of culture – driven by the twin hydra of materialism and commercialism – tend to mold the younger generation into shallow American models following an alien lifestyle. But promoting arts and culture, do we mean going back to the time of Maria Clara and Padre Damaso?
Of course not!
We need not be holier-than-thou hypocrites espousing false modesty and trying to turn back the advance of civilization tapping on our shores. We do not have to tell our people to live in the past and abandon modernization.
But we have to tell them that without acknowledging our past, our present will be meaningless, and our future will be uncertain. As members of the community press, we have to promote our culture heritage because it occupies a large part of our heart as a nation and of our soul as an individual. Our hearts and minds should continue to be touched by our traditional songs, folk dances, poems, stories, and rituals that shape our unique Filipino culture.
It seems strange, therefore, that many Filipinos seem to be embarrassed of their culture. We now seldom see native songs on our airwaves. Instead of the lilting kundiman or the cheerful rhythm of polka, we hear Negro-inspired raps and the grating sound of hard metal rocks.
Even in schools, many elementary school teachers would rather present dance numbers imitating the gyration of the Sex Bomb dancers rather than the singkil or pandanggo or tinikling.
It is very sad. We are Asians who dress and act and think as if we were Americans. Unfortunately, we don’t look like Caucasians. So, many try to bleach or whiten their skins, redo their snub noses, and enlarge their breasts.
We are plagued with false, twisted, and alien values. What I am saying is that we cannot achieve unity and economic progress without going back to our roots. We should make our arts and culture the everlasting fountain where we can always draw strength and inspiration.
Arts and culture should be a spiritual source of confidence and pride or where we came from, what we have become, and what we are as a people.
Towards this end, we community journalists have serious responsibilities to spearhead the campaign to promote culture and the arts in order to foster brotherhood and unity, political stability, and economic progress.
There may be some immediate gain in peddling trash, sensational stories, and outright lies. But in the end, we and our children – the future generation – will be the final losers.
Thus, our traditional culture should be a guiding inspiration in our next stories and broadcasts from now on. We owe it to ourselves, to our children, and our grandchildren.