National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose with Senator Loren Legarda. Sionil says, “When I first visited Loren’s office way, way back. I was both surprised and very amused because it looked like a mini museum.” Looking on is Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, former NCCA executive director.

‘Loren shows us the roots of our culture’
F. Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) - December 26, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – I was just telling the Ambassador from Germany that the presentations here were rather boring and I would have added I don’t want to see another Tinikling performance. Mind you, I am not looking down at these aspects of our culture. I just happen to know, and all of you should also realize this, that culture is not static. It’s a growing and living thing. 

Ana (Labrador) said, at the beginning of her speech, how culture unites us because that is very, very true even in ancient times.

The Greek states despised and did not like one another. And this enmity was very, very vivid in the competition between Athens and Sparta. But the ancient Greeks were united by two things — the beauty of their culture and the Olympics that took place every four years. That explains also why when Pacquiao has a fight all of us are united cheering for him.

But we must understand, especially those of you who are cultural workers, that, as I said, culture is not static. We must understand the Western quality of our culture, that if we continue adoring these folk dances as they are, we are actually creasing culture and that is not what we want to do. We want our ethnic indigenous peoples to be like us. Educated to use computers. We cannot keep them mired in that ancient culture because that will be discrimination and it is not democratic at all.

Now, where does Senator Legarda come in? When I first visited her office way, way back. I was both surprised and very amused because it looked like a mini museum. And of course as you know whenever she appears, she’s dressed in this native weaving that Ana said unites us.

I want attention to our indigenous customs, to our indigenous dances to continue and to flourish so that those weavers in Mindanao can also get the right price for what they do. But we must understand, fully understand, that our culture is Western and the value of all these ancient artifacts, the value of what Loren has done, is show to us the roots of our culture, which many of us have forgotten or have not imbibed to make it a living thing in their minds and most of all in their creativity.

Let us follow what so many of the successful musicians, artists, writers.. and this I will tell you, to the best of my mind, it’s only Nick Joaquin and I who have used our superstitions, many of our cult beliefs in our creative work.

I remember very well what a German Ambassador told me once when we were talking about the birth of nations, and I said, Turkey was founded by Kemal Ataturk, Germany by Bismarck, Italy by Garibaldi.

And he said, “No, Franky, you’re wrong. The German nation, its base, its foundation were made by Goethe, by Beethoven, by Schiller.”

And what I try to tell you now is the importance of the arts in the shaping of a nation and I pay tribute to Loren as one who has helped that nation grow and I hope that it will not only grow but eventually it will prevail.

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