Without Prejudice to the Arts

- Amb. Herbert D. Jess () - December 15, 2002 - 12:00am
A very unique occasion brings us together today. We are celebrating the joyful event of acknowledging the merits of an outstanding woman, a talented writer, a remarkable journalist and an indefatigable defender of the concept that the arts have a legitimate and important place in our society.

Shortly after my arrival and after having become a faithful reader of her column in The Philippine Star, I met Miss Orosa personally and in many conversations, looking at or commenting on a painting in an exhibition, or during the intermission of a musical performance, I became immediately aware that I was talking to a person who distinguished herself by her profound erudition, her analytic capabilities and above all her deep commitment to everything connected to the arts.

I was also soon to find out that Miss Orosa was well versed in many aspects of German culture and my impression was that she had a very distinct penchant especially for German music, of which many knowledgeable essays and articles give unquestionable evidence. You may therefore imagine my joy and satisfaction when I learned that the President of the Federal Republic of Germany had decided to award Miss Orosa the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Miss Orosa had been already awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit in 1976 for her journalistic achievements and her outstanding coverage of German cultural presence in the Philippines. It seems that she has thereby been encouraged in her continuous efforts to give the cultural relationship between the Philippines and Germany a prominent place in her work as a writer and a journalist, so that 27 years thereafter the Federal Republic of Germany has acknowledged once again a lifelong commitment to the arts in decorating her with one of the highest awards my country has to offer.

Her life was indeed marked by the conviction that the arts have a role to play in our modern society. By presenting the arts as a meaningful tool to create and enhance mutual understanding among people and nations, she has contributed largely to mobilizing the cultural forces of our contemporary civilization, thus making the world a more humane place to live in.

Her contribution to this noble goal now spans half a century. Indeed, Rosalinda Orosa started her professional career with the Manila Chronicle, where she very soon became the regular performing arts critic–a highly specialized task for which she was very well prepared, having graduated from the University of the Philippines cum laude and having acquired academic and practical experience in piano, composition, music history, drama literature and ballet including actual performances on stage. She pursued her studies under a Fulbright grant in the United States of America, where she acquired eligibility for masters degree in English literature. With this cultural background and her articulated style, it was no wonder that her cultural essays were being translated and published in foreign countries, amongst others in the German Zeitschrift fur Kulturaustausch.

Very soon her work received international recognition as evidenced by the numerous international rewards bestowed upon her by several governments including France, Canada, the United Nations and, as mentioned previously, by Germany. Knowing about her profound insight into German culture, she was asked to give the keynote speech on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Goethe Institut, the German Cultural Center in Manila. In her retrospective, she referred to the institute’s successfully accomplished task as a turntable for interaction between German and Filipino culture and artists. She said: "By and large, countless visiting German soloists and ensembles have given insuperable aesthetic pleasure and gratification to our music lovers, and also inspiration and incentive to our fervent amateurs. But it is the workshops which leave a deeper, more lasting mark, knowledge imparted being a permanent acquisition which will, in turn, be passed on in a continuing line." And she alluded to the sacrifices that Manila residents were prepared to sustain when it came to enjoy German opera films, saying: "Although the festival coincided with the typhoon season, it drew a large number of viewers who could never tell whether they would ride back home on a bus or a banca."

This closeness to the German cultural scene was furthermore manifested in recent years through several study trips to Germany, where she participated in cultural events and academic conferences.

During a South-East Asian cultural week at the University of Tubingen, she presented a paper on "Filipino-German relations in the performing arts". Her contribution started with the following words: "Germany has done mankind the distinct service of proving that progress in the sciences can be made without prejudice to the arts." An important and flattering remark, which should be perceived by Germany and the German government as an incentive to maintain and increase rather than reduce its commitment towards cultural exchange.

During all these years Miss Orosa continued to assess and evaluate performing arts presentation in several Manila newspapers. After the Chronicle, where she has worked for 24 years, she joined the Daily Express from 1973 to 1985, the Manila Times from 1986 to 1989, and since 1989, she has become the well-known and highly esteemed columnist of The Philippine Star.

I noticed with great interest that she not only covered cultural events in the Philippines, but also draws the attention of Filipino readers to the many applauded Filipino artists who perform abroad. With regard to Germany, and concentrating only on the past year, I was indeed pleased that, in her column, she would remind her compatriots from time to time of such brilliant artists as conductor Oscar Yatco, singer Andion Fernandez, or composer Jeffrey Ching to name but a few among so many other talented Filipinos who have made a name for themselves in my country.

Among her activities and achievements which form an essential part of her curriculum vitae, I should certainly not fail to mention her postgraduate studies at Harvard and at the University of Mexico. Miss Orosa is included in the ten-volume, Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Encyclopedia of Philippine Art and was named one of the Centennial Awardees of the CCP in commemoration of the 100th year of the country’s independence in 1998. She was among the few nominated by the Biographical Center of Cambridge, England, as "International Woman of the Year 2000" and she is likewise among the few who have been nominated by the American Biographical Institute of North Carolina "Woman of the Year 2002".

In June this year she joined a cultural visit to Shanghai and Hang Zhou, the highlight of this trip being the inauguration of an exhibition featuring the collection of Chinese paintings donated by the Ching family of Manila to the Shanghai Museum of Art. I think this sufficiently proves that our awardee is as dynamic and hungry for knowledge as she has always been. She has already scheduled her next overseas visit to meet the Antipodeans Down Under early next year and I am already looking forward to her sharing with us, her public, the impressions and experiences she will have collected during her stay on the fifth continent.

With this short glimpse into the future may I also express the wish and the hope that you, Miss Orosa, will continue for many years to delight as well as enlighten us with your wonderful written contributions on the arts in all their diversity.

I agree with David Rockefeller III, who just two weeks ago at a function here in Manila said: "Today, the arts play a very special role in allowing us to honor and celebrate that which is special and distinct in each of us while, at the same time, recognizing and appreciating and yes, sometimes lamenting our shared human condition."

In this spirit, we would like to see you encouraged in your beneficial activities through the award I shall now bestow upon you.

With my heartfelt congratulations.

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