a department of culture ?!?
got this from the facebook wall of poet ricky de ungria who was urging people to attend a UP forum yesterday on a “third–repeat, third–draft bill sponsored by sen. edgardo angara based on a UP culture policy paper submitted in 2010 to then pres. emerlinda roman by a team headed by NA virgilio almario. …before it’s too late. again. bring out your dead.”
strangely enough, neither this paper nor angara’s draft bill is posted on the internet.
CULTURE FOR NATIONAL UNITY:
A Proposal for the Establishment of a Department of Culture
UP Policy Paper Award Project
MORE THAN A CENTURY after its liberation from colonial rule, the Philippines continues to be a fractured entity, its people torn apart by deep economic, social, and ethnic divisions. This disunity has prevented it from achieving its potential as a modern and progressive nation, imbued with purpose, hope, and determination. Parochialism, violence, and self-interest continue to dominate political life, and, along with a lack of a critical consciousness of the past, persistently thwarted substantive and sweeping reform. These divisions have been exacerbated by the absence or the weakness of a unifying culture, of a way of thinking as one nation made up of diverse tribes, regions, clans, faiths, and economic classes but bound together by history and geography in common causes. Colonialism fragmented the Filipino people; but neither did freedom and democracy succeed in forging them into truly one nation.
A sense of national identity
In short, Filipinos direly need a sense of national identity. This is crucial to the nation’s future, because only a sense of national identity—the sense of a common heritage and a shared past, and therefore a shared stake in the outcome of the country’s present strivings and struggles. The scholar-critic Benedict Anderson has described this imagination of the nation as “a deep, horizontal comradeship… [a] fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries for many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willing to die….” This also means a sense of national culture—a recognition of culture as a unifying, humanizing, and modernizing agent.
The Philippines has had a rich, centuries-old cultural heritage drawing on both indigenous traditions and colonial experiences.
Despite neglect by the national leadership, the arts and culture remain vital to Philippine life and society. Literature, music, the visual and performing arts, and other forms have been contributing to the definition of the Filipinos as a people and a nation. They are also the medium and the product of creative industries that make substantial contributions to the national economy. And the arts can do more for the nation.
A serious spur to artistic creativity can inspire and affect similar creative initiatives for agricultural and industrial growth. Properly recognized and utilized, a strong national culture can serve as a vital fulcrum and measure for the formulation of appropriate and significant political or economic policy. Thus, culture can best guide national economic planners on what can better serve the people and help set standards for correct political achievements.
Ideally, a comprehensive and intensive cultural reorientation can set things right. A culturally oriented industry would sell the best canned tuna not only because it is the best and most nutritious tuna but also because it is Filipino. And the Filipino consumers would choose it from among other canned tunas in the grocery because it is Filipino. It will sell abroad because people of other countries would recognize Filipino canned tuna as the best in the world. A culturally oriented Congress will not pass any measure which is anti- Filipino. Just as a policeman would think twice before accepting bribe because it is against his values as a Filipino, a medical graduate would want to stay in the rural areas because he wants to serve his fellow Filipinos.
This should redound to the realization that culture is us, that culture governs us, and culture will help us reform our vision of the country’s future. In a recent interview, Sr. Jose Rodriguez aptly articulated this in terms of his responsibility as director of the Instituto Cervantes Manila, “We cannot survive without our culture. We have to know ourselves very well. It’s not a question of nationalism but simply, of knowledge. And of course, culture is economics, just as the Spanish language is economics. For example, if you go to Spain for a pilgrimage—which many Filipinos do, that’s not the only thing you’re there for. You also see Madrid, you get a taste of Spain’s gastronomy, you discover things—but they have to put you there on a silver plate for you to do so.”
In a review of British tourism programs, Prime Minister David Cameron accentuated his similar high regard for culture in saying that “Tourism is not just for money but for pride of country.” (PM Cameron’s speech appears as Appendix 1)
However, no modern Philippine government—with the ironic exception of the Marcos regime—has given adequate priority to the arts and culture sector, subsuming it to other concerns and functions. Cultural activities have been treated as little more than an adjunct of tourism and entertainment, or another subject to be taught, a peripheral adornment rather than a central, living, human activity, and the very expression of the Filipinos’ humanity and nationhood. As a whole, culture has often been seen by both government and many people as a frivolous and expendable accessory—a status reflected in its relatively low and obscure position in the national bureaucracy.
A colonial legacy
Culture as a concern of a huge national Department of Education (DepEd) was a legacy of the American-instituted bureaucracy in the Philippines. The original Bureau of Education was a close copy of its American prototype even in curricular offerings and language of instruction. It necessarily included in its plan an orientation on Philippine history and culture and such aims as “moulding national character.” As former Vice Governor-General Joseph Ralston Hayden boasted in his incisive review of the Philippine Islands in the 1950s:
“Of the many ways in which the public schools have been gradually modifying the national character of the Filipino people seven are of especial interest. From its inception, the educational program has been planned to end illiteracy, to give the people a common national language, to develop a spirit of nationalism and democracy, to stimulate will and increase the ability of the ordinary and woman to work at some useful vocation, and to build up the health and vitality of the race.”
But the opposite results seem more manifest. Nationalist critics like Sen. Claro M. Recto indicted education in the continued Americanization of the Philippines even after independence. Renato Constantino, writing in the 1960s, lamented the grand American scheme to use education as an instrument in the “miseducation of the Filipinos.” Statistics show that the present Department of Education is failing in its essential task of raising more literate generations of Filipinos. It would thus be predictably remised in its auxiliary interest “to develop a spirit of nationalism and democracy.”
In 1972, by virtue of Proclamation No. 1081, the Department of Education became the Department of Education and Culture and later, in 1978, the Ministry of Education and Culture. The Education Act of 1982 made it the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports which became the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports in 1987. Even with the trifocalization of education management in 1994—with the creation of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)—the department retained its name as the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) and its great and awesome tasks concomitant to “moulding national character.” But in 2001, RA 9155 shortened its name to the Department of Education (DepEd) in an apparent effort to concentrate on its already huge mandate of providing quality basic education to the elementary and secondary school students. (RA 9155 appears as Appendix 2)
Under the present set-up, the DepEd is mandated “to provide the school age population and young adults with skills, knowledge, and values to become caring, self-reliant, productive and patriotic citizens.” In Section 3, Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution, it is clearly provided that educational institutions shall inculcate among other things “patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline.”
In compliance, culture (as well as sports) continues to be integrated in various school activities but expectedly as a peripheral or secondary pursuit. No specific division or section in the huge DepEd bureaucracy is in charge of even ensuring sufficient cultural education. Love of country, respect for national symbols, and appreciation of native cultures, for example, are assumed to be embedded in the teaching of history and community life. But these would need more imaginative teachers to ever be touched at all in science and mathematics classes.
The half-hearted if not utter disregard for the importance of culture in a national agency dedicated to the “moulding of national character” has resulted in the sad moral state of the country. Social critics used to refer to it as manifestations of “colonial mentality,” the “politics of mendicancy,” or a “damaged culture.” Observers have attributed the national stagnation to the deepening and more malignant “culture of corruption,” “culture of impunity,” “culture of violence,” or “culture of idiocy.”
Most recently, after an almost ten-hour hostage-taking incident which resulted in the death of eight foreign tourists, a flurry of harsh criticisms scrutinized the ineptitude of the police and very apparent lack of coordination among the various government agencies in such crisis situation. Yet, nobody wanted to take full responsibility publicly for the tragedy. Political critic Randy David then opined:
“Tragic events like Storm “Ondoy,” the Maguindanao massacre, and the hostage crisis at the Quirino Grandstand have one thing in common: they all lay bare the dysfunctionality of our existing social system. They underscore the need to review and strengthen our institutions, or at the very least, free them from the grip of traditional patrons and authority figures.
The critique should have also pointed at a similar “dysfunctionality of the country’s existing cultural system.” The Philippines, leaders are proud to announce, is modern and global. But sadly its national daily life is governed through old feudal values and religious beliefs that would not permit radical political changes and new management systems. Modernity, thus, remains superficial—a political slogan, a commercial jingle—without a corresponding in-depth and systemic cultural revolution, the “internal revolution” which for Apolinario Mabini would have spelled the eventual success of the Philippine Revolution of 1896.
Sections 14-18 of Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution are devoted to the explicit state support for the enrichment and dynamic development of a Filipino national culture and the promotion of artistic and cultural resources. The cultural tasks as envisioned by the said sections are clearly much too great for the DepEd and the small agencies that have been assigned so far to specific areas of concern in culture.
Several bodies have been created to complement the education department in its cultural mission. First among them is the National Library which was organized together with the Philippine library system by an act of the American government in 1901. The National Language Institute or Surian ng Wikang Pambansa was established by the Commonwealth government in accordance with the language provision of the 1935 Constitution and which the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino is now after the 1987 Constitution. The Records Management and Archives Office (which became an independent bureau in1958), the National Museum (which became independent only in 1998), and the National Historical Institute (which was created as the Philippine Historical Committee in 1937 and renamed the National Historical Commission in 1965) are each tasked to engage in the preservation of valuable documents, relics, and national heritage. (The mandates of the mentioned offices and institutions appear as Appendix 3). They were all attached to the Department of Education, Culture and Sports until the diminution of the latter’s responsibilities; they were then transferred to the Office of the President. Another body, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, was a pet project of Mrs. Imelda Marcos during the martial law period. After the EDSA uprising, the President Corazon C. Aquino administration created the Presidential Commission for Culture and the Arts (PCCA). It was meant to study the clamor for a special body to look after culture and the needs of artists as demanded by artistic and cultural organizations led by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP). The activist CAP supported the movement against the Marcos regime and wanted a more “people-oriented” cultural institution against what they considered as the elitist and Western culture promoted by Mrs. Marcos.
In many ways, the artists then were also trying to articulate the deep but unexpressed desire for a legitimate government body which would coordinate all activities for the promotion of a national identity and culture. For some unknown reasons, the PCCA did not give birth to a department of culture but instead metamorphosed into the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) by virtue of RA 7356, which among other things gathers the aforementioned government cultural agencies in a board of commissioners together with the representatives of the DepEd, Department of Tourism, and the chairs of the committees on culture of the two houses of Congress. (RA 7356 appears as Appendix 4)
A poor substitute
After more than 20 years and despite some achievements, the NCCA has proven to be a poor substitute for a full-scale Department of Culture. In the eyes of many and because of its endowment fund, it is more of a grant-giving body for cultural projects. Its main mechanism for action—the national committees—often duplicates if not competes with the functions of the cultural agencies. Its board of commissioners fails to harmonize the programs of the cultural agencies, for each can conveniently invoke its status as an agency co-equal to the NCCA under the Office of the President, whenever in conflict with the NCCA or to insist on independent cooperation with the NCCA.
The NCCA has under its supervision more than 20 national committees composed of volunteers who are expected to initiate policies and plans that will give direction to cultural activities throughout the nation. Until now, the national committees have not contributed any clear cultural policy nor helped work officially as an NCCA agent for the passage of any such bill in Congress. Often, these committees become more involved in studying and approving projects submitted for NCCA funding by schools and cultural organizations. As mentioned earlier, some of the committees happen to duplicate the specific areas of concern of the government cultural agencies and this leads to unnecessary competition and even enmity between the volunteers and the government officials on the board of the commission.
Proponents of the NCCA have always looked at the NCCA as a special “child” of People Power and thus expected the full empowerment of the artists. But NGOs have been grumbling against the intrusion of politics in the NCCA. They have bewailed Malacañang’s hand in the selection of NCCA’s chair and executive director, which has lately resulted in the selection of persons not nominated by the NCCA board of commissioners. Politics is most noticeable in the selection of National Artists. Despite a rigorous selection process instituted by the NCCA and the CCP, the President of the Philippines has regularly exercised his or her prerogative by inserting a name among the submitted nominees from the NCCA. This practice was publicly denounced by groups of artists and cultural organizations recently when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo added four more names and deleted one from the four nominated by the NCCA.
On the other hand, the cultural sector has complained that the NCCA system has resulted in its continued under-representation on the commission. The chair and the executive director of the NCCA are without portfolios and thus cannot sit in the President’s Cabinet nor expect to be treated as equals by the heads of other government departments and bureaus. The situation makes it extremely difficult for the NCCA to coordinate activities which require the full cooperation of other departments, as in several cases involving the preservation of national heritage. Even in budget hearings, the NCCA is treated like the other agencies under the Office of the President, suffers like the others whenever Congress is belligerent toward the President, and more importantly, fails to get the full recognition and full budget support as the prime agency for culture.
From time to time, the aforementioned issue is raised even in the United States. The US media recently discussed the need for a full-time Cabinet official to look after the multifarious problems in such a big cultural melting pot as the United States. Artists have questioned the management of the National Endowment Fund for the Arts and bewailed the absence of a coherent national cultural policy, which to many contributes to the neglect of relevant artistic endeavors and the preponderance of commercialization in the arts. It is fortunate that big industrialists have provided philanthropic institutions for culture, which however engenders what has been called a “privatization of cultural policy”—in which cultural activities depend largely on the desires and standards set by donor private institutions and individuals to the extent that the arts are made to obey the tastes and pleasures of the rich.
The usual opposition to a US Department of Culture, however, looks positively at the “decentralized nature” of arts in America. Opponents almost always want the arts to be free from government meddling, a sentiment shared by Filipino culturati who are always suspicious of politicians and government. This very negative view of government, especially after toppling the Marcos regime, must have inspired the present semi-private system of the NCCA against the setting up of a Department of Culture. Most advocates of People Power present in the formulation of a cultural body must have felt that a Department of Culture would only add more red tape to existing government structures and procedures. They did not have enough trust even in the revolutionary government they helped to create. However, it is very clear that the American model of subsuming cultural education under a Department of Education did not work well in the Philippines. Cultural leaders have been asking for a national vision and creative planning. The present mechanism offered through the NCCA obviously falls short of the great amount of responsibilities needed to bring about a real cultural resurgence that will help surmount the present social and political ills of the country.
It is therefore imperative for this government to establish a full-fledged Department of Culture, in the way it has been envisioned and implemented in France, Spain, Italy, Canada, Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, among many other countries. The people need a legitimate, empowered, and truly inclusive agency in charge of designing a national cultural program and guiding the development of the rich cultural assets of the Philippines.
To be relevant and acceptable, the proposed Department of Culture must be organized and operate under the following priority guidelines:
1. Its formation must not require too much in public funds;
2. Mechanisms must be installed to minimize politics in its operations;
3. Its organization must reflect and respond to the real needs of Filipino artists and cultural workers to improve their welfare and achieve artistic excellence; and
4. It must work for the inculcation of desired national values, especially those pertaining to national unity and pride of country.
At this point, a new department will certainly be a great strain on the budget. That is why the proposed department should be developed slowly even after it is deliberated upon and approved by Congress and the President of the Philippines. Instead of creating an entirely new agency, it should be morphed from the present National Commission for Culture and the Arts, including all the existing cultural agencies under the Office of the President. The move must start with a thorough evaluation of the mandates and operations of these agencies, aimed at their merging and absorption into the various bureaus and functions of the proposed department and the retention of their exemplary services in the regions. This
means that the best museums, libraries, extension offices in the regions can be utilized as regional offices of the proposed department, which in a way also means saving on funds for local operations.
The second guideline involves “freedom from politics.” It means first of all that the top officials of the proposed department—and particularly its Secretary—must not be chosen from among politicians but must be selected from a list of nominees from the cultural and arts sector. France is a good model, where— from the time of President Charles de Gaulle—the Minister of Culture has always been a respected person of letters. The reputation of the Secretary of Culture brings prestige and respect to his or her office and the department.
This also means that the present National Endowment Fund for Culture and the Arts (NEFCA) managed by the NCCA must remain intact, and if possible augmented, and continue to be dedicated to grants and awards for the arts. This also means the allocation of a sizable budget which can sustain a national program for culture and the arts with safeguards against any political interference. Of course, this also requires the full cooperation of other government bodies, especially the DepEd, CHED, TESDA, Department of Tourism and Department of Interior and Local Government, in the implementation of its various programs.
To be more responsive to the needs of both the artists and the nation, the proposed department must at least be organized into the following bureaus: (1) Arts and Artists Development, (2) Heritage Development (3) Cultural Education and Information, (4) Creative Industries.
Arts and Artists Development will cover activities like grants and awards for excellence, festivals and exhibitions, and the like to spur creative work nationally and internationally. It will also be in charge of arts and culture management or the offering of courses related to this and the supervision of cultural officers in towns, cities, and provinces. It will also coordinate performances and exhibitions in the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It will have an international office in charge of promoting Filipino arts and culture abroad, and of securing and supporting Philippine representation in the world’s most prestigious and significant arts festivals, programs, and conferences.
Heritage Development will be concerned with the collection and recording, conservation and protection of our tangible and intangible heritage and of ethnic and traditional arts. The bureau will be active in the work now being undertaken by the National Historical Institute, the National Library, the Records Management and Archives Office, and the National Museum. It will also help the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino in its constitutional mandate to develop and propagate the National Language and the preservation of other native languages.
Cultural Education and Information will be in charge of inculcating cultural information and values aimed at promoting national unity and identity. It will have a strong section for cultural research and policy. It will manage the proposed Sentro Rizal attached to Philippine embassies abroad. It will work closely with the DepEd, CHED, TESDA, and the DOT in formulating and propagating its educational and information campaigns. It is also expected to use all available media, including IT, to promote Philippine culture.
Creative Industries involves programs and activities aimed at promoting the arts as economic enterprises. It will provide a legal division to protect artists’ welfare and intellectual property rights. It will also establish centers for improving product designs, and even innovative marketing strategies, organizing exhibitions regionally and abroad, workshops on utilizing ethnic heritage, exporting cultural shows, producing inexpensive but attractive books, and the like, to improve artists’ income and help the national economy. Additional explanations for each function of the proposed department follow.
ARTS AND ARTISTS DEVELOPMENT
It is in one’s artistic heritage where cultural identity is best manifested and the creativity it entails is a cultural resource that develops skills, ingenuity and insight, providing uniqueness to human productivity. Thus, the pursuit of creativity in the field of the arts must be dynamically and relentlessly carried out as innovation, creation and change are the main aspects of a healthy, vibrant and dynamic culture.
The arts must be given utmost freedom in terms of content, process, and aesthetics and must be encouraged to discover and invent new forms, styles, and genres of human expression. The positive values in artistic products can never be ignored as they embody the talent and ingenuity of a nation, as well as ideas and concepts that are relevant to contemporary life.
These values can be disseminated by the different art forms, especially by the broadcast media, film and television. Whether these expressions have been created by tradition or through innovation, they represent the national cultural identity in the global community, and can contribute to the global market of ideas and insights. This uniqueness in the way things are accomplished and achieved is what identifies a nation from others, and can engender pride among its constituents. Thus, the arts and letters should not only enjoy the patronage of the state but must be vigorously promoted, disseminated and popularized as they can bind the people together into one thriving nation.
An arts and artists development bureau must be established to coordinate all artistic activities as both a creative and spiritual endeavor and an economically viable industry. It will be in charge of the management and organization of artistic activities like festivals, exhibitions, performances, and creation; the professionalization of the artists as members of the work force of the nation; establishing cultural centers in all local governments units; and the granting of endowments, commissions, and other important awards and incentives.
The artists are a valuable resource in the national polity and therefore they need to be empowered, in whatever category of art production they belong. Professionalizing their ranks would give them greater capability and social status by granting them license to perform their skills with utmost dignity and honor. In the Netherlands for example, artists are licensed as professional workers and are given proper social benefits, whether they enjoy employment or not.
Endowments and commissions must be regularized in order to sustain the outputs and the supply of artistic products. At the same time, an artist welfare funds should be put in place, especially for senior artists who have served the art world in their careers.
Support for Indigenous and Modern Arts
In the indigenous arts, the artists are the bearers of traditions and living manifestations of a rich cultural heritage. Some local and indigenous art forms, however, have fallen victim to modernization and changes in social structures. While these art forms may no longer be practiced nor transmitted in the traditional way, they are still of great value not only to the tradition itself but to the entire cultural identity of the nation. Traditional artists are therefore necessary in bridging the old and the new, the past and the present.
The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or Gamaba Award is a good way of empowering the artist to continue his or her work as well as impart his or her knowledge to a new generation through schools of living tradition. However, the extremely selective nature of the award is highly prejudicial to other deserving artists who are old and have no means of transmitting their skills and artistic knowledge in a modern environment. In this regard, the Gamaba award should be broadened to identify all the experts representing every ethnic group in the country and providing them with the means to teach their orally transmitted art forms to both insider and outsider. Their teaching must be adequately compensated and they must be given lifetime awards for being the chief bearers of traditional arts.
Artists of more modern forms must also be empowered to continue their creative endeavors under a climate of freedom as well as intellectual and artistic independence. Awards for artistic excellence must be institutionalized with emphasis on creativity and imagination as principal criteria for meritorious and superior achievement. The National Artist award should be strengthened in such a way that the best in each art category and genre should be identified in a similar manner as the Gamaba artists are proclaimed as the leading exponent of a particular art form in a particular ethnolingusitic group.
A community-wide dissemination of artistic opportunities must be implemented. In all the public service units of the local governments such as health, sports and community centers, venues and facilities for the performing and visual arts must be included. Workshops for all possible art forms like music, drama, dance, writing, and visual arts must be an on-going community activity, providing skills development to all the youth, which can also prevent them from engaging in wayward activities. Each local government unit must establish a cultural center, where such performances and workshops can be implemented, with direct links to the Cultural Center of the Philippines in terms of supervision and programming.
The Academy of the Arts
Young artists must be given every opportunity to hone and practice their talents through competitions, awards, and grants to further their training in the best schools here and abroad. In this regard, it would be best to institute an Academy for the Arts which will maintain the highest standard of learning for the arts in all its possible manifestations, whether traditional arts or modern art forms.
The Arts Academy must be spread out to the different regions and should cater to the different arts disciplines and artistic forms endemic in the regions. This can emanate from the present Philippine High School for the Arts but with a stronger arts component and greater flexibility in the art forms to be taken, depending on the region where the branch is located. While there is at present regional high school for the arts, the program is not well coordinated and most high schools have only a token portion devoted to the arts in the curricula.
Perhaps a good model for a National Academy for the Arts would be the Dramatic Arts College system in Thailand, which follows a philosophy in the teaching of traditional as well as western art forms. The Arts Academy can also provide the venue for the schools for living traditions that the experts in traditional art forms should guide and direct. The entire responsibility to manage and operate the Arts Academies should fall under such establishments as the Cultural Center of the Philippines in cooperation with selected schools and colleges that offer such major courses in music, dance, visual arts, drama, literature, cinema, and architecture, and with the participation of the Department of Education.
The arts bureau must also strengthen the present National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA), a program that has survived for more than 37 years in spite of a lack of permanent budget, but has nevertheless produced thousands of artists, such as those that have attained international renown like Joseph Esmilla, Aris Caces, Jovianney Cruz, Rowena Arrieta, Samaon Sulaiman, Alfonso Bolipata, and Regina Buenaventura. It is the only youth development program in the arts and culture and should be expanded to include other art forms such as dance (which has already been started), drama, literature, etc. This program has proven its capability in selecting and identifying potential artists who should be given grants for advanced training here or abroad. During the time of the Marcoses, the Young Artists Foundation sent and helped promising youth to study abroad, among whom were Chino Toledo, Antonio Maigue, Raul Sunico, and Cecile Licad.
International Arts Promotion
Aside from promoting a greater and deeper awareness of culture and the arts and their importance to our national life, the Department of Culture that we envisage should also be in charge of promoting Philippine culture on the international stage—both among Filipino expatriate communities, and to the world at large. This too can be undertaken by the international operations of the Bureau of Arts and Artists Development.
Many Filipino artists have gained international distinction and recognition—among them, and more recently, the pop singer Charice Pempengco, the novelist and Man Asian Literary Prize winner Miguel Syjuco, and the filmmakers Brillante Mendoza, Raymond Red, and Lav Diaz. But their accomplishments were more the result of individual initiative and determination, with little or no government support. Their achievements enthrall and honor us, but at the same time they invite us to ask how many more such superlative models of Filipino artistic talent exist out there, unseen and unheard, for lack of support and encouragement from their own government?
By international promotion, we mean the programmed, selective, and adequately funded exposure of our talents abroad—in major international festivals and conferences (examples of which include the Venice Biennale, the Cannes Film Festival, the Sydney Writers Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the Guido D’Arrezzo, and the Festival D’Avignon). These events and the exposure they provide can lead to important connections and contracts for the artists concerned, and to a greater appreciation for Filipino culture and talent.
Assistance can come not only in terms of funds for the costs of participation in these events, but also in preparing our artists for them, or for positioning our artists to enable them to qualify for major international events. (The Man Asian Literary Prize, for example, requires novels in English or translated into English; our writers in English have no problem in this respect, but our novelists in Filipino and the other Philippine languages should receive translation support to get into the Man Asian and also to interest international agents and publishers.)
Just as importantly, our government needs to promote Filipino culture to our compatriots abroad, whose own knowledge and understanding of it may be limited to their last encounter with it in the Philippines or to whatever they receive through such entertainment media as The Filipino Channel. The earlier proposal for a Sentro Rizal to act as the Filipino equivalent of a Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center, a Goethe Institut, or a British Council deserves strong support; it can be embedded in major international cities with sizeable Filipino communities. Such a Sentro Rizal could be a venue for readings, exhibitions, screenings, and performances, both for visiting artists and for the local Filipino community.
In coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs, a program should be initiated to orient all personnel in our embassies and consulates abroad on Philippine cultural affairs, including a review of Philippine history. The DFA should consider the deployment of fulltime cultural attaches at least in major capitals. The government can also consider holding a pre-departure orientation seminar for Philippine government employees leaving on official missions, the content of which will be significantly cultural.
By adequately promoting Philippine art and culture internationally, the Philippine government will be showcasing the best of Filipino creativity, and demonstrating our intellectual and artistic sophistication and modernity as well as our deep roots in indigenous tradition. This should help establish a stronger sense of identity among Filipinos abroad, and help unite them as Filipino communities. For our artists, it will mean gaining recognition and support from their own government even before international audiences awaken to their talent—a process that at present sadly happens more often in the reverse.
Culture is the wellspring of a nation’s humanity and serves as the main tool for achieving sustainable development. In the Philippines, cultural diversity should be explored for its potential in harnessing different ideas as well as different strategies in developing both the material and spiritual well-being of the country. The richness in both natural and human resources is the fundamental strength of the nation as well as its history, heritage, and artistic traditions.
The preservation of oral traditions and social and cultural practices is a benchmark of a strong and well-entrenched nation. Our rituals, social functions, habits, and artistic expressions are key to understanding the Filipino perception of nature, respect, service, industry, even technology. Indigenous practices are most vulnerable to modernization so we must find ways to make it survive within contemporary life.
Preserving Intangible Heritage
Research, documentation and recording of oral cultures must be systematically undertaken even as the Philippines’ diverse cultural traditions are endangered. There is no existing program in government that addresses the need to document and preserve intangible heritage, with the exception of a now defunct Council on Living Traditions, which was active during the 70s and 80s. Only two of the Philippines’ thousands of living traditions, the Darangen Epic of the Maranao and the Hudhud Chant of the Ifugao, are represented in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and under their measures of safeguarding. At present, we only have the National Archives, which is mainly charged with documents and historical manuscripts, and the National Museum, which is mandated to preserve and exhibit relics and restore immovable properties and archeological landmarks.
There are other cultural materials that have been collected by institutions, scholars and researches, which are of immense value to the preservation of cultural traditions. One of the few well-maintained audio-visual archives is the Jose Maceda collection, which has been inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register as a collection of great value to humanity. This archive contains the musics of some 80 language groups in the Philippines and a few others from Southeast Asia. But this is just one of many personal collections and archives which need to be looked after.
Improving Cultural Capabilities
In this regard, a Heritage Bureau must be established to harmonize the responsibilities as well as develop the capabilities of the National Archives, the National Museum, the National Historical Institute, and the National Library. The scope of their operations must be expanded and technologically enhanced to cover audio-visual recordings as well as other objects that are related to the intangible heritage and oral traditions. The identification of both public and private collections of musical instruments, photographs, field recordings and others, must be carried out extensively in every region of the country. The national languages also comprise our intangible heritage, which is why the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino should be able to fulfill its mandate of developing our languages through the publication of dictionaries and other teaching materials.
Equally important is the protection, conservation, restoration, and revitalization of tangible heritage, such as structures, landscapes, artifacts, craft, works of art, dress wear—symbols that formulate a distinct cultural profile of the nation. Republic Act No. 10066 is a welcome law in the protection, preservation, conservation and the promotion of these properties of cultural heritage. The law however is more inclined towards protection rather than the research process in identifying important emblems of one’s cultural life. Because there are a great number of heritage emblems that have yet to be discovered and evaluated, research should be encouraged not only in finding these objects, but also in assessing their material value, with or without the help of the UNESCO National Commission.
ARTS AND CULTURE EDUCATION
While the Academy for the Arts would cater to would-be artists, a nationwide arts and culture education program must be instituted in order to bring the aesthetic and intellectual experience of every citizen to a higher level of awareness and competence. Arts education can be implemented in three ways: the arts as a subject; the arts as an innovative tool for raising the quality of teaching of other subjects, like mathematics and the sciences; and the arts as a social and cultural phenomenon. This is the present thrust of the UNESCO with ongoing programs in Hong Kong, China, India, and the rest of the world.
Moreover, arts education can improve the quality of education itself by contributing to cognitive development and learning achievement, and can stimulate creativity, imagination, and other expressive skills. The arts education curricula should be devised by the Department of Culture in cooperation with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education, which should be the implementing agencies. The curricula must teach the theoretical, cognitive and practical dimension of the arts through the different grade levels as well as in the appropriate collegiate courses. Cultural education also entails educating the public through non-traditional means. In our changing society, a melding of the arts and sciences is necessary not only to compete in the global community but also to propel an appreciation of one’s own culture and eventually, to forge peace and social cohesion in endeavors of national interest. It is important that we utilize technological advances like the Internet in ensuring that the public is fully educated, or at the most basic, aware of cultural materials they can peruse and events that they can be part of.
The Philippine government must recognize that culture and the arts, far from being superfluous or irrelevant to other aspects of national life, are actually an important if underdeveloped economic resource—a provider of gainful employment and creator of new, highly marketable goods for the global economy. This requires a reappreciation of culture and the arts as a vital part of what have been called creative industries.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), “The core industries or areas of activity that make up the ‘creative industries’ include the recording industry, music and theatre production, the motion picture industry, music publishing, book, journal and newspaper publishing, the computer software industry, photography, commercial art, and the radio, television and cable broadcasting industries.” (UNCTAD XI report appears as Appendix 5)
In the Philippines, it was estimated in 2003 that copyright-based industries alone—as a subset of creative industries—employed about 317,000 workers, or 11.1% of total employment in large establishments, and contributed P144 billion or 4.82% to GDP. (Copyright for Economic Development report appears as Appendix 6) This clearly does not include the many billions of pesos more contributed by overseas Filipinos working as entertainers, designers, artists, and editors, among others.
Many countries around the world have already factored the creative industries into their development programs.
In the United Kingdom, for example, the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) clearly recognizes the economic value of arts and culture as drivers of creative industries that “contributed 6.2% of the UK’s Gross Value Added in 2007,” a year during which “exports of services by the creative industries totaled £16.6 billion… equaling 4.5% of all goods and services exported.” The February 2010 DCMS report also notes that “Creative employment provides around two million jobs, in the creative sector itself and in creative roles in other sectors. Employment in the sector has grown at double the rate of the economy as a whole.” (DCMS 2010 Report on Creative Industries appears as Appendix 7) Thus, the UK government through the DCMS provides funding for, among others, music, arts, and film projects.
In the United States, several states have passed laws to promote their creative industries. Massachusetts, the creative economy encompasses all careers and trade sectors that provide creative services like advertising, architecture, arts, film, computer games, multimedia, design and intellectual property. The UK looks toward this model and continuously drafts policies in support of its cultural institutions and workers.
In Spain, creative industries are recognized to be an important contributor to economic growth. With a 3% contribution in the GDP, their cultural industries employed 556,600 workers, with spillovers in other sectors of the economy like IT, communication and tourism. According to the Cultural Statistics Yearbook 2008, published by the Ministerio de Cultura, the turnover of Spanish culture industries in 2006 was approximately 40 billion euro, and the breakdown is as follows: publishing (9.4 billion euro), graphic arts and recording (9 billion euro), radio and television (7.4 billion euro), and cinema and video (4.2 billion euro). (portion of Cultural Statistics Yearbook 2008 appears as Appendix 8)
In Brazil, which hosted a High-Level Panel on Creative Industries and Development under UNCTAD auspices in June 2004, there is a profound awareness that “Creativity is deeply embedded in a country’s cultural context. As such it is a ubiquitous asset, present in all countries, and its effective nurturing and use can provide new opportunities for developing countries to ‘leap-frog’ into new areas of wealth creation, consistent with wider trends in the global economy.” (UNCTAD XI report appears as Appendix 5)
While the Philippines may yet lack the official mechanisms that would maximize the economic contributions of culture and the arts and of creative industries as a whole, the proposed Department of Culture could assume this concern among its most important functions, and begin by promoting a greater awareness and acceptance of the sector as a major contributor to national growth.
Alongside the recognition of arts and culture as the primary drivers of creative industries, more effort must be made to secure and improve the welfare of Filipino artists and cultural workers. This includes the provision of adequate social insurance for these workers, many of whom are self-employed, and of legal protection for their intellectual property through the enforcement and enhancement of copyright laws and practices.
More sectoral initiatives should be spearheaded by the government along the lines of the establishment of the Movie Workers Welfare Fund (Mowelfund) in 1974. Since then, Mowelfund has been greatly instrumental in providing not only financial assistance to its members in times of need, but also in their housing and education and training.
In the music industry, the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (Filscap) protects the copyrights of its members and collects royalties on their work, which are then distributed to the members. It also holds songwriting competitions and produces albums compiling the winning works. It has been estimated that Filscap annually collects P100 million in royalties for the works and compositions of its members.
For Filipino writers and publishers, the Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society, Inc. (Filcols) was organized just recently as a reprographic rights organization to collect payment for the reproduction of copyrighted materials. It will manage the rights of authors and publishers to ensure fair and systematic payment for their work.
But as laudable as these initiatives are, broader, systematic, and more concerted action must be taken by the government to improve the economic and social welfare of Filipino artists and cultural workers, especially those on the bottom rungs and fringes of the creative industries, who enjoy the least benefits and protection.
Recognizing and protecting the rights of artists as workers dignifies their status as legitimate contributors to the economy and to the well-being of Philippine society as a whole.
These concerns will be within the purview of the Bureau of Creative Industries.
CONCLUSION: THE MISSION OF CULTURE
It should be noted that the continuous clamor for cultural direction has been met with some significant albeit piecemeal legislation. A very relevant example was Republic Act No. 7743 which provided for the establishment of congressional city and municipal libraries and barangay reading centers throughout the country. The law recognized as a national policy the promotion of “the moral and intellectual well-being of the people” and the eradication of illiteracy “by the end of the century” i.e. the 20th century. (RA 7743 appears as Appendix 9) The law was enacted in 1994, and barangay halls sprouted throughout the country; unfortunately, very few of these political centers provided for adequate reading centers to promote “knowledge and information in nation-building.”
A most recent achievement is Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 which aims to augment existing regulations regarding heritage conservation. (RA 10066 appears as Appendix 10) It even provides for Sentro Rizals to promote Filipino culture abroad. But in the light of government’s inaction to provide some small reading centers in the barangays, how soon can the Department of Foreign Affairs seriously include the Sentro Rizals in its diplomatic pouch? The Heritage Law itself is the result of aggressive initiatives by NGOs engaged in heritage conservation. As it is, the same NGOs are expected to lobby in each and every government agency for the full implementation of the cultural ideals they have labored to be written into law.
But who else should be in charge of pushing for the other equally important cultural tasks for nation-building? Dr. Jaime C. Laya, a columnist and cultural manager himself, mentioned that we should be proud of our designers of furniture, jewelry, fashion, handicraft, and textiles as they win top prizes for the country. He lamented however that we are not adequately helping them improve their products, the way building a museum of past and present masterpieces of potters, weavers, embroiderers, wood carvers, couturiers, and others, “can arouse pride among all Filipinos and give inspiration to our talented, hopefully including Manila street lamp ‘imagineers.’”
Laya’s kind of demand, just like the Sentro Rizal and the barangay reading center, requires big investments. To paraphrase Prime Minister Cameron, pride of country needs money. And the demands become more urgent and multifarious that only a central cultural authority can answer. As the film critic and columnist Nestor Torre sees it, we should not just gripe about the “deathless” colonial mentality and the “damaged” culture that has been limiting the country’s potential. There should be a determined effort to use the transformative power of culture and the arts, and the first and final way to do it, according to Torre, is “the creation of a Department of Arts and Culture.” (Nestor Torre’s newspaper article appears as Appendix 11)
During the first regular session of the Thirteenth Congress, Rep. Roseller L. Barinaga introduced a bill to create a Department of Culture, Arts and National Heritage which among other things will manage the “protecting, preserving, promoting, propagating and maintaining” of national culture and national heritage “for the general welfare and development of a genuine Filipino identity.” (HB 1366 appears as Appendix 12) The bill also aims to expand the perspectives and concerns of the Education Commission (EdCom) which lead to the trifocalization of the management of national education and revised the vision that created the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. In his clarificatory note, he enumerated the urgent tasks that have been waiting for a Department of Culture just in the matter of heritage conservation.
No central government institution has ever been directly concerned with cultural preservation. The DECS never concerned with its excavation projects. The National Museum does not have police powers to challenge illegal excavations especially those involving historical and cultural sites. The National Museum does not even have power to regulate and impose the State policies that promote and protect our national heritage. The NCCA never actively involved itself with controversial cultural issues like the Tasaday folio, the Chico Dam conservation and many more which in one way or another have displaced and marginalized hundreds and thousands of indigenous peoples in many parts of the archipelago.
For some unknown reasons, Rep. Roseller L. Barinaga’s bill did not even make it to the first reading in the House of Representatives. Now that he is no longer the representative of Zamboanga del Norte, some noble members of the House of Representatives and the House of Senate must push for the enactment of a similar bill—a Department of Culture for the sake of national unity, national identity, and nation-building.
This task is no less urgent and certainly much more significant and far-reaching than other legislative measures that have been passed, and passed off, as cultural or historical initiatives—e.g., the renaming of roads after famous Filipinos. If Filipinos are to respect themselves and if they seek to gain the respect and recognition of the world at large, they must first find their soul and cherish it. That is the mission of culture, and of the Department of Culture we envisage and propose.
Project Director / Writer:
Writer / Editor:
Over-all Coordinator / Head Researcher:
Virgilio S. Almario, National Artist
Dr. Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.
Dr. Ramon P. Santos
Aurea B. Lopez
Maria E. J. Pia V. Benosa
Consuelo V. Zapata
Committee on Cultural Policy