01 November 2008

Media and Culture

I gave this keynote address at the Boracay Media Summit on 28 October 2008:

The Expanding Frontiers of Media in the Preservation of Culture,
the Promotion of Tourism, and the Protection of the Environment


I have come as a representative of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), particularly its program called the Philippine Cultural Education Program (PCEP). PCEP has a very ambitious objective, namely, to make every Filipino culturally literate. PCEP was conceptualized in 2002. It’s only now gathering steam, but NCCA hopes that it will be fully operational by at least 2014. The Program has many components, one of which touches directly on media. This is what I would like to speak about to you today.

PCEP plans to fund an Award on Cultural Education Practice for media. The award will be integrated into the current NCCA award called Gawad Alab ng Haraya. The award for media will honor outstanding achievement in cultural journalism and documentation. What exactly does this mean? It means that the awardee (which can be an individual or an organization) has consistently treated as front page news or as the first headline in a radio or television show an aspect of Philippine culture. Since we are now in the blogsphere era, blogs with wide readership, which would then qualify them as mass media, would also be eligible for the award.

Here we have to face the key question in PCEP, as well as in this Media Summit. What is Philippine culture?

Ano ba talaga yang Pinoy culture, ha, kuya o ate? Iyan ba ang tinatawag na Pitong Sining o Seven Arts? Oo at hindi. Oo, kasama ang literatura, teatro, musika, pintura, iskultura, arkitektura, sayaw, pelikula, radyo drama, teleserye, fantaserye, at lahat na ng tinatawag nating Creative Art o Imaginative Art. Hindi, dahil mas malawak ang kultura kaysa ang mga ito lamang. Kasama sa kultura ang hindi naman ginagawa ng iisang alagad ng sining, indibidwal man o grupo, kundi ng isang komunidad, tulad ng paghahabi, pagluluto, mga wikang ginagamit sa bahay o sa palengke o sa paaralan, mga paniniwala, mga ugali, iyun bang tinatawag ng mga sosyologist o anthropologist na kultura. Kasama rin iyan.

Sa PCEP, hindi lang iyan ang kultura. Kasama sa depinisyon namin ng kultura ang mga natural na bagay na hindi naman tao ang gumawa, tulad ng buhangin dito sa Boracay, ang bulkang Mayon, ang Pinatubo, ang bundok ng Apo o ng Banahaw, ang iba’t ibang uri ng isda na makikita lamang dito sa bayan natin, ang mga halaman at hayop na Pinoy na Pinoy. Kasama iyan sa kultura. Sa Media Summit na ito, ang tawag ninyo dyan ay Promotion of Tourism o Protection of the Environment. Okey lang na tawagin ninyo ito ng iba’t ibang pangalan. Para sa PCEP at para sa NCCA, ang lahat ng iyan ay kultura.

Baka itanong ninyo, ano ang hindi kasama sa kulturang Filipino? Ang sagot naman dyan ay lahat at hindi lahat. Ang lahat na makikita lamang sa atin ay kulturang Filipino. Everything that is uniquely Filipino or that makes us unique as a people or as a nation is Philippine culture. Kapag may tinuturo tayo, ginagamit natin ang ating nguso. Kultura iyan. Kapag ayaw nating dumalo sa isang party o meeting, ang sagot natin ay “baka” o “susubukin ko” o “maybe,” pero bihira nating sabihin, “hindi” o “no.” Kultura iyan. Kapag may hinihingi tayo sa Panginoon natin, pinapahiran natin ng panyo ang paa ng isang batong istatwa. Kultura iyan.

Pero kung nagkukuwento tayo tungkol sa mga buhay ng artista, tungkol sa kanilang pagbubuntis o pag-iisnaban o pagiging bading, hindi Philippine culture iyan, dahil sa America, ganyan din sila. Kung nagkukuwento tayo tungkol sa mga nangungurakot ng katakut-takot na pera sa gobyerno o sa militar o kung saan man, hindi Philippine culture iyan, dahil sa ibang bansa, kasama na ang America, ganyan din sila. Hindi naman tayo ang nag-iisang bansa sa buong mundo na pinagsasamantalahan ng mga pulitiko o mayayaman o makapangyarihan. Kung nagkukuwento tayo tungkol sa mga krimen, mga nanggagahasa, mga mamamatay-tao, mga magnanakaw, hindi Philippine culture iyan. Human nature iyan.

Hindi rin Philippine culture iyung surfing, dahil marami niyan sa ibang bansa. Hindi rin Philippine culture iyung maraming restoran, dahil marami ring kainan sa ibang bansa. Hindi rin Philippine culture ang mga call center, ang mga ineexport nating mga nars, ang wikang Ingles, dahil mayroon ding ganyan ang ibang bansa.

Pero walang puputi pa sa buhangin ng Boracay, kaya Philippine culture iyan. Walang gaganda pa sa mga resort natin sa Palawan, kaya Philippine culture iyan. Mayroong mga rice terraces sa ibang bansa, pero hindi kasing laki o kasing tanda noong rice terraces natin, kaya Philippine culture iyan. Tayo lang ang nagpapadala ng balikbayan box sa ating mga kamag-anak, kaya Philippine culture iyan. Tayo lang ang bansang nabubuhay dahil nagpapadala ng pera dito ang mga kamag-anak natin sa ibang bansa, kaya Philippine culture iyan.

Sa madaling salita, ang kulturang Filipino ay ang kahit anong makikita lamang dito sa atin o ginagawa lamang nating mga Pinoy.

Sa media natin, aminin na natin, ang nasa front page o ang inuuna sa mga programa sa radyo at telebisyon ay ang mga bagay na makikita rin naman sa ibang bansa, tulad ng krimen, politika, digmaan, sex, at tsismis. Kapag may maglalakas-loob na gawing headline ang kagandahan ng Boracay o Palawan o ang tulang tinatawag na ambahan ay pang-award iyan ng NCCA o PCEP.

Hindi lang kasi award ang pinag-uusapan dito. Ang media ang naghuhubog o bumubuo sa kamalayan o consciousness ng ating mga kababayan. Kapag ang nababasa lamang o naririnig lamang ng ating mga kababayan ay ang mga kawalanghiyaan ng mga heneral o opisyal ng gobyerno o mayayamang negosyante ay natural na sasama ang kanilang loob. Hindi ko sinasabi na dapat huwag sumama ang ating loob, dahil talaga namang grabe ang magkaroon ng limpak-limpak na salapi habang sa buong bansa, at sa buong mundo, ay bumabagsak na ang mga bangko, negosyo, at kabuhayan. Pero hindi naman totoo, hindi makatotohanan, not accurately reflecting reality, ang gawing 100% ang nakakasama ng loob na mga pangyayari sa bansa natin o sa mundo. Maputi pa rin ang buhangin ng Boracay, kahit na gaano kalaki ang tong-pats sa mga kontrata sa Tsina. Masarap pa rin ang lutong Kapampangan, kahit na hindi type ng nakararaming Filipino ang isang Kapampangang hanggang ngayon ay nag-aambisyon pa ring manatili sa poder. Marami pa rin ang uri ng mga isda natin, kahit na mas mahal pa ang galunggong kaysa tilapia. Tama pa rin ang mga linya ni Balagtas na “Sa loob at labas ng bayang ko sawi, kaliluha’y siyang nangyayaring hari” kahit na (sa katunayan ay dahil nga) dumarami ang mga nagugutom at naghihirap sa ating bayan. Maganda pa rin ang tula, kahit na pangit ang katotohanang inilalarawan nito.

It is true that Reporters Without Borders reports that, though we are not as bad as North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Eritrea, the worst of all countries when it comes to press freedom, we are as bad as Congo and just a little bit better than Singapore. Our press is not free, despite MalacaƱang’s being in denial mode, but we are in a much better position than Singapore to make ourselves free. You see, Singapore has very little culture, as the Singaporeans themselves will admit. We have plenty of culture. Our culture has enabled us to survive and even to prevail during four centuries of Spanish colonial rule, during half a century of American rule, during another half century of some kind of rule, whether neocolonial or late capitalist or multinational or WTO or whatever we want to call it. No matter what history hurls at us, we have survived. Manny Pacquiao may be shorter than Oscar De La Hoya, but he is Filipino, win or lose. Maybe, that is what Philippine culture is all about, not about winning or losing, not about being short in stature or infrastructure or morals or integrity or system or money or whatever, but being proud of ourselves no matter what.

Media must not only present to the public the truth, and it does this very well today, but must represent the truth, that is, must think seriously about the whole truth, not just the person that bites the dog, but also the dog that bites the person. Bad news is news, that is true, but so is good news, even if many things that are good are not new. But if something is really good, it will remain new, it will always be renewed, it will always renew.

Media must not only constitute reality, meaning that it creates a kind of reality that people share, a kind of imagined community in Benedict Anderson’s sense that is molded by the imaginative arts of writing and speaking. Media must also reconstitute reality, by deliberately painting the entire canvas of Philippine reality, not just its shadows, not just the colors it shares with other countries, but the light that emanates from natural and human-made wonders.

Media must not only react to events as they unfold, political, criminal, showbiz, athletic, environmental, or whatever, but must act on its own proactively to make Filipinos proud of what we really are.

You can say anything you want about us, even the negative things, of which there are legion, but you cannot deny and we should remind the public not to deny that we are Filipinos, whether we live here or elsewhere, whether we are for or against something or anything, whether we know it or not. What makes us Filipino? That is what PCEP is all about. That is what NCCA is all about. That is what Philippine culture is all about. That is what I hope this Boracay Media Summit will be all about.

2 comments:

Silverlokk said...

May I invite you to visit the online petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/support-mother-tongue-based-learning-in-the-philippines.html which should be self-explanatory.

As an aside, no need to approve this comment :) I wrote it because I couldn't find an easier way to reach you.

Anonymous said...

Yes! You have verbalized what we, ordinary Filipinos think. We are proud of our Filipino culture and the media should be doing what they have to,that is, to help mold the future of what Filipino is all about and not erode the precious culture na sariling atin...