By: Lucell Larawan
A UNIVERSITY in Iloilo will show “The Platters” concert this coming August 26 through its administration and alumni association. I wonder for what purpose this is for because the concert’s tarpaulin announcement does not explicitly state. Maybe to satiate some old men and women’s desire to revisit their times through music. I see nothing wrong with that. This type of concert may not arouse the youth’s enthusiasm because the target market comprises those who are fifty and above. I see a similar logic why the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) hosted the Phantom of the Opera concert last month. The music enthusiasts and experts had a great time appreciating Andrew Lloyd Weber’s great composition. Art (music in this case), however, should rest in its sanctuary. If not, an institution cannot establish large reserves of creativity and indigenous knowledge and skills and will continue living in poverty in terms of enlightenment.
While the CCP has been showing both local and international luminaries in the arts and has been dubbed as a center for Philippine culture and the arts, a university has yet to rethink about its priorities-- especially if it had not been a good sanctuary for Panay or Filipino art and culture and suddenly stage a “foreign” concert as its centerpiece this year. It can be interpreted as an imbalance, implicitly encouraging constituents and the community to put aside our own identity in order to borrow something alien, as if our own identity is contemptible. The hosting sponsors would, of course, not admit that this is so but the blindspot has remained for decades and the institution needs an awakening.
What exactly is the point about staging as a centerpiece such a concert while ignoring its responsibility to nurture, encourage and raise up local artists from its constituents? While it fails to stage with honor its own culture, why give a highlight to “The Platters”? A few years ago, its decision-makers already put down the program for the arts by cutting its budget to such a low level resulting to miscarriages and abortions of fledgling artists in almost all fields and genres; although in its objectives the university emphasized cultural development and it actually charges a cultural fee from its students.
Another bottleneck yet invisible to the eyes of the administrators of this university is the functional chimneys that disallow artistic groups in its custody to venture showcasing for free their performances or oeuvres to the public at its proper venue. It always has looked at such presentations through the economics of money not knowing that the creative and cultural economy is working as well. Instead of charging a minimum of P40,000 as a hard and fast rule for its artistic groups to present in its venue, how about an audit for the creative and cultural economy to measure how well a university gives premium on real parameters of human development? Is it not reasonable to require a business function of an institution the list of balance sheets and financial statements for the “creative and cultural vitality index” so that financial managers would oblige? (This is just a challenge that point out the inadequacy of one function to merely impose financial parameters in all the university’s activities as if all programs can be measured in terms of financial metrics alone.) Such scenario leads to the alienation and rejection of indigenous creativity where money-making alien ideas alone would be taken in and patronized.
And what about the breeding of contempt towards its own artists? Not only does a university live a long history of “darkness” having produced no eminent artists (I mean real eminence, not institution-proclaimed); its unfriendly attitude to artists, especially achievers, is worth mentioning . Not only does it live in such a milieu; it also puts down an employee who has been a regional representative in the National Commission for Culture and the Arts-National Committee for Visual Arts (NCCA-NCVA), chosen through a rigorous selection process. The obvious reason for this is that his ideas and insights are quite advanced while many decision makers and influencers have yet to accept the undeniable fact. Their egos could not take it in after a discriminatory act in selection. With the long proliferation of certain practices that poisons an environment for the arts, this employee does not have an option but give a rude awakening if this is the only way to resolve the history of “darkness.”
Rejecting a major leaguer in the arts reminds of a less mature outlook after the case of Vincent Van Gogh, a centuries-old lesson. It fails to understand that societies undergo transitions (according to Nivin and Plettner, 2009) from the information age to the creative age in which the work being done by creative people in each economy creates value-added and drives economic growth and development. What happens if an institution insists putting this employee down with rejection in that field where he established his flair and acclaim? While universities around are proud of Dr. Isidro Cruz, Dr. Leoncio Deriada and Dr. Alice Tan-Gonzales who are national luminaries in literature, this institution does not show the same because obviously it trades these exemplars in favor of “alien” ideas that occasionally come in its premises (not to mention the play of politics that fries achieving artists). In addition, a luminary in the arts, if fortunate to survive for a while in such environment, is outnumbered and overpowered by sycophants who destroy the integrity of a system.
By promoting what is foreign in lieu of “Filipino and Panayanon” and by failing to create an environment for artists, the university has encouraged Doña Victorina syndrome, a malady that generally afflicts Filipinos nowadays.
Doña Victorina syndrome came from a pathetic character from the 19th century depicted in Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere.” She despised her own race just to raise her social status. The personified character reflects that there are many Doña Victorina’s who hide and despise their own identity and adore foreign standards (I am not saying that we cannot use some foreign ideas if they are useful). When a university forgets about appreciating enough and nurturing the Filipino or Panayanon pride in its priority, it reveals the symptoms of the malady.
The results of such malady have contributed to the lack of unity amongst the Filipinos or Panayanons and are damaging to national development. The damaging factors are:
1) adoption of alien concepts and faulty development models;
2) application of inappropriate management style mismatched to Filipino culture and social institutions;
3) lack of pride in being a people; and
4) great divide between the elite and the common people.
The values of a university is understood more by its attitudes and actions, not by its written confessions. Should a university be a sanctuary or a cemetery of our own culture?
It does not yet see its peep-o-day.