Better ‘City of Culture’
The United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization defines culture as “the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. It includes not only arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs.”
Last Friday, the ministers of culture and the arts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations declared Cebu, Manila and Pampanga as cities of culture for two years in a program to promote this part of the globe to the international community.
Cebu was cited “for its rich tapestry of history, culture and heritage and creative industry.”
We extend our gratitude to the Asean ministers for what we see as their great exercise in using their eye for beauty in selecting the region’s first culture capitals.
Their judgment reminds us that there is, beyond all the woes that besiege Cebu City—problems that visit any world city anyway—a bedrock of enduring values that peoples can draw on to continue the task of deve- lopment.
Cebu City residents especially its leaders must now live up to this Asean accolade.
The citation refers foremost to Cebu’s rich history, but it is a pity that, as University of San Carlos professor and Cebu Daily News columnist Jose Eleazar Bersales pointed out, the Queen City of the South with its 80 barangays does not have a history book, unlike Cebu province which is on the verge of launching a 55-volume collection of histories of Cebu towns.
(The most accessible Cebu City history is the aptly titled 3,608-character “A Glimpse of its Past” is posted on the website of the Cebu city government.)
Cebu City’s Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission and the City Council’s Arts and Culture Committee headed by Councilor Margarita Osmeña would do well to launch a Cebu City history book project to strengthen residents’ pride of place and sense of identity, not to mention edify them with timeless lessons from the city’s past.
The citation also refers to Cebu’s heritage. It is worth noting anew that special attention ought to be paid to the conservation of the city’s threatened tangible natural heritage.
Months ago, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama broached the idea of converting the city into an events or festival city that would put on display, among other things, the city’s mountains and other visitor-worthy natural spots.
A plan like this should be tempered by the swiftly implemented healing of our sick ecosystem with its illegally traded protected lands, overly taxed aquifers, dead rivers and mounting trash.
A robust creative industry—as cited by Asean— that ignores the demand for stewardship reverberating from our store of intangible values will not long survive the death of tangible natural heritage.
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