Legarda calls for end to social chaos
As she accepted the nation’s highest honor as a patron of arts and culture, Sen. Loren Legarda called for greater action on an “escalating social chaos” besetting the country, including political bickering, violence and attacks against indigenous peoples.
Legarda took occasion of her acceptance of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ (NCCA) “Dangal ng Haraya Award” to issue one of her strongest appeals to end political and social violence, noting how she had herself witnessed this during her time as a journalist.
“It is ironic that I accept the Dangal ng Haraya Award against the backdrop of an escalating social chaos brought about by narratives of hatred, political rancor, gender biases, violence and social divisions,” Legarda said in her speech at the awarding rites on Wednesday at the opulent Marble Hall of the Bureau of the Treasury in Manila.
“Direct attacks, killings, arrests, harassment, zoning and vilification continue in lumad areas,” she said of the Mindanao indigenous group that has been gripped by violence since last year.
She said the award conferred on her “only tells us we need to do more.”
The Dangal ng Haraya (dangal in Filipino means honor, haraya refers to vision) award is a commendation given to individuals, institutions and organizations that “have rendered significant and lasting contributions, support, patronage to preservation, development and promotion of Philippine culture and arts,” according to the NCCA.
Asked to expound on this point, Legarda said in an interview following her acceptance speech that she was referring to “killings in general,” not specifically on the spate of drug killings and arrests that has marked the first six months of the administration of President Duterte.
‘Diversity is wealth’
“My point is in our diversity as a people we can find the ties that bind. Among our differences in beliefs, value systems, traditions and culture—whether you’re Ilocano, Bisaya, or you’re an indigenous person—all the differences in our ethnicity, that’s our richness,” said Legarda.
She said the nation needed more mutual respect, and that Filipinos must recognize that “our diversity is our wealth.”
“What I’m asking for is mutual respect, [that] not one is greater than the other. Amidst all social chaos, political division, killings, arrests, regardless of the cause … Let’s just find that commonality through the richness of our culture,” she stressed.
‘Beacon for heroic efforts’
Legarda received the NCCA honor for her tireless efforts in promoting Philippine cultural and artistic genius, with the
NCCA recognizing her as “a staunch supporter of the culture and arts sector” since she was elected senator in 1998.
In citing Legarda’s outstanding work for Philippine culture, NCCA chair Felipe de Leon Jr. said: “(Legarda) has achieved the greatest impact on Philippine society through her pioneering legislation for arts and culture.”
“In a political and social climate lacking in appreciation for our artistic heritage, Senator Legarda serves as a beacon for her heroic efforts in harnessing her legislative expertise to dignify the loftiest expressions of the Filipino soul,” said De Leon, reading the citation for Legarda during the awarding ceremony.
“She has established a lasting legacy that will serve as a constant inspiration to the present and future generations of Filipinos,” it said.
‘Towering influence’ of mom
In accepting her award, Legarda honored her late mother Bessie Gella Bautista as the one who had “nurtured and influenced me to embrace the majesty of culture and the arts.”
Legarda recalled in her speech how her mother loved to sing operas at home and collected art, raising her as a child surrounded by the works of national artists Vicente Manansala and Hernando Ocampo, and renowned painter Ibarra dela Rosa.
“I was told I started to be smitten by the arts and culture about the same time I learned to walk and speak because of the towering influence of my mother and her cultural friends,” Legarda said.
She then revealed that her undergraduate thesis as a Mass Communications major at the University of the Philippines Diliman was a content analysis of Manansala paintings, as she was influenced by “the mood and social concerns” of the martial law era.
Legarda’s father, businessman Antonio Legarda, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and national artists Virgilio Almario and F. Sionil Jose graced the occasion.
The NCCA described Legarda as “the foremost proponent in ennobling the Filipino spirit, nurturing national identity and creativity through her dedication, heroic legislative work and enduring passion for the preservation, promotion and safeguarding of cultural heritage.”
Among laws that Legarda passed to protect culture and the arts are the Philippine Climate Change Act, which provides the framework for how at-risk communities could combat climate change, Batanes Responsible Tourism Act, Philippine Tropical Fabrics Law and Enhanced Basic Education Act, which incorporates deeper arts and culture education in schools.
Legarda has also initiated countless projects “that safeguard and promote our rich cultural heritage,” including expositions on Philippine textiles, arts and crafts fairs, lectures and cultural scholarship programs, said the NCCA.
The lawmaker was also instrumental in the Philippines’ historic return to the Venice Art Biennale in 2015, an event considered “the Olympics of contemporary art” which the Philippines had last joined in 1964.
Legarda worked with the National Museum to build new galleries such as the Hibla textile gallery and Baybayin ancient scripts gallery. She pooled government resources for the rehabilitation of museums and national heritage structures.
This year, Legarda, a multiawarded and respected broadcast journalist, saw a return to television through “Dayaw,” a TV documentary series on Philippine indigenous peoples and cultures.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.