It doesn’t really matter that Brillante Mendoza’s “Thy Womb” didn’t make it big at the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) box office. The mere fact that it was accepted as an entry at the MMFF was triumph enough.
That Nora Aunor, the film’s lead star, was honored as best actress, never mind if it was her eighth award, was triumph enough. That Mendoza again received the best director trophy was triumph enough, and that his film received other major awards, including the biggest award of every MMFF, made this year’s fest a big, although quite an initial, step toward more quality and more meaningful films in the coming years.
Mention must also be made of “El Presidente,” which is about a page in this country’s history that needs to be clarified because it is an important part of our development as a nation.
We keep on lamenting the fact that most of us, especially the youth, are so blissfully unaware of the events and personalities that shaped us as a people. As the 150th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio (who many scholars now say was actually the first president of what is now the Philippines) approaches and on the 116th death anniversary of our national hero Jose Rizal, television reporters have been asking people on the street what they know about these heroes. The reporters would have gotten better answers if they had asked the same questions about Batman and Thor—to our dismay.
And of course just as lamentable is the fact that if you ask them what they know about a people called “Badjao,” who are the subject of “Thy Womb,” they will probably answer that these are the strange people you see begging on the streets during the Christmas season.
But are Filipinos to blame for their “ignorance”? Because the question is: Have they been given access to such information? Have our schools taught them that there is more to the Filipino as a nation than the people of Metro Manila, who are almost always the subject of teenage “kilig” films, “action” movies and atrocious comedy and horror films that seem so dear to the heart of Kris Aquino?
Sadly, movies, more than TV, have the greatest influence on the youth, especially the way they view their social environment to which they are compelled to conform.
And yet so far it is the television that has made significant efforts in trying to inform and promote understanding of the different peoples and cultures and histories that make up the tapestry that is our national identity. Thank heaven we have such Filipinos as Susan Calo Medina who have been at this for decades—from her very laudable “Travel Time” to “Tipong Pinoy”—trying to reach out to the youth by having as cohost Wency Cornejo, singer/composer and son of respected broadcaster Mel Tiangco.
Then there is international beauty queen Gemma Cruz with her “Artalk,” which is really just more than that. And, of course, there is the famous Carlos Celdran with his walking tours of Old Manila and his occasional but unforgettable television appearances.
This is not to say that we have only a few who have practically dedicated their lives to the study and sharing of their knowledge of our history and culture. Fortunately, we have them—historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, as well as those who have dedicated their lives to the study of such highly specialized ethnic “fields”—ethno-linguistics, ethnomusicology, ethnic art, etc.
But they mostly toil alone and in the dark, unrecognized, unrewarded and, worse, unfunded. And how many of us know about the findings of their research? We have to read academic papers and journals to appreciate what they have clarified and verified for us, so that we may understand ourselves better (especially as a multicultural people). With a greater appreciation of our nationhood and the glory that was, we may again strive to become a united, albeit diverse, nation with set values and aspirations, and with an identity that commands recognition and respect among the community of nations.
The television programs that I mentioned are aired on government-operated IBC-13, while the government-owned PTV-4 does feature cultural programs like “Concert at the Park,” and sometimes, film clips of stage presentations like the zarzuela.
But these are not enough. What makes things worse is this talk that IBC-13 would be “privatized.” Why? When it should instead be given more funding and not depend on the sale of hair growers and skin whiteners to survive? What a shame!
Why not convert IBC-13 into our own Discovery and National Geographic Channel, where we can feature the works of our cultural scholars and historians in a way that ordinary people can understand and appreciate?
Is this possible? The answer is yes!
Reconfigure the programming of IBC-13 to make it the channel exclusively for culture and history and art, and with program hosts like Calo, Cruz, Celdran, John Silva and their ilk, oh, we have a winner.
Man cannot live by politics alone. And certainly not by being fixated on disasters, crimes, corruption and the stock market, which sum up what we see on television all hours of the day.
We are, after all, made up of body and mind and maybe it is about time that we should care about striving for balance between education and news/show biz.
The day TV reporters get sensible answers from people on the streets will be the day people will watch such movies as “Thy Womb”; the day broadcasters stop using patronizing and condescending terms like “our Muslim brothers” will be the day we can truly call ourselves a nation.
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