Schools of Living Tradition

Manila Bulletin, August 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Schools of Living Tradition


For some people, fashion and fabrics are superficial things that can be discarded as soon as the new styles and the new season roll around.

But for the country's indigenous peoples (IP), the clothes on their back are representative of a culture unique only to them -- certainly not something to be discarded.

It was precisely the protection, preservation, and perpetuation of these fabrics and the history behind them that is the focus of the ongoing Senator Loren Legarda lecture series on Philippine Traditional Textiles and Indigenous Knowledge.

Held every two months at the Queen Sophia Hall of the National Museum, the lecture series seeks to explore the aesthetics, material culture and processes of ethnic identity, along with skills and information-generation through cloth. The Queen Sophia Hall also houses the "Hibla ng Lahing Pilipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles" exhibition.

Legarda, who heads the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, says that the lectures should help those of us outside of the IP community to better understand their ways and rituals.

"Let's understand the culture and the heritage that produced the fabrics because every thread, every hibla, tells the story of who we are as a people. While we exhibit the textiles in the National Museum, we should not just stare at the t'nalak, not just enjoy and appreciate the malong, but also understand where the IPs are from, what are their pains and struggles, and what is the essence of their culture," Legarda explains.

The series' inaugural lecture was held earlier this year featuring Dr. Maria Stanyukovich of the Russian Academy of Science who talked about Philippine and Southeast Asian textiles found in the Peter the Great Museum.

It was followed by a talk by Ontario College of Arts and Design professor Dr. B. Lynne Milgram who discussed the second-hand clothing market and the women vendors of Baguio.

The most recent lecture in the series was delivered by National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) vice chairperson and former Department of Tourism (DoT) Region 11 director Sonja Villareal Garcia, who talked about the DoT's cultural village project, which aims to help IP communities utilize their culture and turn it into a supplementary source of income.

THE CULTURAL VILLAGE

In her presentation, Garcia defined the cultural village as a group-managed, culture-focused, multi-stakeholders' project implemented in selected ancestral domains of the IP and duly endorsed by the Regional Development Council. It involves the establishment within the village of a tribal hall, an amphitheater, indigenous dwellings, and multipurpose pavilions, the construction of which the community themselves oversee.

The tribal halls also serve as Schools of Living Tradition, a venue for cultural exchange, creative industry, as well as a learning site for the conservation of cultural and natural resources.

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