Press Release: National Artists Almario, Lumbera Lead Good Friday Rally for Arts and Culture

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MANILA, Philippines—Writers and artists led by the Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA) and the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) gathered at the Plaza Francisco Balagtas in the Pandacan district of Manila on Good Friday, mounting a symbolic “clean-up” for Philippine arts and culture exactly on the 222nd birth anniversary of the country’s premier poet.

Dubbed “Mag-alis ng Dungis ng Bayan: Penitensiya para sa Dangal ng Bayan” (Clean the Dirt of the Nation: Penitence for National Dignity), the program included some poetry performances not only remembering the King of Tagalog Poets and author of the canonical work “Florante at Laura,” but also calling for renewed state support for the arts.

Armed with brooms, dust pans, and rags, the group convened by National Artist for Literature and former University of the Philippines Diliman College of Arts and Letters Dean Virgilio S. Almario, also known as the poet Rio Alma, also bared a cultural agenda which includes, among others, measures to improve the state of cultural industries and the creation of a separate Department of Culture.

“It is necessary to formulate a national policy that fully recognizes and gives due importance to culture as the core and foundation of government political and economic policy, said Almario, in a statement he read on stage with Manila Historical and Heritage Committee Vice Chair Gemma Cruz Araneta.

The seven-point agenda prepared for people running for office in the coming May 10 polls proposes, among others: (1) “The formation of a separate and full-fledged Department of Culture to oversee and manage the present cultural agencies of the government”; (2) “The establishment of a National Institute for the Creative Industries at the University of the Philippines to undertake cultural research, train cultural workers, and design a national plan for genuine cultural education”;

(3) “Support for the potential of culture and creative work in economic production”; (4) “Promotion and empowerment of Filipino as the National Language”; (5) “Financing undertakings for the protection and upkeep of the nation’s natural and cultural heritage”; (6) “Designation of an official Cultural Coordinator in every municipality, city, and province”; and (7) the training of teachers, “for them to become active representatives of effective cultural education.”

“Everything must emanate from culture,” Almario explained in an earlier interview. “It must be the center of all things. This is not only my belief, but this idea is being implemented in Japan, Korea and China. That is why these countries never go wrong in their policies all because culture is where their policies are anchored. Why? Because culture means country.”

Joining Almario and Araneta as lead signatories of the cultural agenda were Bienvenido Lumbera and Benedicto Cabrera, National Artists for Literature and Visual Arts, respectively; critic Isagani R. Cruz, representing Wika ng Kultura at Agham (WIKA), University of the Philippines Diliman Deans Zosimo Lee (Social Science and Philosophy), Danilo Silvestre (Architecture) , and Rolando Tolentino (Mass Communication) ; poet Romulo Baquiran Jr., chair of the Filipinas Institute of Translation; poet Victor Emmanuel Carmelo Nadera Jr., UMPIL chair; poet Phillip Kimpo Jr., LIRA president; and singer and songwriter Gary Granada.

After the clean-up, Lumbera and Liberal Party Senatorial Candidate Sonia Roco led the offering of flowers at the Balagtas monument, while the participants sang the nationalistic classic “Bayan Ko.” The attendees carried placards and streamers that echoed the cultural agenda, as well as commentary on the recent Presidential “midnight appointments” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and last year’s National Artist Awards controversy.

The event organizer, LIRA is the premier organization of poets in Filipino celebrating its 25th anniversary this 2010, while UMPIL is the largest organization of writers in the country.

Phillip Kimpo Jr.
pykimpo@gmail. com

Writer, Editor, Website Manager, Website Publisher
President, LIRA, the premier institute of poets in Filipino
Member, UMPIL (Writers Union of the Philippines)
Founding Member, Dapitdilim Fellowship of Writers
Board of Directors Member, KoopKom (Cooperative for Communication)
Historical Writer-Researcher, PVAO, Department of National Defense
Batch 2006, BS Computer Science, University of the Philippines Diliman

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