By Hannah Torregoza
Reelectionist Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Wednesday urged Filipinos here and abroad to visit heritage sites and cultural centers in the Philippines and embassies abroad and learn valuable lessons from the past.
Angara made the call as the country celebrates the National Heritage Month this May.
“Heritage is about the things from the past which are valued enough today to save for tomorrow,” said Angara.
The senator co-authored Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, along with his father, the late Senate President Edgardo Angara.
The lawmaker stressed the importance of learning the nation’s past as the Philippines boasts of a rich and complex history, owing to centuries of interaction and exchange among Malay settlers, Chinese and Middle Eastern traders, and several foreign conquerors, notably the Spaniards.
He said such heritage still stands in pockets in Metro Manila and other parts of the country and most of them are Spanish-era churches.
“They are often hidden—or worse, neglected—having been overrun by skyscrapers, malls, and other vestiges of urban sprawl,” he pointed out.
The country is also full of craftsmen and artists, like the Paete wood woodcarvers, the painters of Angono, the T’Nalak “dream weavers” from Lake Sebu, and the sabutan weavers of Baler.
“Their beautiful works showcase Filipino skill and creativity, yet receive marginal attention at best,” said the senator, who is running under the platform “Alagang Angara.”
For Filipinos abroad, Angara said they can try visiting Sentro Rizal, the overseas Philippine cultural center much like the Spain’s Instituto Cervantes and Italy’s Dante Alighieri Center. Sentro Rizal was created under RA 10066 to promote the Filipino art, culture, and language to the world.
So far, there are a total of 31 Sentro Rizal in different Philippine embassies and consulates in Europe, Middle East, East Asia, Southeast Asia, South America, and New Zealand. The first Sentro Rizal was established in Madrid, Spain in 2011.
Angara said Filipinos should help protect and preserve the country’s historical monuments and artworks of cultural heritage, since these are “a part of us.”
He said heritage preservation provides an anchor for nationhood and concretizes people’s sense of identity through buildings, sculptures, paintings, songs, or stories.
“That’s why as a nation, we should do a better job in preserving our heritage and supporting our artists and craftsmen,” Angara stressed.
“That should be the underlying message people should take away as the country observes the National Heritage Month,” he emphasized.