Christopher de Venecia gives protection to the creative industries
If there is one active congressman who made waves this “quarantine season” to uplift the arts, it is none other than Christopher de Venecia or Cong Toff to his constituents in the 4th District of Pangasinan. An active member of the Arts and Culture and Creative Industries Bloc (ACCIB) of the 18th Congress, he spearheaded the Creative Workers Welfare Bill (known as the Eddie Garcia Bill) and the Freelancers Protection Bill.
We have been watching Cong Toff in the live hearings on Congress and would vouch for his patience and dedication in dealing with all the aspirations of the creative industries.
“I’ve become very ‘Filipino First’ in my consumption of media from local films, local television shows, local music, and even local books,” he tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.
A scion of the Sampaguita Pictures family, he grew up in show business and politics. “I was in showbiz from six to 10 years old and I juggled this with school,” recalls the Billy Bilyonaryo actor.
“It was to me, a playground where I got to know so many fascinating individuals and was able to experience things that a normal kid wouldn’t necessarily get to experience in his or her lifetime,” relates the former child actor.
His involvement with the Eddie Garcia Bill led him to connect to his roots. “It’s been overwhelming I must admit, frustrating at times because, as a policymaker, you end up playing referee to various stakeholders with competing interests within this creative value chain,” he confessed. “But it’s also been illuminating, rewarding if you’re able to arrive at some form of consensus.”
These past months, Cong Toff had glued himself to Netflix and YouTube to see local films. “Just watching Hello Stranger and Mamu and A Mother Too in the Cinema One YouTube page has reignited the importance of why the SOGIE Bill needs to be passed,” he muses.
“Pamilya Ordinaryo on Netflix has made me reflect on institutions like the DSWD and why the protagonists of the story refused to be housed in their facilities, or the PNP and if such abuses are indeed being done to our women, especially from the marginalized sector, and the deplorable act of human and child-trafficking,” he added.
The 33-year-old lawmaker also saw Ida del Mundo’s K’na, the Dreamweaver. “It has likewise reinforced the need to ramp up our Schools of Living Tradition under the NCCA so that these traditions won’t fade away with the older generation,” he reflects.
“Personally, it’s also benefitted me as a legislator,”he exclaimed. “I’m so thankful that even in my work in the public sector, I’ve found a way to anchor myself in this field. And now, my work in Congress has become a synthesis of both.”
A thespian and theater director, he is a board member of 9 Works Theatrical and the managing artistic director of The Sandbox Collective. “Since getting into government, my worldview has expanded and this has translated into the kinds of work that we end up doing in The Sandbox Collective,” he shares. For him, issues should be discussed within and outside the four walls of theater. “The work we’ve been doing in the theater is in essence, a targeted amplification of my work in the public sector but with an emotional capacity to penetrate and open the hearts and minds of our audiences,” says the former Ateneo Blue Repertory member.
He looks forward to the day he gets to return to theater and tell stories that can ultimately change lives.
How does he bond with his parents, Gina de Venecia and Jose de Venecia, Jr.? “Currently, they’re based in Pangasinan and I shuttle back and forth between Manila and the district,” reveals the millennial Congressman. “We often talk about current events but it’s also nice to disconnect sometimes from the zeitgeist and reminisce about past experiences pre-Covid and future experiences when, with hope, the world has healed.”
He used to think politics and arts are polar opposites but not anymore. “I’ve managed to engender what I thought were disparate circles to become more concentric,” he confessed. “I’ve been able to synthesize my platform as a public servant and my proclivity toward the arts in championing both arts and culture and the creative industries in the Lower House.”
In the pandemic, Cong Toff thrives to continue his core agenda—to aid the country’s artists and protect their welfare. The Eddie Garcia Bill co-sponsored by Rep. Michael Odylon L. Romero is set to go to the plenary and the Senate.