Enriching Filipino heritage through inclusive legislation


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On March 26, 2010, Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act was enacted to boost our country’s efforts in preserving our cultural treasures. My father, the former Senate President Ed Angara, who was the principal author of the law in the Senate, said the law was not only a serious step in preserving our cultural treasures, but in a deeper sense, affirms our identity as a people. I filed the same measure and sponsored it as a member of the House of Representatives — emphasizing the need to preserve our nation’s identity through culture and history. This will instill pride and dignity to our national identity.

In 2003, then President and now Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 439, declaring the month of May every year as National Heritage Month. For this year’s observance, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) came up with the theme “Heritage: Change and Continuity” to put the spotlight on enduring Filipino legacies amidst rapidly changing national and global contexts. Our work as legislators become even more crucial in preserving and promoting Filipino heritage through the measures that we file and through our advocacies.

In 2016, a report by the United Nations noted that while linkages between culture and social inclusion cannot be easily defined, greater participation in cultural life, particularly greater inclusiveness, fosters societies to be more democratic and stable. Relatedly, some of the measures I filed celebrate the diversity within our Filipino communities. Senate Bill No. 1012 declares Chinese New Year’s Day as a special nonworking holiday in remembrance of the Chinese-Filipinos who fought with us for our independence and freedom in previous World Wars and for their contributions in the formation of the Filipino middle class.

SBN 1616 declares Nov. 7 of every year as the Sheikh Karim’ul Makhdum Day, a special national working holiday, in commemoration of the establishment of the first Philippine Mosque in Bohe Indangan, Simunul Island, Tawi-tawi and the introduction of Islam in the country through the arrival of Arab missionary Shariff Karim’ul Makhdum, which was widely and uncritically accepted as the start of the systematization and formalization of most of the social infrastructures for Philippine Islamic practice and propagation.
We also take pride in the goods and products that are uniquely characterized to be part of our Filipino culture and heritage. SBN 1868 mandates the Protected Geographical Indications of locally produced agricultural or natural products, processed goods, or any products of handicraft or industry, to guarantee that these were indeed produced or manufactured in the places they were said to have been grown or made. Another is SBN 999 or the Philippine Native Animal Development Act that institutionalizes, as a government policy, the protection, development, and promotion of uniquely Filipino breeds of animals. These measures cleave closely to our long-held advocacy of supporting “Tatak Pinoy” or Proudly Filipino industries and entrepreneurs.

Heritage, according to Britannica, is the collective of all traditions, achievements, beliefs that are part of the history of a nation. For one, Indigenous Peoples (IPs) possess practices, knowledge, expressions and skills that are still relevant and provide meaning in everyday life, where the passing down of this heritage enhances the vitality, strength, and wellbeing of communities according to the UNESCO. However, the World Bank reported that IPs account for nearly 20 percent of the world’s extreme poor. Thus, I filed SBN 1167 to mandate the establishment of resource centers for indigenous cultural communities to ensure the delivery of basic, social, technical and legal services to all Filipino IPs.
In addition to these bills that I filed, there are several heritage-related interventions we included in the 2023 National Budget. This includes a ₱2 million appropriation for the Filipino Heritage Festival, which is a month-long celebration of tangible and intangible Filipino Heritage through cultural events, such as performance, visual arts exhibits, thematic culinary events, and other activities highlighting traditions and customs held in various locations nationwide. One of the objectives is to raise the consciousness of Filipinos on the existence of both man-made and natural landmarks and the need to preserve them.

There is also ₱94 million for commemorations and restorations under the National Historical Commission of the Philippines such as the 125th anniversary of the Philippine Independence, celebration of the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day, restoration of the Mabini Shrine (Santa Mesa, Manila), Molo Church (Molo, Iloilo), Patnongon Old Casa Municipal (Patnongon, Antique), and the Nagcarlan underground cemetery (Nagcarlan, Laguna).

The National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 was a much-needed shot in the arm to protect what remains in our nation’s cultural heritage. It is crucial to preserve and develop our heritage to keep our identity intact and to showcase to the rest of the world what it means to be Filipino.

(Email: sensonnyangara@yahoo.com| Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @sonnyangara

(Senator Sonny Angara has been in public service for 18 years — nine years as Representative of the lone district of Aurora, and nine as Senator. He has authored, co-authored, and sponsored more than 330 laws.  He is currently serving his second term in the Senate.)