COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
Last year, it was the Balinsasayaw Singers that took my breath away, singing and swaying through the night, gracing us with music of that Old World charm. This year however, Edilberto Alegre’s reading of his poem on the weaving of banig overwhelmed me, as the words visualized the essence of creation, wholeness, identity, continuity and change.Words and music – through song, dance, drama, and poetry were ambrosia served at the Grand Performance Arts Night of the Leyte Heritage Festival, delighting our senses and filling our souls. It was a night of grandeur, with the display of local talents rendering artistic creations with traditional and folk content.
Words — that is our heritage, as handed down to us through the plays of Eduardo Makabenta, Sr. and Iluminado Lucente. Words – that will be our heritage, as presently delivered to us in the poems of Merlie Alunan and Victor Sugbo. And music – as heard in the Waray, Cebuano, and Pilipino compositions that pass from one generation on to the next, enriching our lives as the past, present, and future are woven with our own songs and melodies.
Last year’s theme was Sinamay: Sayaw, Laylayon ug Siday, a marvelous array of songs, dance, drama and poetry, and participated by different groups here in Leyte. This year’s theme is Paglara, Pag-inop, Pagsaurog, and again revealed to us the richness of our culture through the arts. Both performances were shown at the RTR Plaza in Tacloban in celebration of the Leyte Heritage Festival every May.
Through the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Department of Tourism, the government at last has found its senses to “know thyself” by locating those what it can truly call its own and be rooted with a real foundation. Thus, the Filipino Heritage Festival is being celebrated nationwide on the whole month of May each year. Varied events are launched in different cities and localities focusing on local culture, the arts, and historical landmarks of which are our rightful heritage.
The Leyte celebration started only last year, with the great encouragement and support of Armita B. Rufino, president of the Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc. The NCCA coordinates with local government agencies, the academe, private institutions, and non-government organizations in the celebration of this meaningful event. Collection of cultural artifacts, showcase of native food and delicacies, and a tour on old churches were some of the activities being done. Also last year, Pagdayaw Leytenhon, the First Leyte Cultural Heritage Awards was held.
Heritage simply means those things we inherit from our ancestors and from the past, and those things we are going to bequeath on the next generations to come. We have our local dialects. We have our native food and delicacies. We have our historical structures like old churches, forts, bridges, and old houses. We have our period pieces of clothing and furniture, and those house and working implements of the olden days. And we have our cultural traditions that bind us as a people in addition to literature and the arts.
But most importantly, heritage is not just something to treasure and be proud of, or displayed as a tourist attraction – do we always have to sell our soul? Primarily, we need it to provide us with a sense of self (of nationhood), to give us personality and character, to build our self-esteem, and be rooted. Indeed, heritage makes us distinct as a people and as a race, and gives us a distinctive advantage in the global community of nations.