A Woman of Culture: Loren Legarda receives the Dangal ng Haraya Award for preserving Filipino culture and enriching the artsDecember 26, 2016
For the Cordillera Indigenous Elected Women’s Leaders, she is a tukwifi or a bright star; “the one who takes care” (or a bae matumpis) of the cultural communities in Mindanao; the Panay-Bukidnon community in Visayas touted her as huyong adlaw dulpa-an labaw sa kadunggan, which translates to shining sun, rising in power; and for the Marawi Sultanate League, she is a bai a labi, which means an honorary Muslim Princess. Because of her passion to preserve the Filipino culture and arts, Senator Loren Legarda has been called many names, but she is first and foremost a Filipina who fell in love with our colorful dances, art, and language.
She credits this influence to her mother, Bessie Gella Bautista, who taught her to embrace the majesty of the culture and the arts of the Filipino.
“My mother, Bessie Gella Bautista, sang operas, collected art, and was a person of culture. As a child, I was surrounded by artists, including Ibarra dela Rosa, H.R. Ocampo, and Vicente Manansala—people who, by their art, contributed to shaping our national identity,” says Sen. Loren.
This influence led her to museums, art spaces, and homes of artists. Even her thesis when she was in college taking Broadcast Communication at University of the Philippines-Diliman in 1981 was a content analysis of Manansala’s paintings.
When she became a journalist, she had instant access to the way of life of various Filipino groups—their language, kinship, music, traditions, and practices.
“I saw the realities of crumbling societies and the passing away of some of our greatest generations. Through journalism, I testified on the harsh realities that beset societies—from the dark truth of child labor, the trafficking of and violence against women, the inequities in society, the destruction of cultures and the environment, the struggles of our indigenous communities, just to name a few. I witnessed how diversity can either divide or unite our country,” says Loren.
Now, as a senator, she continued preserving the distinct heritage of traditions, dance, art, music, folklore, beliefs, values systems, and the rights of Filipino ethno-linguistic groups, which according to her, “make up the identity of the Filipino people.”
Because of all her efforts, Sen. Legarda was recently conferred the Dangal ng Haraya Tagapagtaguyod ng Sining at Kultura (Patron of Arts and Culture) by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). It is an award given to individuals or institutions/organizations that have rendered significant and lasting contributions, support, patronage to preservation, development, and promotion of Philippine culture and arts.
“It is ironic that I accept the Dangal ng Haraya Award against the backdrop of an escalating social chaos brought about by narratives of hatred, political rancor, gender biases, violence, and social divisions. Direct attacks, killings, arrests, harassments, zoning, and vilification continue in Lumad areas. This award only tells us we need to do more,” says Sen. Loren.
Some of the laws the senator passed were the Philippine Climate Change Act and its amendatory law, the People’s Survival Fund Act (2009), Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act (2015), Batanes Responsible Tourism Act (2016), and the Enhanced Basic Education. She authored the Philippine Tropical Fabrics Law (Republic Act 9242) in 2004, which promotes the country’s natural fabrics through the use of such materials for official uniforms of government officials and employees.
Senator Legarda is also a patron of indigenous industries and traditions with her strong support to the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA), which recognizes the best traditional artisans of the country.
She also organized the first National Indigenous Peoples Cultural Summit on Oct. 13, 2011, a forum highlighting the need to support the IPs in their efforts to have full mastery of and confidence in their cultural identity.
Aside from cultural preservation, Sen. Legarda also does cultural promotion through different channels. She opened several mobile and permanent exhibitions, which center on traditional script and textiles. Legarda also spearheaded projects covering the protection and promotion of various cultural traditions, including Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles and the Philippines’ first permanent textile gallery; Baybayin Gallery, the Philippines’ permanent ancient scripts gallery in the National Museum, various documentaries and handbooks on climate change and disaster risk reduction activities, and various arts and culture scholarship programs and participation in international arts festivals.
The Philippines’ comeback after 51 years in the Venice Art Biennale with the exhibition “Tie a String Around the World” and its participation at the Venice Architecture Biennale were also made possible through the lady senator and the NCCA.
Currently, Senator Legarda hosts Dayaw TV, a television documentary series on Philippine indigenous peoples and culture, which airs on ANC every Thursday.
“Culture is what binds people, the public and living spaces, and the beliefs and practices of people. Culture defines our soul as a people. Cultural considerations cannot anymore remain on the sidelines of policy making. These need to be integrated in education, economic planning, urban and rural development, technological innovations, among others,” says Sen. Loren.