Friday, October 30, 2009
The Centennial Gimmickry
I would not mind being called a centennial vagabond on this one. Nor being branded as unpatriotic villain. I personally believe that the San Jose centennial celebration does not provide the inspiration for genuine social transformation unless the presently-prevailing socio-political problems are juxtaposed in this historic task.
May 1, 2010 marks the centenary of the township of San Jose,- my home town, my place of birth. As early as last year, the San Jose Centennial Commission was formed with this key objective : “At the end of the year-long festivity, the Municipality of San Jose shall have conducted, in the spirit of a united community, a series of meaningful activities that commemorate the past with gratitude, celebrate the present with joy and envision a bright future with hope and faith, leaving a lasting legacy beyond 2010.” But are we going to hide our bad side?
Pardon me but I’ve seen various festivity and celebrations in the past that ended just like that and they are not instrumental in changing certain socio-political ills brought about by the ruling elite in the province. This coming November 15, Occidental Mindoro is about to commemorate its 59th founding anniversary but there were no significant changes in our political culture and how our politicians run the province up to this very moment. There are realities and experiences where the poor people in the countryside, - especially the Mangyans, are kept in social isolation. While the common people involved in the activities (i.e. the students, the youth for the contests, cultural presentations, etc.), gained the attention of the elite and politicians, the people in general have been losing their own social soul. For example, 2010 is election time, a peak season for corruption and other irregularities where every move of a politician or a political group (or even only if they fart!) is generally considered as politicking. What more if most of the women and men behind such activity are politicians themselves, their followers, or known propagandists and publicist of a politician during the last election? Do you really believe that this celebration would not be used to the advantage of a certain politician or would serve as an open target of criticisms for his rival? Or the hard line supporters to use the event pleasing their political patrons regardless on which political fence they are in? Oh, come on!
But let us not only focus our critique on the centennial celebration. Let us also include the San Jose annual town fiesta celebration. There’s nothing wrong in celebrations such as these. Festivity is innate in us humans. We are “Homo Festivus” (Somebody I love, incidentally, supplied me the Latin term). All of the cultures in the world have festivity and celebrations and that made them universal. Man does not only work and think, but we also celebrate,- we dance, sing, play, drink and dine. The question is : “What are the no-no’s of a celebration/festivity?”
I can only think of two words: superficiality and frivolity.
It is not superficial when it recognizes tragedy. When we, as a united community recognize that the biggest obstacle to our development is our political culture. We have to recognize that without a united group of townspeople that would serve as watchdog over programs and projects, performance and behavior of our politicians it would be impossible to remedy the biggest bane in our town: bad politics. It should not also ignore the evil side of our social life. The existence of a moral thorn in Small Town Lottery (STL) including illegal gambling and illegal drugs. It should not repress the bad things happening right before our very eyes : the dirty, mean and nasty public market, the use of political power for private business interests especially in public utility service such as power and transportation, the year-round hardships of our salt farm workers, farmers and fisher folks, etc. Themes, subjects and dimensions that must be incorporated in our songs, curriculum writing, posters, slogans, plays, dances, among others. Because over and above, the San Jose centennial celebration should not be considered a retreat from the reality of injustice and evil.
Without acknowledging the presence of injustice and evil, everything is mere frivolity. If what we want only is to astonish and catch the eye of the public, “balikbayan” or not. The utilization of the media outlets only to gain political edge or a venue to badmouth anybody who does not share his opinions and views. It is like celebrating the Feast Day of Saint Joseph the Worker (which also falls on International Labor Day) without spearheading an activity or two about the sad plight of the lowly workers of our town, like the sales ladies and clerks in our Christmas spirit-filled groceries and department stores. Or without even saying a little tribute to the so-called working class in our locality. Frivolity is wearing a mask to cover something that is rotten and garbage-like,- like the present socio-political realities of our time.
We don’t need a centennial celebration that is only confined to trivial activities and only try to explain and interpret the past or focus entirely on the present or bring false hope. Only with juxtaposition (Hope I used the term appropriately) we could challenge the past from the perspective of present experiences, and challenge the present from the perspective of our memory of the past. Or else, we will have no real legacy to pass on to be remembered even beyond 2010.
With these,- all of the celebration and festive activities, would not only serve as vehicle for ideas that only tend to anesthetize us and cloud our socio-political awareness. Or this would only become plain and simple gimmickry...
(Photo from San Jose Mindoro Friendster Account)