The theme this year challenged our young visual artists to look into the Philippines’ many traditional expressions of creativity. Our Manlilikhang Bayan or National Folk Artists Award shows how wide the range of traditional applied creativity can be: gold filigree from Paracale; pottery from Vigan; brass casting from the Maranaw;Mangyan poetry written in ancient, pre-colonial script. In addition there is palm-leaf mat weaving or what we call banig (mat)-making, basketry, and ikat or tie-dye weaving, as well as pinya (pineapple) fabric weaving that integrates intricate sinuksuk. And let us not forget the dexterity in playing native instruments, nor the memorization skills and regimented performing customs required of chants like the Ifugao hudhud, which by the way is on the UNESCO list of intangible treasures so valuable to the culture of the entire world.
Petron has inspired competitive photographers and painters to research and rediscover how well rooted they are in a way of life where creativity matters, in a society that values the making of things we can hold or touch and things we grasp only in our minds.
The first painter in the archipelago was a Maranaw from the community’s leading family. His name was Tomingamam sa Rogong. Tomingaman happened to look up at a rainbow and exclaimed, “How I wish those beautiful colors of heaven could be copied in my village.” His twin brother who lived in heaven heard the wish, thought it a marvelous idea, and showed Tomingaman how to make green coloring from kamote (sweet potato) leaves, yellow from turmeric roots, and other colors from other plants, flowers, and ground rock. The first thing Tomingaman sa Rogong painted was the carved prow of his wooden boat used whenever he went fishing or visiting. As his neighbors saw the rainbow colors come to earth, they learned how to paint the panoplong of their houses, the handles of their water scoopers, their tobacco containers and so many other everyday objects. Color added a touch of heaven on earth. And the Maranaw give thanks to their divine ancestor with a ritual that seeks blessings on their brushes and paints before they start work. So even painting traces back to our ancient, mythic Philippine time.
Notice that there is a connection between the mortal and the heavenly in sculpting and in painting, in cultivating the earth and in fishing the waters. In mythic time and space people are not to forget their relation with the divine, and their responsibility to live a divinely-inspired life. For every act of making, every act of creating emulates the divine creation.
It may just be ancient myth from days of animism that we are recalling now. But as we seek a worldwith the highest standard of living for all, should we not also seek the highest quality of being? Should we not reach deep into our hearts and way up into our higher consciousness so that whatever we make is a means towards the perfection of humanity… towards the perfection of what we Filipinos call our pagkatao (humanity)?
Apolinario Mabini -- that brilliant lawyer of the Philippine Revolution who was General Emilio Aguinaldo’s principal thinker on the cabinet --reminded in the True Decalogue: Do not depart from the path of goodness and justice in order to attain thy own perfection and thus contribute to the progress of humanity. The teenage law student Emilio Jacinto -- adviser to Andres Bonifacio who inspired by Jose Rizal and the La Liga Filipina, became the principal spirit behind the secret Katipunan that sparked the Revolution --wrote in the Kartilla: Ang may taas na kalooban inuuna ang puri kaysa pagpipita sa sarili. One who has a high inner spirit puts honor, goodness and virtue before self-interest. In contrast he said, whoever has a lowly or a base inner spirit puts self-interest before honor, goodness and virtue.
As we make, as we create our lives everyday and the things and the ideas, the initiatives with foresight and the responses with clear judgement… may we create with high inner spirit… with honor, goodness and virtue. That is why creativity is so fundamental to civilization. We must nurture creativity because as we make our way of life everyday, as we respond to challenges simple and terrifying, as we live our lives dealing with others we remember that we must “make” inspired by perfection… we must live inspired by our highest humanity… we must create solely seeking to ennoble everything in our everyday.