Notes on the 2014 Tan-ok: Spotlight on stories

story conference b
Tan-ok choreographers and tourism officers from around Ilocos Norte
Aian Raquel, Tan-ok Creative Director
Aian Raquel, Tan-ok Creative Director

It’s November and all 23 cities and municipalities of Ilocos Norte are in full swing with their respective preparations for this year’s edition of the Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival of Festivals happening on the 29th.

I highly anticipate this year’s Tan-ok as organizers have given premium on what I, together with well-meaning Ilocano culture advocates, have been wishing for in previous editions: faithfulness to the Ilocano story. Indeed, any self-respecting festival should have at its core the true story of its people who are celebrating greatness, be it of an object, food, event, or any phenomenon.

Last October 24, your karikna was invited by Aian Raquel, the event’s creative director, to serve as resource speaker in a story workshop participated in by choreographers from the various towns and cities. With the exception of a few who failed to attend, I was glad with the receptiveness of the participants.

I delivered a brief lecture on the history and culture of Ilocanos but not after making a clear caveat that everything that I was to say in the workshop was my own insights as a fan who happens to have some knowledge of Ilocano culture and history, and not of the Tan-ok management. I also said that they are not obliged to heed my humble recommendations.

At the onset, I stressed to the participants that artists like them are powerful personas. They, in fact, could even be more influential than politicians, for they shape their people’s consciousness, help them define their identity, and empower them to preserve their heritage while embracing evolution and change. Any artist who sees his value only by the trophies he has won is underestimating, even insulting, himself.

In the course of making the presentation entertaining and winnable, overeager choreographers either in the guise of claiming artistic license or sheer arrogance and plain ignorance, twist and alter the story to the extent that it is rendered unrecognizable by the people who supposedly own it.

Most notorious, of course, in fictionalizing stories is Laoag City’s Pamulinawen Festival. Ironically, it has, over the past four years, brought home 3 championship trophys, lording over the competition since 2012.  Over the years, Pamulinawen has been portrayed as blacksmith trade (2011), courtship (2012), and songwriting (2013). In the Mini Tan-ok Dance Competition last February, Pamulinawen was interpreted as cockfighting.

In terms of wealth, both in terms of financial and human resources, Laoag, the city I live in and love over and above any place on earth, arguably has the upper hand. I wish that choreographers will finally zero in on a proper story which will properly shape and define the Pamulinawen Festival which still badly pales in comparison, mainly on account of lack of consistency and character, to more established festivals across the nation. Unfortunately, Laoag was the only group which decided not to talk about their storyline during the workshop.

But why has Laoag consistently won? Continue reading “Notes on the 2014 Tan-ok: Spotlight on stories”

I am Makoy

TIME HAS COME, dear karikna, to make Ferdinand Marcos more relevant to our times.  I feel that our people are ready to give the man a second look, to unravel his life with new eyes, to look past the thickly waxed cadaver displayed for nearly two decades now in a Mausoleum in his hometown Batac.

A survey conducted by Pulse Asia earlier this year reveals that Marcos is regarded by our people as one of the most loved Filipinos of all time.  It came as a surprise because the former president and his family are constantly vilified, demonized, even ridiculed in media.  This result is validated by the political comeback of his widow Imelda, and children Bongbong and Imee.

It was not difficult to undo my initial bias against Marcos after realizing that he was beyond doubt the greatest social architect this country has nurtured.  I believe that his vision of “Ang Bagong Lipunan” was sincere, courageous, revolutionary.  He knew just exactly what he wanted for our country and he had a blueprint on how things can get done. From infrastructure to participatory democracy to Cultural Revolution to educational reforms and values reorientation, Marcos did more than his fair share.

True, he was a dictator who suspended some of our freedoms, and it’s ok with me. I can trade in some of my freedoms for food security, for jobs, and for real and lasting progress.  Marcos was brave and brilliant, sinister and cunning. People question his motives.  One thing is sure: he loved us Ilocanos, and he was proud of our people. That is why most of his trusted men were from the North. I love Marcos, and love needs no explanations. Love, in fact, defies reason.  As French philosopher Blaise Pascal puts it, “The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.”  Uncle Gerry, my uncle, was an activist during the martial law era, but he ended up being a Marcos loyalist… and up to this day.

Madame Imelda posits that Marcos became a great Filipino because he was, first and foremost, an Ilocano.  An Ilocano is naturally resilient, resourceful, industrious, brilliant, and God-fearing.  She posits that Marcos became a good Filipino by being a G.I., genuine Ilocano.

I totally agree, and it is in this context that I broached the idea of an “I am Makoy” campaign, to Madame Imelda no less, during a seven-hour brainstorming session held at MMSU last month.  Now that we have established the greatness of The Apo, time has come to develop more Marcoses, in ourselves, especially those in the younger generations.  Marcos must be demystified, reinvented, popularized so we can draw him closer to our children.

Yes, this idea is not exactly original as it was done, too, for Ninoy Aquino in the “I am Ninoy” campaign, but the nobility of the Filipino soul, dear karikna, is no monopoly of anyone.  The seed of greatness is in human nature, and no one can rightfully claim exclusive rights to it in the same manner that Noynoy Aquino could not claim patent to a shining, shimmering, widening forehead, which I also have. Continue reading “I am Makoy”