"There is an unlikely union between soldiers and the arts."
There has been an unexpected union between the Philippine Navy and the Tagapagtaguyod ng Sining at Kultura ng Pilipinas (TSKP). The Philippine Navy is the naval branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The AFP is responsible for upholding the sovereignty of our Republic, supporting the Constitution and defending Philippine territory against all enemies foreign and domestic. TSKP on the other hand, is a nongovernmental and nonpolitical organization which was organized to develop and promote Philippine arts and culture, and to use arts and culture as a means to educate Filipinos on Philippine history, traditions, and foster distinct values including nationhood and patriotism.
The Philippine Navy, as a protector of the nation and TSKP as an advocate of culture and arts, both aim to strengthen the fabric of Philippine society. Cynics will find a disconnect in their partnership, questioning the Navy’s relevance with regard to arts and culture. This is how we see it – the Philippine Navy protects the nation and preserves our society. This society must embrace arts and culture because it is that which creates a civilized society, lays history and traditions, and gives a nation its identity.
To some, arts and culture is only for the privileged and those who can afford to appreciate it. It is only them who may own a part of it or enjoy the pleasures of a cultured life. I asked my son who is in high school about how he sees culture and arts. He said that “it is nonessential; arts are just drawings or paintings unless you have a personal interest in it.” He further expounded that “culture is discussed in Araling Panlipunan where we study indigenous communities and their cultures, and Philippine traditions and practices like fiestas, serenading or harana, bayanihan, among others.”
However, culture and arts is more than tradition and practices -- it is an expression of the ideas, events and perspectives of a people in a period in history. This is why in times of war and occupation, the annexing powers take control not only of the government and military force but also of the way of life. The Spanish for more than three hundred years introduced their way of life, religion and culture to “Las Islas de Filipinas.” When Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States in 1898 through the Treaty of Paris, they, in turn, used education and religion as tools to influence the way we live.
Old civilizations like the Roman Empire were not spared from pillagers. This is known as the sack of Rome, “when the fate of the Roman culture would depend on the barbarians’ readiness to preserve or transmit it” (History of the World, John Whitney Hall, pp 139 and 141). Centuries later, in the worldwide expansion of Europe, the natives of South America were killed by the thousands during the early stages of the European conquest. The English colonists who settled in North America originated the notion that the only good Indian was a dead Indian (History of the World, John Whitney Hall, pp 414-415).
There was also the Anschluss, the German annexation of Austria on 12 March 1938 unopposed by the Austrians because of intense Nazi propaganda. In November 1938, on a day aptly called Kristallnacht (“Night of the Broken Glass”), most of the synagogues in Vienna were destroyed and burned in full view of the fire departments and the public. Jewish businesses were vandalized and ransacked, and thousands of Jews were arrested and deported to concentration camps(https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/austria).
During World War II, the Director of the French Muśees Nationaux, Jacques Jaujard, anticipated the fall of France and decided to organize the evacuation of the Louvre art collections into the countryside. By the time the Germans arrived in Paris on 16 August 1940 the museum was almost empty. For instance, the Mona Lisa was moved from Chambord to several castles and abbeys, to finish at the end of the war at the Muśee Ingres in Montauban (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evacuation_of_the_Louvre_museum_art_collection_during_World_War_II). The art collections in the Louvre, which carried items from various cultures in the world were saved for the next generations to behold.
In recent memory is the looting of the Baghdad Museum in Iraq in 2003 during the armed conflict of Iraq with the United States. It also resulted in damage to the ancient city of Babylon (in present day Iraq). The incessant civil unrest in Syria has exposed its heritage sites to massive, inadvertent, and deliberate destruction(https://www.brandeis.edu/ethics/peacebuildingarts/pdfs/library-authors/2015_10_KristinParker_HeritageandReconciliation_Final.pdf). Because of these shifts in power and voyages of conquest, cultures were destroyed alongside their peoples. These may be realities of war and armed conflict but arts, culture, monuments, and heritage sites will have to be saved to preserve both the culture and history of civilizations
In our country, culture has been defined as a manifestation of the freedom of belief and is a human right (Section 2). It reflects and shapes the values, beliefs and aspirations defining our national identity (Section 3). The culture of the people shall be independent, equitable, dynamic, progressive and humanistic (Section 4). The culture by the people shall be allowed to evolve and develop in a climate of freedom and responsibility (Section 5). The culture for the people in the form of artistic and cultural products shall be promoted and disseminated to the greatest number of people (Section 6, Republic Act 7356).
The Philippine Constitution ordains the State to give priority to education, science, arts, culture, and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation and development (Article II, Section 17, 1987 Constitution). Understanding the real essence of arts and culture became the catalyst that led to the unique partnership between the Philippine Navy and the TSKP.
For this year, the centerpiece of the 2nd Arts Summit on October 16-18, 2020 is the opening of the rehabilitated and restored Fort San Felipe or La Fortaleza de San Felipe in Cavite which was constructed in 1609. It is the area where the first historic fort town Cavite Puerto and the Cavite Arsenal were located. Fort San Felipe will be relaunched as the Philippine Navy Museum, the pride of the Philippine Navy where the naval memorabilia and paraphernalia from its long history will be exhibited. There will be virtual art exhibits entitled “TSKP Likha 2020,” webinars, and virtual cultural presentations.
Only with collaborations of this nature will we bring awareness and educate the Filipino people on the significance of culture and arts to preserve our national identity. It is also a means to reinforce interest in culture and arts which for decades have taken the back seat. We have to pass down to the next generation of Filipinos our arts, culture, tradition and heritage to be assured that we do not lose our identity as a people.
The 2nd Philippine Arts Summit of TSKP in partnership with the Philippine Navy was made possible by the invaluable leadership of Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, Chief of the Philippine Navy and TSKP’s Founding Trustee Dr. Floredeliza Villaseñor who curated the revitalized Philippine Navy Museum. This article will be part of the message to be delivered by this author as Chairman of TSKP.