A SOJOURNER’S VIEWS: The birth of a cultural movement in Davao City

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 Aug) – Quietly – after the noise of the 2013 KADAYAWAN Festival had died down – a group of artists and cultural workers gathered at the Ponce Suites at the heart of Davao City on Saturday to dream of a cultural movement that aims at artists helping artists as well as contribute to advancing a cultural renaissance in the city that will benefit the bodies, hearts, minds and souls of the citizenry. As they signed a Statement that contains their Philosophical View, they collectively committed towards collaborative efforts that will lead them towards the fulfillment of a dream.

Readers who consider themselvers artists or cultural workers and are based in Davao City are welcome to join the group.  Send your letter to me c/o [email protected]


During a distinct moment in time when we intuitively sensed that something was a-birthing in this land of our deep affections, we  –  a group of  Davao City’s  loyal daughters and sons – gathered together to  reflect on how we could help to inaugurate its beginnings.

At this encounter of like-minded artists and cultural workers representing various fields of the arts – visual, literary, theatre, film, music, songs, architecture and fashion – we scanned the landscape of our city’s present lifeworld realities.  We inventoried the initiatives undertaken by the governance and corporate systems as well as those by civil society.  We reflexively located ourselves in the city’s cultural and artistic fields and assessed if we have played a significant part in mirroring to the citizenry our peoples’ fears and anxieties, struggles and accomplishments, joys and hopes, through which we can all be united around a shared identity

We agreed that the future is bright for our city and its people; various developments taking place in Mindanao, throughout the country as well as in the ASEAN Region all point to a city and its adjacent areas transforming into a space of abundance and inclusive growth in a time of harmony and sustainable peace. However, we are first to acknowledge that we all need to forge a sense of unity among the citizenry and work together to further advance the agenda of a Davao City that serves as a home where its people are provided for in terms of needs and wants.

If we – artists and cultural workers – are to contribute significantly to the advancement of this agenda, we need to walk our talk; we ought to forge a united standpoint and act on the basis of a common stance.  It is common knowledge that we are perhaps the most difficult sector to organize; but bond together we must. To accomplish this, we agree to take to heart this statement  which expresses our common philosophical view.

We joyfully embrace all the various elements that constitute our identity as the children of this land, extending from the coastal areas of the gulf (originally known as Taglooc Bay) to the D’wata mountain ranges made distinct by the majestic Mt. Apo. In this land are buried the remains of ancestors who were first to arrive here following the great Austronesian migration during the Neolithic period, and whose descendants struggle to keep their ancestral homeland today. We recognize the birth-right of the Ata, Matigsalug, Obo-Manobo, Klata-Giangan, Bagobo-Tagabawa, Tagakaolo, Mandaya, Mansaka, Kulaman Manobo and the Kalagan to these territories. This land also attracted the Islamized tribes – the Tausog, Maguindanao, Maranaos, Iranuns and Sama –  to settle here long before the colonizing Spaniards occupied this part of the archipelago in 1848. Further down the historical line beginning in the late 19th and early 20th  centuries, more migrant settlers – this time the Christians from the Visayas and Luzon – were also seduced by what the southern part of this country can offer them. They, too, came and consequently the land’s demographic map shifted. Truly our identity is one constituted by multi-ethnicities, cultures and faith traditions.

We firmly believe that even as all of us –  dead ancestors and living descendants –  find our roots  in this land, we need to descend and ground ourselves in its memory and possibilities. As earth moves, we ascend together towards the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams. Our ancestors’ connectedness to the soil, waters and forests gave rise to their  narratives, myths, legends and symbols. Like them, our sense of rootedness and groundedness are the hallmarks of our aesthetics as artists.  Led by the visual artists’  mantra which is EARTHNIC – Earth interfacing Art interweaving the Ethnic – our art will manifest the earth’s chants and our ethnicities’ songs. These account for our audacity to claim that we constitute the soul of the citizenry for we can divine our people’s world views, system of beliefs and values, and manifest these through our works of art that in turn can bring enchantment, celebration and healing.

We assert that a cultural movement is necessary to invigorate and enrich the lives of people. While trade and commerce as well as governance and public administration will help improve their standards of living, it is arts and culture that will enhance their dignity and empower their spirit. Corporate and government support for the arts are a must in a civilized society. We, too, will embark on a greater sense of mutuality among ourselves: artists will help other artists lift each other up. The myth that artists thrive in poverty needs to be debunked. At the same time, we need to find ways to help artists and artisans market their cultural products, so that they can actively sustain their creative engagements.

We envision a time when we could duplicate the efforts of emerging alliances in culturally-rich regions in the country, where artists have forged a private sector-led movement that sponsors regular art festivals and promotes artistic consciousness among the mainstream crowd, providing artists with exhibit space and a market for their art works. We long for a time when our fair city – extending towards the rest of Mindanao – could be known as a favourite destination: a place where tourists from near and far flock to enjoy what local culture and traditions could provide in terms of rest and recreation, healthy living and contemplation, packaged with delicious cuisine, unique entertainment and memorable souvenirs. The culture industry that yields local productions that can compete and win awards globally, as well as community-based folk arts and handicrafts, would thrive and contribute to the locality’s Gross National Product (GNP). Meanwhile, the people’s lifeworld is assured its longevity which means that local cultures are safeguarded from extinction.

We seek to expand our ranks to other artists and cultural workers in all fields of creative endeavors and not just the seven artistic fields privileged by our cultural institutions. We look forward to enriched and enriching collaborations with those who share the philosophical view expressed in this Statement even as we reiterate our commitment as artists to help artists beyond mere survival. We will work with the city’s local government unit to craft a Culture Code that can then be legislated and become a law and have an annual allocation to pursue the Code as a mandate,  even as we will assist in the setting up of the City’s Arts Council. We will organize a yearly Arts Festival in conjunction with the Kadayawan that will showcase all that this Manifesto intends to accomplish.  All these we hope to jumpstart as we make ourselves visible in the city in August 2014.

Come share our dream. For as one great civil rights fighter once said: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams!”

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar of Davao City, former head of the Redemptorist Itinerant Mission Team and author of several books, including “To be poor and obscure,” and “Mystic Wanderers in the Land of Perpetual Departures,” writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English [A Sojourner’s Views] and the other in Binisaya [Panaw-Lantaw].)