BEYOND THE FOUR WALLS: The Elf Band and a lesson on pride of identity

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/28 August) — I have been apprehensive about the decision to subscribe to P99 a month connection to cable television so that our home’s 3-year old son can watch what his cousins enjoy on TV.

This is specially so when the limited selection of cartoon channels includes the violent animated channel. Luckily, one option is a tamed channel for toddlers known to be promoting values. I soon realized that most of the series shown in this channel are dished out by American and British producers.

I came unprepared, however, to deal with an insight on pride of own identity, respect for diversity and uniqueness, straight from one of my son’s favorite cartoon series.

So on one of those nights when I would have wanted to watch Rio Olympics updates or an episode of ”Ang Probinsiyano” I was instead glued to “Paw Patrol” and then later to “Ben and Holly: The Little Kingdom.”

Holly, a fairy princess, daughter of King Thistle, was frantic like her mother on the prospect of a visit of King and Queen Marigold of the nearby kingdom. The host king tried to dissuade the other royals but instead had to deal with the Marigolds visiting them instead. King Marigold said they wanted to hear authentic music of the elves, who are part of King Thistle’s domain.

So he summoned the Elf Band, whose members were surprised at the request to play during the royal visit. When the band played, King Thistle knew the answer. They have never practiced because the King described their last performance horrible and commanded them never to play music again.

The elves’ music has an “um-pa, um-pa” percussion that the king finds a bit undesirable.

But the royal visit was inevitable and the kingdom only has the Elf Band to perform. So King Thistle used magic to “improve” the elves’ music.

On the day of the visit, the royals from other land immediately requested for the community’s music. So the Elf Band played “music” under the spell of their king’s magic.

But the Marigolds never liked it and instead demanded to hear the elves’ umpa umpa touch.

This made Princess Holly happy because in reality this was the music of their kingdom and King Thistle sad because he was embarrassed by his attempt to pattern the elves’ music after the Marigolds’ so the latter will like it.

My little boy was laughing at the animated face of the embarrassed king, who was forced to dance with King and Queen Marigold to the original um-pa um-pa music of the elves.

This episode is a relief for someone who looked for kiddy shows depicting Asian; if not Filipino values on television that toddlers like mine at home would like to watch.

At least the value transcends cultural boundaries.

Humane values, whether Asian, American or European, are the same. I thought the scene taught Holly and the children of Little Kingdom to be proud of who they are.

Of course, we would be happier to see characters on children’s television playing roles of people with history and culture more familiar to them.

For example, for my son whose mother is from the Bukidnon tribe, I would love to make him watch cartoon stories depicting the village’s favorite nanangen or oral folk stories.

Many years ago, we dreamt of children’s books from the tribes living in Mt. Kitanglad. I remember the energy of the Talaandig’s Waway Saway when he shared his discovery in South Korea of thousands of children’s books published from the tribes.

I hope we could relive and make that dream come true. Maybe we can publish booklets of the children’s stories. Then we can produce radio drama shows and eventually television shows.

Maybe, someday, our shows will be the ones that they will show on Nickelodeon or Disney Jr.

As an old friend would say, dream – and your dreams will fall short.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Walter I. Balane teaches journalism and economics at the Bukidnon State University and manages the university’s radio station.)