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Culture, art education for peace-building in Basilan


The image of Basilan worldwide has been ugly ever since the notorious Abu Sayyafs tainted this once-peaceful place. Dark stories of killings, kidnappings, war, and militarization, including religious and tribal and family conflicts continue to haunt the young generations today. And perhaps these would continue to haunt the next generations to come until something is done to save these generations from being consumed by the ideas of the ugly, the bizarre, the wicked, and hopelessness.

The diminishing appreciation of what is beautiful, of the values of aesthetics, may forever be lost. Most elders of Basilan communities would agree that young people have become ignorant of their own culture. A diminishing appreciation of the arts and culture among the youth are also evident.
Ironically, Basilan is blessed with talented and artistic people, with a diverse culture that displays a unique expression of the beauty of life and its people—as manifested in the world-renowned tapestry of the Yakans, the colorful woven mats of the Sama-Bajaos, and a variety of artistic expressions from the Chavacanos, Bisayans, Tagalogs, and the Tausugs, among others.

In spite of the rich cultural and artistic talents, many local artists struggle to survive because of fewer opportunities for artistic expression and professional growth, specifically, the much-needed local support in patronizing local artists and their works. Thus, many artists would leave to venture for better opportunities outside Basilan. The volatile peace and order situation also shy away many artists and suppresses artistic expressions.
Moreover, many cultural educators in schools are embracing more the concept of modernism in culture and the arts, forgetting the indigenous. Worst is that many who were asked to handle cultural work and arts education in schools do not have a good foundation of the discipline.

The arts maybe the less-favored career for many parents for their children, but the arts can never be taken away from any civilization, even when religion forbids, the arts will always thrive.

The cultural and artistic scene in Isabela City and the province of Basilan has been dull and neglected. Many, who call themselves artists, though perhaps left with no choice, continue to make a mockery and bastardization of what are culture and the arts.
The Nagdilaab Foundation Inc. (NFI) and the Claret Colleege of Isabela (CCI) hosted the first Basilan Arts Conference 2012 for cultural education and peace-building last February 23-25.

The conference, with the theme “Taguima heritage, arts and peace”, has gathered some eighty (80) selected cultural educators teaching the arts and various artists from the different municipalities and cities of the province to look into the state of the culture and arts in Basilan and how each could enrich creativity and the aesthetics values of young Basileños towards building peaceful communities.
The project is supported by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the city government of Isabela, the provincial government of Basilan, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao regional government, the Department of Education (DepEd) – Isabela City School Division, and the Philippine Information Agency in Basilan.

Inputs and workshops highlighted the conference with lectures from cultural affairs officers Prof. Sunnie Noel of the Mindanao State University in Marawi City and Maechille Buhisan-Quiñones of the Southern Christian College. Other lecturers include Earl Pasilan, Victoria Siason, and the internationally renowned visual artist Rameer Tawasil.
At the conference many realizations and discoveries were felt in terms of the richness and diversity of culture and arts in Basilan. The teachers, most especially, were grateful for the opportunity to rediscover Basilan culture.
The 1st Basilan Arts Conference was felt to be successful, but true measure of success may perhaps too early to say. Three to five years from now perhaps the culture and arts scene in Basilan will be vibrant.

As long as educators possess the needed knowledge and skill to inculcate in the minds of the youth on arts appreciation, patronage, its role in peace-building—the journey towards building peaceful communities is promising.
By the end of the conference, the participants decided to organize themselves and established a network called Kwintangan BACuD (Basilan Arts and Culture for Development), an association of cultural educators and artists in Basilan for cooperation and collaboration in artistic endeavors and achievement.

In time for the observance of the National Arts Month of February with the theme “Tradisyon at Inobasyon” (Tradition and Innovation), the conference ended with high hopes among cultural educators and artists that opportunities and initiatives will be provided to encourage communities establish alternative to conflict and war through engaging young people and the community in various artistic expressions. PIA9 ZBST


by Rene V. Carbayas

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