A CONFERENCE on “nation and culture” was convened by Sen. Edgardo Angara, National Artist for Literature and UST alumnus Francisco Sionil Jose and gathered artists, cultural leaders, politicians, and thinkers to chart the direction of the nation at the Cultural Center of the Philippines last Dec. 3.

The conference was convened in connection with the 150th birth anniversary of Jose Rizal.

“Have we grown in solidarity as a nation?” asked Angara in his opening address. “Or have we become more divided as a people?”

Supported by the CCP and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the conference featured four panel sessions tackling diverse topics: Jose Buenconsejo, Bai Salam Ibrahim, Tonette Martel, Brillante Mendoza, Charlson, Ong, Ramon Sunico, and Rody de Vera (arts and culture); Jaime Antonio Jr., Lourd de Veyra, Melba P. Maggay, Mario I. Miclat, and Gilbert Teodoro, Jr (culture and society); Jose Wendell Capili, Queen Lee-Chua, Clodualdo del Mundo, Br. Bernard Oca, FSC, Hope Sabanpan Yu (media education and new education technologies); Fr. Jose Arcilla, SJ, Amelia Ylagan, and Joselito Zulueta (culture and state).

Oca, the Vice-Chancellor for Lasallian Mission and Alumni Relations, lamented how media tend to debase moral and cultural values, citing the ABC-5 daily variety show in which entertainer Willie Revillame forced a six-year-old boy to ape the dance moves of a male striptease by offering him money.

Former Varsitarian Literary writer Lourd de Veyra criticized TV producers for turning a petty theft incident into a “Shakespearian tragedy.” He added newscasters see themselves as “social messiahs” and portray their work as “public service.”

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“’Sensationalism’ used to be a bad word, but now it’s just standard accepted practice,” he said.

Ilagan, a columnist of Business World, said corruption is fostered by a patronage system and it must be checked.

Zulueta, arts and culture editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Varsitarian publication adviser, urged a stop to internal conflicts, warning that they have bred a “culture of conflict and violence.”

“No work of cultural enrichment can take off without ending the armed conflicts that plague the nation,” he said. “Because military options have proven problematic and even counter-productive, there should be more compelling reason for the national leadership to pursue the way of peace.”

Capili said computer literacy in schools will improve the educational system.

“Cultural literacy is integral to quality education. To get there, new communication technologies must be employed,” he said.

Miclat, a novelist and the dean of the University of the Philippines Asian Center, said the middle class should be allowed to flourish.

“The middle class thinks, acts, imagines, creates, and replicates for the nation. It is the class that sets standards for the nation,” he said.

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