THRU MY LENS
THE HEART IS WHERE THE TREASURE IS
The resounding success of the first conference on Romblon's mother tongues held recently at the Romblon State University came as a big surprise to the organizers, as a majority of the participants turned out to be young students who were the least expected to spend a day listening to lectures on Romblomanon languages and cultures.
The participants were highly promising! This only showed that Romblon's cultural heritage is well ingrained and secured in the hearts and minds of the younger generation. In the climate of technological advancement and virtual reality, a person, especially a young one, could easily become an iconoclast as modernization continually takes control over a majority of today's young "blood". They could be easily detached from their true identify and turned as scoffers of traditions as they are constantly exposed to modernity.
Their interest in the preservation of our traditions is a welcome note and worth the efforts of the proponents. Some of the participants were also language teachers who tugged along their students and who opted to spend their weekend away from the comfort of their homes. Their gestures were equally inspiring, their presence a good indication that many of them still put high premium over the preservation of our culture and languages in the presence of hegemonic influences of the so-called more "prestigious" ones.
Although most of those who did the groundwork during the long and tedious preparation for the seminar belong to the "connected generation", (if I were to borrow from the digital lingo) only few were (and still are) actually engaged in language and cultural studies in Romblon.
Those who are in the frontline include professors of RSU like Dr. Sherwin Perlas, whose doctoral dissertation focused on Oral Traditions of Romblon; John F. Rufon who is on the final stage of his thesis writing on Mode of Address and Terms of Politeness in the Asi Language; Dr. Borromeo B. Motin, whose interest is on ethnographic study of Romblon's indigenous communities.
The rest of the members' interest in this great "cultural awakening" could have been triggered either by professional or aesthetic advancement (or both). Either way, the ambitious, yet noble, attempt of bridging the gap between "self-preservation" and "modernization" deserves a big handshake, if not adulation. Truly, one big accomplishment deserves another.
On the part of the academe, the RSU administration, the Supreme Student Council and the The Harrow gave their shares by providing the logistics and financial assistance.
My contribution to this self-fulfilling endeavor was largely on the visual arts. I provided the core group with creative support and did the documentation.
Most of the spadework, however, was carried out by few individuals who could be considered the "brains" of Romblon's cultural "revolution", and whose ardent longings in bringing our language and culture into yet a higher plane had become a life-long advocacy. These are the people who take the risk of swimming against the current head on.
Of course, others may be cynical like those iconoclasts who delight in seeing things not happening and who just allow the rushing tide carry away Romblon's cultural identity to only-god-knows where. There are many of them both in the academe and in politics.
In June 2011, I attended a seminar on similar themes organized by the office of the governor through the initiative of Gov. Lolong Firmalo. It was in that seminar I met Ish Fabicon and the members of 1622: Unang Usbor Band for the first time. The governor's unparalleled advocacy for the enrichment of our culture remains unabated; and it is our honor to embark into the same journey and carry out his vision. We take this as once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of this noble cause.
The preservation of our language and culture can be done in different forms. Nicon Fameronag's collection of Asi songs, for instance, is a rich source of inspirational messages that speak of our simple way of life. Some of these tunes metaphorically speak of peoples' euphoric transcendence; some of laments over life's misfortunes, but they are the embodiment of our culture in the past, at present and in the future.
Ish Fabicon's collection of artifacts is silent witness to our historical roots. While others will not hesitate to stash away even the most sacred finds and will, under whisper, look for the highest bidder in the next breath, here is a man who provided a home for Romblon's treasures for everyone to see. Under no circumstances will Ish take a fortune for the precious things entrusted upon him.
And then there was this group of young men headed by Mark Famini, Vanz Russell I. Fontamillas, and Ian Fopalan. Under the commission of SEKAR'S founder, John F. Rufon, the trio braved the sea of Banton to learn from the oldest living dancer of "ando-ando". As of this writing, the group might be on their way home to once again lend new grace to what could be the most primitive form of art in Romblon.
The members who comprise SEKAR (Sentro Et Kultura Ag Rilang Romblomanon), KUSOG SIBALENHON, INC. (KSI), RDL-CLEAR, and the Asi Studies Center for Culture and the Arts (ASCCA), 1622: Unang Usbor Band might be facing the most formidable challenge of all. These are new breed of young men and women of different religious and political orientations, but who are all resolved in accomplishing a definite goal—that of preserving Romblon's rich cultural heritage and traditions keeping them alive in the hearts of young and old alike. While others say, "Our heart is where the purse is"; we say, "Our heart is where the treasure is". NUN PUSSUM!