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In a recent meeting of the National Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific,

and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one topic that dominated the discussion was the seeming apathy
and lack of concern of the government and the public in general about the deteriorating state of the
various places around the country showcasing how the Filipinos live at a given time, their customs, arts
and conveniences. Those present lamented the absence of a comprehensive program in preserving or
restoring those places rich in historical and cultural value handed on to us by our ancestors like the
Banawe Rice Terraces, the cobbled streets and Spanish houses in Vigan and Intramuros, baroque
Churches, the Cagsawa ruins in Bicol and various other socially inherited artifacts. These cultural sites
seem to be bearing the brunt of the onslaughts of modernization such that sooner than later they will be
buried into oblivion, forgotten because they are no longer visible and eventually even unheard of.

Equally becoming irrelevant to the present generation are the other important repositories of
our culture, our folk songs and folk dances. These artifacts of our behavior in the past would have given
us a clear and distinct portrait of the true Filipino. The haunting strains of the kundiman used to float on
the air waves of our radio stations until pop music took over. There was a hotel which featured kundiman
festival, but that had also become passe’.

Folk dance, which could be the finest form and most popular way of depicting our culture, is also
slowly going down the road to extinction. One of the prime supporters of our folk dances is Far Eastern
University. In 1957, FEU organized a folk dance group which was invited to perform in the Brussels world
fair. The group produced a repertoire of folk dances and some songs depicting the customs and practices
of the inhabitants from the Ilocos, Ifugao,Tagalog, Bicol, Visayas and Muslim regions. They aptly dubbed
the show as "Portrait of the Filipino". While the Brussels trip fizzled out, the group was invited to
perform in "Theatre des Nations" in Paris, France in 1959.They set the distinction of being one of
Philippine dance groups to perform in Europe and the first to win in two international competitions – the
Caceres and the Balearic folk dance competitions – held in Spain.

That ushered in a wave of interest in our folk dances with several other groups being organized
performing here and abroad and attaining awards of distinction. The world discovered and took notice of
the Philippines once again. FEU gamely tried to sustain that interest by maintaining the dance group with
Mrs. Josefina Sampedro-Sison, who happens to be my wife, as the dance directress (Now you know why I
am writing this piece). The group once again performed at the "Expo ’70" in Osaka, Japan. After that,
somewhere along the way, the interest in our folk dances waned, typical of the Filipino ningas cogon
mentality. The alumni of the group however took this waning interest as a challenge. They wanted to
preserve and restore not only the interest in, but also the originality of Filipino folk dances as a legacy to
future generations. In 1992, the FEU Alumni Dance Group was organized, with Jess Soriano, now a highly
successful entertaiment impressario, as President. In 1995, the alumni group, composed of other
successful talent promoters, had its first presentation entitled Balik Indak ’95 atbp.

Today, November 22, 2002, at 6 p.m. at the FEU Auditorium in Manila, the Alumni group will
once more attempt to revive that interest in our folk dances in a "Night of Dance" upon invitation of FEU
Chair of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Lourdes R. Montinola. This is part of the 75th Anniversary Celebration
of the University. Among those who are going to perform is who else but my wife Josie, a grandmother
of ten hyper active boys, offsprings of her loving sons and daughters-in-law. Other participants of the
show are the past and present members of the Group and cheer dancers. It will be under the technical
direction of another alumnus, Mr. Robert Tongco.

But I am really writing this piece more because of the raging debate on why Filipinos are
perennial losers and lagging behind our Asian neighbors in almost all facets of life. Have we ever come to
think that this is basically due to our kanya-kanya or crab mentality? A mentality caused by the absence
of a true and clear portrait of a Filipino that will spur us to move forward as one nation? A lack of clear
portrait because we have devalued if not completely discarded our precious culture?

Our Constitution says that "the State shall conserve, promote, and popularize the nation’s
historical and cultural heritage and resources, as well as artistic creations" (Section 15, Article XIV). For a
start we could actualize this mandate by enacting laws or ordinances requiring the airing of our folk
songs and the showing of our folk dances in regular radio and TV programs.

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