Roots

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By May Anne Cacdac

The Iron Maiden

Thursday, June 5, 2014


FRESH from winning in the Philippine Press Institute Civic Journalism Awards for best in culture, arts and history reporting, I will be jolted back to reality by a major error borne not out of a proofreading error but simply of ignorance. Clear and utter ignorance.

In the May 12 edition of SunStar Baguio, our headline read: NCCA scores blunders in cultural performances. Below it was a picture of a man in a native costume and captioned as such: “IFUGAO SERENADE. An ifugao bachelor with high skills in playing the nose or mouth flute can easily woo unmarried women in their community, explained an Ifugao elder. It was a must for every Ifugao man to hand down his skills in making and playing these ethnic musical instruments to their children and grandchildren.”

The native costume, the headdress and even the hut behind him, all Kalinga. Not Ifugao as we said in the caption.

That hit me hard when Uncle Ramon Dacawi gave me the message through our new reporter Van.

My father explored much of the Cordilleras. He loved conducting his journalism seminars in the heartlands of this region. I have had many encounters with many of his “students” from these lectures. It made me think my father was deeply rooted here.

While my mistake was an honest one and not meant to offend our Cordilleran brothers, as mentioned, it is borne of ignorance. Yes, up until that day I got my message from Uncle Ramon, I was completely content with my ignorance.

Then I got the phone call from PPI executive director Ariel Sebellino informing me of a seminar on culture, arts and history reporting which SunStar Baguio will spearhead being the winner in the daily category in the awards. We will tag the seminar, “The SunStar experience,” Ariel said.

And so you could just imagine my embarrassment, even shame, I guess, after hearing those words from him.

But I had to face the music. And I invited Uncle Ramon to be the speaker.

Uncle Ramon’s lecture was on environmental, cultural and historical perspective and sensitivity in media reportage.

In his lecture he pointed out the “racist, ethnic slur or simple ignorance and insensitivity in mislabeling of costumes, news captions and stories.”

We went on to learn more from Uncle Ramon’s two-hour lecture.
It was clear to me, how Uncle Mon values his roots.

When it was my turn to share, I started by relating that a few days before April 27, Uncle Ramon texted me asking if I could be the one to read the nuggets of history as part of Liberation Day celebration here in the city.

I obliged.

The last line I read recounted how the late Col. Francisco Paraan, after surviving the Death March, reached Naguilian Road. He knelt to the ground, kissed it and said, “We are home.”

“Yes, people of Baguio. We are home,” I ended.

I felt like such a farce at that moment. I love Baguio but at that moment, I felt “unrooted”.

If it’s because my father is no longer here or if it’s because my mom and ate Cherry are in the US, I don’t know.

I found this book for the Commander long before the award and the seminar. It’s a compilation of letters and drawings from the frontlines of WWII of a US Army vet to his parents. He wrote them almost every day.

I said in the note tucked in the book, “Joseph Farris seems fairly rooted. His drawings of his neighborhood give the impression he is right there at that moment rather than in France or in Poland fighting a war he did not choose, surrounded by death.”

It’s been said, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

I don’t want to be doomed. So I have to start somewhere, this process of learning about the past, my past, our past. About nature. And culture.
I do so knowing ignorance is not bliss after all.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 06, 2014.

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