FREEDOM means not eluding but embracing the connections to one’s roots and identity. A critical consciousness is needed, though, to detect and sieve the myths from the truth obscured by constructions and representations.
Freedom from ignorance and apathy underscores the Photo Static Display exhibit being held by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at the Ayala Center Cebu. “Kagawasan 2019” opened last June 8 and runs for five days. The exhibit will culminate with the June 12 performance of the AFP-organized theater play about the battlefield victories of the Cuatro Aliños, the brother-heroes of Talisay in 1898.
In Cebuano, “kagawasan” means freedom.
As reported by SunStar Cebu’s Jerra Mae Librea last June 8, Kagawasan 2019, timed for the 121st Independence Day to be celebrated on June 12, focuses on the sacrifices made by local heroes, particularly the Cebuano Katipuneros who are not acknowledged in many history books and are thus not known to present generations.
Third Civil Relations Group Commander Maj. Christian Uy said that, in organizing the exhibit, the AFP aims to educate the public about the “unsung heroes” who fought the protracted struggle to gain independence from foreign colonizers.
The insights of two exhibit viewers interviewed by SunStar Cebu underscore the need for more information, education, and communication (IEC) programs that can fill the void in the public’s grasp and appreciation of local history. Alex Fernandez, 62, said he appreciated knowing the heroes he cursorily encountered as the names behind avenues and streets, such as Gen. Arcadio Maxilom and Lt. Gen. Pantaleon Villegas or Leon Kilat.
Jaezyl Felicio, 30, was another rapt viewer of the exhibit, who told SunStar Cebu that local heroes were not also discussed in school. Despite the gaps left by formal education in their grasp of local history, Fernandez and Felicio exhibit the openness and interest to learn and absorb heritage, which local programs such as the Kagawasan Exhibit and the Gabii sa Kabilin (Night of Heritage) event seek to stimulate in developing pride of place and connectedness to heritage and identity.
Recently conducted on its 13th consecutive year, the Gabii sa Kabilin is initiated by private and public stakeholders in Cebu to give the public a night of unlimited access to museums, monuments, institutions and other centers preserving history and heritage.
One good practice learned from the conduct of the Gabii sa Kabilin is the processing of insights and learning that deepens cultural consciousness. A period shapes the struggles for independence, particularly as these are brought into contact with an intersection of influences, such as place, class, race, gender, and other social and economic conditions.
For instance, the juxtaposition of the struggles for independence waged by the Katipuneros and the present AFP should be scrutinized for their deeper significance and implications. What do we associate today with our beliefs of self-government, sovereignty, autonomy, non-alignment, freedom, liberty, and the sustainability of not just the human world but the entire living planet?
Armed struggle is just one way of defending freedom. The complexities of interdependence and sustainability demand commitment to dialogue, sensitivity to diversity and multiplicity, respect for differences and dissent and dexterity in steering a path through conflict to resolution and co-existence.
Thus, in the double-edged age of information explosion and “alternative truth,” stakeholders must use the portals of media to engage and disseminate the correct facts and needed context that promotes informed and critical discussions, especially of the past, with its bearings on the present and the future, but vulnerable to malicious reinterpretation and manipulation to serve interests and agenda that do not prioritize the common good.