pop goes the world: choosing the light

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 28 April 2011, Thursday

Choosing the Light

My first “Pop Goes the World” column came out April 29 last year, and was about David Byrne’s “Here Lies Love” rock opera on the life of Imelda Marcos.

Has it been a year already? Time speeds by at maximum velocity when you’re enjoying yourself, and writing these pieces do count as fun.

I initially envisioned this column as touching upon matters related to cultural studies, and over the past year I’ve opined on a wide range of topics – the serious, such as the BP oil spill and the trifecta disasters in Japan, and the personal, on the multiculturalism of my sister and children and on relationships.

Do they all have to do with culture, though? Yes, because culture is the context in which human activity is embedded. You can’t throw a stick without hitting something to do with culture, which in its broadest sense has been defined as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group,” or, as I’ve read  elsewhere, “the way we do things around here.”

As a social constructionist, it’s interesting to see how different people create their societies based on mutual agreement, notwithstanding the opposition of any vociferous minority that may exist, since the majority prevails – unless we’re talking dictators (a minority of one), and that’s a whole ‘nother thing entirely.

“Far Side” cartoon by Gary Larson here.

We can see the construction of culture within our society happening before our very eyes. An example? Jan-jan’s “macho dancing” on Willie Revillame’s “Willing Willie”. I wrote in a previous column about how I deemed it obscene for a six-year-old to be made to gyrate in that suggestive manner on national television.

After it was published, I got several comments saying, in effect, who was I to judge what was lascivious or not for a young boy to do and where to do it, and that different people have different tastes and just to let each other be. “Live and let live,” they said.

In my not-so-long-ago youth, such a dance would never have made it on TV. Such a dance would never have been taught to young children. Such a dance showing the sexualization of minors would not have been tolerated in the wider society.

Now, however, it is disconcerting to read how a great many people see nothing wrong with Jan-jan’s teary performance, with his parents even suing the sundry people who have taken up the cudgels for their son and others who might be exposed in a similar manner in the future.

Our culture is changing before our very eyes, even as you read these words. For better or for worse?

The good thing is that in this society, we still have a choice. We can choose not to allow our own children to be sexualized prematurely by not teaching them suggestive dances and by not exposing them to such activities. We can choose not to watch “Willing Willie” nor any other show Revillame may be on. We can choose to create a better life for ourselves and our loved ones.

The sad part is that when our culture changes around us, there is no way we or our children won’t be affected somehow, eventually.

But we can try, and rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

Since this is still a free country (more or less, the last time I looked), I will, within my jurisdiction as a parent, pro-actively shield my children as much as I can from what I personally consider negative influences. That means a block on Internet porn sites and no shows featuring Willie Revillame.

I will encourage my children to read more. We started way back when they were toddlers, when I read Dr Seuss aloud to them, which resulted in both my girls being able to master diphthongs in 24 hours. This was followed with childrens’ classics such as “Alice in Wonderland”, and we memorized the hilarious poem “Jabberwocky” as an added bonus. Right now they are into Eoin Colfer and other young adult books – no “Twilight” in our house, thankfully.

The John Tenniel illustration of the Jabberwock.

I will take them to more art exhibits and book launches and other similar events. Last February we saw the paintings and multi-media art of Bea Lapa, Chris Dumlao, and  Rebie Ramoso. We also nearly got Neil Gaiman’s autograph the last time he was here but were turned off by the long lines, something we regretted after.

I will take them regularly to Baguio, where creative self-expression is a part of many residents’ lives. I was up there the week before Holy Week for the 50th UP National Writers Workshop (as a Fellow for English) and was blown away by how vibrant and sincere the art scene there is.

As colorful Tibetan prayer flags flutter above them, 50th UP National Writers Workshop panelists and UP professors Dr Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Dr Gemino Abad, and Dr Jose Dalisay (back to camera) sit awhile at the BenCab museum cafe.

Anthropologist Dr. Padmapani Perez’s Mountain Cloud bookshop at Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Road, is the place “where your soles touch the ground, rumbling in your tummy, dancing where your heart pulses and your breath moves, filling the space between your ears,” as their slogan goes. It’s right beside Hill Station café, and you can move back and forth between the two, settling in the bookshelf-cum-chairs of Mt. Cloud with a coffee or beer from the café.

It’s a small place with a big heart – Mountain Cloud Bookshop in Baguio City. Books are not wrapped in plastic, inviting browsing. The bookshelf/chairs are cozy.

A view of the Mt. Cloud bookshop counter from the loft above.

I participated in a Poetry Slam event there and loved how welcoming and warm the audience and other contestants were. They will be having the third edition of that event in June – do go, and witness something special!

A quiet corner at Hill Station.

VOCAS on Session Road is where you will find food and drink with art and interesting interiors, and where a drumming session might begin – or not. There is no pressure to do, everything simply flows, and one goes with it, flowing in and out as moved by intuition and desire.

Inside VOCAS (Victor Oteyza Community Art Space).

It’s a good way to live, peaceful and meaningful, and I look forward to applying in Manila the lessons learned in Baguio. I choose to fill my life with art and books and love, because I have the right to live my life the way I want to, as long as I do not break the law.

I will create my personal culture while remaining a part of mainstream culture, an individual yet still Filipino to the core.

And as I celebrate my first year on MST’s op-ed page, I invite you to continue along with me on this journey together, as we explore more of Filipino and world culture and society.   ***

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5 Comments on pop goes the world: choosing the light

  1. doc bummer
    28 April 2011 at 4:03 pm (3322 days ago)

    Earlier this morning I read a commentary saying we should give Willie a break and leave him alone. The arguments and points raised were outrageous and I am still furious at how encouraging a child to dance provocatively on national tv could be deemed as good clean fun for a television audience starved for entertainment at the expense of the innocence of youth. The author of the article went so far as saying it was the sophisticated elite who were up in arms mainly because that obscene display was not to their liking and they were dictating their whims and taste on the masses. The author states this lascivious display was not for the opinionated elite. It was for the “masa” audience that Willie caters to and who love him with such fervent passion that in the eyes his ardent supporters any indiscretions no matter how grave are irrelevant because of the joy he doles usually in the form of monetary compensation. Has it come to this that our society is now unable to discern what is right and wrong not for just ourselves but for our children? I am a new father and I am appalled at what society has degenerated into when regarding our children. I thought about writing an angry reply to that author and his views but I realized that it would be counter productive to engage someone in a debate about morality when it is obvious his moral compass is out of whack. I then came to read your article. I too wish to raise my boy in an environment of learning and enlightenment. It is just frustrating that these days so much valuable information is available at the opening of a book or a touch of the keyboard and yet many choose to be entertained by time consuming, mind numbing tv programs that have no educational or socially redeeming value. On such programs the poor are made to share their stories of hardship and languish for purposes of entertainment. The more heart rending the story, the better. The prize, a few thousand pesos. The loss is human dignity. Maybe that is why the prostitution of a child on national tv was not met with unanimous condemnation. Let us all hope and pray our society regains its senses and its ability to judge right from the obvious wrong.

  2. Erika
    28 April 2011 at 8:00 pm (3322 days ago)

    Wazak! \m/ Happy PGTW Anniversary~! :3

  3. Alex
    28 April 2011 at 8:21 pm (3322 days ago)

    Yay diphthongs in 24 hours!! XD
    I hope to vaycay at the awesome Bagiuo places with you and Ik soon! Awesome column mother XD Happy MST Anniversary!!

  4. Bea
    29 April 2011 at 10:26 am (3321 days ago)

    I’m still deflecting hate comments from Willie supporters. And I haven’t even blogged about him. The hate comments are in news sites, to which I just respond with extreme patience and a bit of cold sarcasm (that seem to fly over their heads). You can never argue with people whose conceptual lenses are so narrow, they can no longer filter propriety. Heck, wasn’t it the same reason I resigned? Even those who run the academe have such skewed ethics that I no longer trust the education of future generations. Everything can be bought. Even ethics. In the name of professionalism.

  5. Amer
    29 April 2011 at 11:13 am (3321 days ago)

    Congratulations on your 1 year of PGTW.

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