Friday evening, my teenager and I were invited to a birthday party of a foreign exchange student at a family-owned resort in Lagao, this city. The birthday girl Aurore (yes, she is French) is the foster daughter of Vice Mayor Shirlyn Banas-Nograles and hubby.
It was my second party with Vice Mayor Shirlyn. The first party I attended where I met her for the first time was at couple Glenn and Mary Jane Aroso’s birthday party in honour of their eldest son Brian in August, this year.
Last Friday, Vice Mayor Shirlyn and I talked about all and sundry including the recent Tuna Festival which is celebrated yearly for a couple of years now to commemorate the charter anniversary of the city.
She went to school at UP-Visayas in Iloilo for her college education and while she was there, she imbibed the culture of the province. I grew up in Bohol where the classic Boholano culture and heritage is very strong and intertwined into our psyche. Using the culture lens, we observed one thing in common: Both these Visayan Islands with grand and popular festivals to boot are deeply rooted in culture and history. You see, every city, every province has a soul. This soul is defined in the city’s or province’s history, heritage and culture. Anyone who originates from any city or province must know her history, her heritage, her uniqueness. It’s simply called the “soul of the city”.
While at it, we talked about how the Generals especially the younger ones – the children and teenagers who will eventually become grownups – can fully embrace the significance of the Tuna Festival. We were not talking about parades and street dances, nor the buntings and colourful banners; we meant how we can translate the festivity into a sustainable foundation-laying program that people can understand, appreciate, imbibe and embrace and eventually embed into their consciousness as a growing heritage. It is the young people’s birthright. Like peace education, the program never ends. It never stops. It cuts across cultures, religions, genders, ages and politics. It doesn’t start and end with the festival per se. It is cultural and historical, thus it is continuous and digs deep into the roots of the city.
It is a daunting task considering that Gen. Santos City is a melting pot of many cultures. How to start a distinct culture extracted from this myriad of cultures for the benefit of the young generation is the greatest challenge for festival thinkers and culture experts in the city. It should go beyond commerce and trade. It must be rooted in the culture and heritage that we are trying to bequeath on our children and the future generation – their birthright.
Festivals are a celebration of a place’s culture, tradition and heritage. When we celebrate it, everyone, young and old alike must have an idea why we are celebrating. The celebration must be rooted in the soul of the city.
A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people. – Mohandas Gandhi
A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. – Marcus Garvey