Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 2, Number 19              June 16 - 22,  2002                     Quezon City, Philippines

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Arroyo's Culture of Tourism and Despicable Fetishism

Just like former First Lady Imelda Marcos, President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo has a fetish for things that are “true, good and beautiful.” For the current administration, adherence to globalization is “TRUE,” promoting a culture of tourism is “GOOD,” and violently dispersing those who oppose is "BEAUTIFUL."


How can culture be used for profit? President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo promoted a "culture of tourism" among Filipinos in her keynote speech at the Culture and Arts Conference 2002 on June 13 and 14 at the Pearl Hotel on Taft Avenue in Manila. Arroyo stressed the need for "accommodation" to increase tourism revenues. She called on the people to be proud of the country's rich cultural heritage while at the same time urging them to show the best in the Filipino to the outside world.

The administration's "culture of tourism" policy dovetails with the thrust of globalization. Instead of promoting critical thinking through a culture of resistance and change exemplified by our history of revolts against colonial rule, the Arroyo administration opts to promote global conformity and blind obedience.

In a June 13, 2002 study entitled "Culture: Crisis and Struggle," the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) said that the emphasis being given to "world class art" and the "culture of tourism" occurs within the context of a globalized and liberalized trade environment. The CAP added that the drive of the Arroyo government to enhance the "competitive edge" of Philippine arts in the international market place means that "the artist would have to keep the international audience in mind...The artist would aim therefore for the `universal' in art rather than productively situating art production upon national issues and concerns..."

The CAP stressed that the Arroyo government, with its view of culture and art as gold mines for revenue generation, is "reducing the issue of artistic and cultural production and survival to the issue of international marketability."

Through the years, the powers-that-be allowed the perpetuation of profit greed and dependence on foreign capital. Just like their treatment of basic sectors of society, the country's culture is only used as a sacrificial lamb at the altar of globalization.

Indeed, the Arroyo administration only implements policies and programs on the basis of the omniscient and omnipotent dollar.

Education and culture of tourism

The "culture of tourism" policy is directly related to the Department of Education's (DepEd) controversial curricular reform to be implemented this school year called the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum (BEC). Just like the culture of tourism, the 2002 BEC promotes a pedagogy that subjugates instead of liberates.

The controversial integrated learning area has been euphemistically called MAKABAYAN (nationalist), but it is nothing but a hodge-podge of unrelated subjects geared toward, among others, reducing the number of textbooks and ensuring continued education even at a time of zero economic growth (i.e., which implies less budgetary allocation for education).

Indeed, education can either be an instrument of liberation or subjugation. It can promote either "popular culture" characterized by obedience and conformity or "counter-culture" characterized by resistance and change. Government has clearly chosen the former.

Fascism and fetishism

Instead of directly answering the arguments raised against the recent policy pronouncement on culture, the Arroyo administration resorted to coercion and violence in an attempt to silence opposition. Last June 13, the police violently dispersed some 25 concerned artists and teachers who held a picket in front of the Pearl Hotel along Taft Avenue, Manila to denounce the President's policy of using culture for profit. They were not only pushed out of the premises, the police used their clubs and truncheons to beat those who peaceably assembled. The law enforcers also destroyed placards and streamers and confiscated the sound system. Most protesters were chased and later surrounded near a waiting shed as the police tried to get their names and organizations.

Sympathetic members of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) interceded in their behalf, and after about an hour, the rallyists were allowed to hold a short program in the area where they were initially dispersed. The police also returned the sound system.

Speakers from the Alyansa para sa Kulturang Makabayan (AKMA – Alliance for Nationalist Culture) and the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND) took turns in denouncing the "culture of tourism" policy as well as the violent dispersal that happened.

That the Arroyo administration opted to use brute force to quell social unrest only means that it has not been effective in directly answering opposition to policies and programs. Government officials only mouth slogans and empty rhetoric that serve to cosmeticize the grotesque and deodorize the foul stench.

The sorry state of the nation engenders various forms of mass actions. In this light, the resort to violent dispersals only shows that the administration does not protect the interests of basic sectors. The administration's spin doctors may come up with creative terms to describe and justify such deplorable acts.

Just like former First Lady Imelda Marcos, Macapagal- Arroyo has a fetish for things that are “true, good and beautiful.” For the current administration, adherence to globalization is “TRUE,” promoting a culture of tourism is “GOOD,” and violently dispersing those who oppose is “BEAUTIFUL.” Bulatlat.com

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