‘Kulang na kulang táyo sa dangal ng isang mamamayang Pilipino’

Decrying our ignorance of history, National Artists present, in unprecedented move, a pact and platform for culture and the arts—Kartilya ng KKK2022—to Leni

Presenting the Kartilya ng KKK2022 to Vice President Leni Robredo, National Artists (from left) Ryan Cayabyab, Alice Reyes, Virgilio Almario, Ramon Santos, declare their support for Leni's candidacy. National Artist Bencab gives his on a video from Baguio where he is based. (All photos by Alma Miclat)

I was waxing romantic on Valentine’s Day, reminiscing on the vows my husband Mario and I professed to each other on our 40th wedding anniversary at the scenic Sinagtala in my hometown of Orani, Bataan, in May 2011.

How could you not be moved, or even tickled, if your spouse declared in front of your closest and dearest friends and family: “Alma, you are my soulmate. We have made love under a Tipolo tree a thousand years ago…In 1965, UP in Diliman for me was a merry mix-up of souls in thoughts, beliefs, ideas, philosophies, ideologies, and idiosyncracies. The caballero trees lining its avenues bloomed and shed their leaves in the cool months of February. I started looking for you…Suddenly you were there, listening to my lecture under a spreading acacia tree in Diliman. And my sight was nailed on you, as we say in Tagalog. From then on, no weeping willows, sky-rocketing maples, evergreens, chestnuts, apple, or tangerine trees in Beijing, Liuyang, Talian, or Tsingtao could separate us…In this chapel of the Sinagtala, amidst a jungle of a thousand and one trees, I promise to keep on loving you, for another thousand, and tens of thousands of years.”

Alas, Valentine’s Day this year was my first in 50 years without a greeting and a kiss from my beloved hubby when I woke up. He left me for the Great Beyond in April 2021, a year and a month after lockdown was imposed in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the promise of his love “for another thousand, and tens of thousands of years” warms the heart of this romantic septuagenarian.

Happily, my sadness in the morning turned into gladness and hope in the afternoon when I attended a live event after being cooped up at home for the longest time, and after being swabbed at the event’s venue, even though I was fully vaxxed and boosted, SOP now which even National Artists were not exempted from.

At Miriam College, the National Artists flank Vice President Leni Robredo in the gathering of artists, writers and followers.

The event, Pusuan ang Sining at Kultura; State of the HeART, spearheaded by writers, actors, and cultural workers, was held at Miriam College Covered Courts in Katipunan, Quezon City, which turned into a sea of pink. Five living National Artists—Benedicto Cabrera or Bencab (Visual Arts), Alice G. Reyes (Dance), Ramon Santos and Ryan Cayabyab (Music), and Virgilio Almario, also known as Rio Alma (Literature), made public their endorsement of Vice President Leni Robredo for President. It was a momentous show of force akin to other sectoral supports like “Frontliners for Leni,” “Lawyers for Leni,” “Doctors for Leni,” “Seniors for Leni,” “Economists for Leni,” “Artists for Leni,” “LGBTQIA+ for Leni,” and many more.

‘She shows up, she gets things done, she knows what she’s doing’

All five National Artists spoke, four on stage, while Bencab sent his taped video message from Baguio. He enumerated Leni’s virtues of honesty and incorruptibility. He said, “She’s hardworking, she’s intelligent, she’s dignified, she has integrity. She shows up, she gets things done, she knows what she’s doing. She’s lovely and pleasant to look at, and decent, too.” He went on to say: “She’s everything the current president is not. She’s the only hope of our country. Leni Robredo is my president!”

Alice Reyes lamented the state of the country and cited the rising prices of basic commodities. She took a swipe at politicians who only think of themselves, and cited the dearth of political leaders who love their citizens and care for their health, education, and artistic programs.

She said, “Nasa kamay natin ang future ng ating bayan…Let us keep our focus with what happened six years ago when Leni Robredo became VP against all odds. And she served brilliantly, quietly, steadily without any fanfare. And she has reminded us that we can do this. She needs us, we need her.”  She added. “So, tara, mga kababayan, let’s do this. For love of country. As we say in theater, bravo, brava!”

The author with Virgilio Almario and Ryan Cayabyab

Cayabyab waxed musical in his message to the enthusiastic audience: “Si Leni ang presidente ko. Kasi siya lang ang nakikita kong makakakumpas sa direksiyon na makakaangat  sa ating mga Filipino…Hindi pa siya presidente, tapat na siyang magsilbi, ang tono at gawa ay walang pagkukunwari. Matapang, hindi umuurong, pero hindi bully. May galang at compassion sa kahit sinong tao. Naiintindihan niya na mahirap ang daan pero alam naman niya talagang mas radikal ang magmahal kaya pinapakapit niya tayo sa tama…Kay VP Leni, ang Filipino artists ay tanging yaman natin.” He ended by saying: “So if I could see a Leni for president, what a joy that finally our tired and hungry land can expect some truth and hope and respect from the rest of the world.”

‘Matapang, hindi umuurong, pero hindi bully. May galang at compassion sa kahit sinong tao’ – Ryan Cayabyab

Santos related the help he got from Jesse Robredo in pushing for the International Rondalla Festival in the Philippines, and noted that he couldn’t imagine what would happen if Leni did not win in the May 9 polls.

Almario lamented the lack of cultural platforms of previous officials and political parties in the country since 1946. He said that analysis of the rampant corruption and monumental problems boils down to cultural problems.

He added, “Kulang táyo sa pag-ibig sa bayan, bulok ang ating mga social values, hindi natin alám ang ating kasaysayan, at kayâ kulang na kulang táyo sa dangal ng isang mamamayang Pilipino.” (We are wanting in love of country, our social values have fallen into decay, we don’t know our history, which is why we lack a citizen’s pride of the Filipino.)

That was the reason, he noted, why he led cultural workers, writers, artists, historians and educators in founding the Katipunan sa Kultura at Kasaysayan (KKK) 2022, which organized the Valentine’s Day event together with the group Artists for Leni.

KKK2022 laid down 10 objectives patterned after the Kartilya ng Himagsikang 1896. Almario said those objectives became the Kartilya ng KKK2022, a guidebook on how to promote and enrich Philippine culture and arts, especially during these times. It was emailed to the presidential aspirants in the hope that they would include the objectives in their political platforms. But only the office of VP Leni Robredo took on their challenge, he said.

Among the objectives of the Kartilya are to “promote a national and nationalist culture and history based on the spirit of the 1896 Revolution; preserve and promote a liberating, creative, and innovative culture; support research and studies toward a correct interpretation of history; promote the National Language as a national cultural symbol and official language of the government and education while preserving all native languages and improving skills in English and other international languages; defend the universal and impartial application of human rights, especially the freedom of expression and assembly, and the absolute right to criticize and investigate wrongdoing by government leaders and by political and business institutions; and promote cultural and creative industries, and Filipino products, among others.

Kartilya ng KKK2022 is a guidebook on how to promote and enrich Philippine culture and arts, especially during these times

Almario then gave Robredo a copy of the Kartilya. For her part, she committed to push for programs to boost the country’s creative industry and bring more awareness to the Philippines’ arts and culture. She promised to make it a big part of her administration’s agenda if they are given the opportunity to serve.

Robredo gave her hundred percent commitment to the Kartilya, adding that her team would already sit with the group of artists and work on “weaving” the guidelines into her program of governance should she be elected president.

The Vice President thanked the National Artists for their support, saying that even as their contribution to the nation is already more than enough, they’re still willing to contribute even more for the future of our children.

A book of poetry, 100 Pink Poems for Leni, published by San Anselmo Press, was launched at the event, and a copy was given to the Vice President. Poets Krip Yuson, Hugo Yonzon, Jose Dalisay, Mookie Katigbak Lacuesta, Alma Anonas Carpio, Celina Cristobal, Floy Quintos, and Yñigo Almeda read their own poems, while some actors read the poems of other poets like Rio Alma, Gémino H. Abad, Marne Kilates, Frank Rivera, Marvin Aceron, Abdon Balde, Jr., Marra Lanot, Gang Badoy-Capati, Lee Sepe, Emmanuel Velasco, and Justine Camacho- Tajonera.

The author with Jose “Butch” Dalisay and wife June

In his Facebook page, Jose “Butch” Dalisay expressed his surprise and was deeply honored when his Jesse’s Poem not only reached many thousands of people, but also produced six translations in Filipino and then Bikol, Ibanag, Capampangan, Sugbuanon, Aklanon, and Onhan (from the part of Romblon where he came from). The impact of the poem, reprinted below, made Dalisay quip: “My poem aside, this is the kind of near-spontaneous efflorescence we have always wished for in our literature, particularly in the realm of translation, and also particularly for literary work aimed at a broader popular audience.

‘Between the two of us we knew/This was always she/—The one to crush a rock in hand/To set the jewel free – from ‘Jesse’s Poem’ by Jose Dalisay

Jose Dalisay

If this was what I died for,
Let no one grieve.
When wife became widow
She could not believe
That hurtful accident could make
Of loss a boundless gain
And of my bones a pillow
To dream away the pain.

If this was what I died for
Then I live on.
My adjourned crusade
Shall now be won.
Between the two of us we knew
This was always she—
The one to crush a rock in hand
To set the jewel free.

If this was what I died for
Let us rejoice.
The mother of our children
Has found her voice
Singing neither lullabies
Nor dirges for the dead
But battle hymns of love and hope
For the armies to be led.

Jillian Robredo singing Paraiso at the artists’ event at Miriam College

The poetry reading was followed by VP Leni’s youngest daughter Jillian’s video singing Paraiso, written by Ryan Cayabyab and originally sang by Smokey Mountain. The auspicious event which gave me a photo op with VP Leni ended with the inimitable National Artist Ryan Cayabyab’s jamming with The Company, Bituin Escalante, and OJ Mariano. What a beautiful and meaningful Valentine afternoon to remember!

I never imagined that from a Valentine-less morning, I would have VP Leni as my date on this year’s Valentine’s Day.

Author with VP Leni

About author


Alma Cruz Miclat is a freelance writer and retired business executive. She is the author of Soul Searchers and Dreamers: Artists’ Profiles and Soul Searchers and Dreamers, Volume II, and co-author with Mario I. Miclat, Maningning Miclat, and Banaue Miclat of Beyond the Great Wall: A Family Journal, a National Book Awardee for biography/autobiography in 2007.

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