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Symbols

Clash of cymbals
SYMBOLS sprout forth from the lush loam of tradition, and thus, reflect a down-to-earth richness that nourishes both human and spiritual growth.

But it took more of whim than tradition to dump the tinikling (literally, in the manner of a rail bird, evading traps and trips with grace and aplomb) and proclaim pronto cariñosa as national dance—the shift happened in the 1980s when certain Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) officials took delight at seeing DECS chief Dr. Lourdes Quisumbing go through cariñosa dance steps. What if she had regaled those fawning officials by doing a tap dance or salsa?

Taking the cue from such ease with which a national symbol can be proffered to all and sundry, media proclaimed multi-titled prizefighter Manny Pacquiao as pambansang kamao— national fist. In the traditional jan ken pon game for children, rock blunts scissors; scissors cut paper; and paper wraps rock or a fist, which may also be taken as symbol for a tightwad or miser.

Take the stubborn display of the yellow ribbon rather than the national tricolor standard by the current Malacañang top resident. Yellow can be unflattering as symbol for a moribund state of a wound, oozing yellow pus. Too, there are yellow journalists, yellow labor leaders... the sort that evince cowardice and treachery. And then, there is now a yellow President.

A symbol stirs the mind. It echoes through the heart. Often, it is etched in the ethos. Taken together, the symbols that a nation embraces as its own manifests the animating spirit of the people.

The thatched nipa hut or bahay kubo may have lost its frail, rustic charm to the onslaught of super howlers and Yolandas a-brew in the nation’s eastern seaboard. Ivatan stone huts in the Batanes Islands, wrought from corals and boulders have withstood storm surges and typhoons for centuries. They ought to emerge as epitome of Filipino architecture that endures.

A Bohol lawmaker tried to trot out adobo as national food in lieu of roast pig (lechon). The attempt fell flat. Lechon reigns supreme as pièce de résistance in feasts, oozing with lethal lard. It can be relevant reminder to lawmakers themselves how the pig gives up its life to provide food, even bring to mind how Christ drove out a legion of demons that took refuge in a flock of swine, why, those pigs rushed to the nearest cliff and plunged to death.

Too, fattened pigs, butchered, skewered; turned over and over over live coals to turn up a national symbol ought to stoke a nation’s wrath at how pork barrel monies fatten the bank accounts of a Janet Lim-Napoles and her lawmaker partners in crime. Whatever process pigs go through may be brought upon personae of such propensities.

And lest we forget reality, instant noodles of industrial strength flavors and pocket-friendly price may have become the undisputed national food— on any day, a P10 packet can be thinned with a gallon of hot water to hush the hunger of a family of six.

Schoolchildren have to learn by heart a shop-list of national symbols, say, mango as national fruit that had been edged out by apples and oranges in most fruit stalls. Or anahaw as national leaf and kalabaw as national animal—both are fading away in the nation’s landscape.

Their symbolic significance is similarly on a fade-away, tossed out by collective indifference to whatever meanings a symbol holds for a people and the lives they lead.

We may be losing that which stirs the mind, that which echoes through the heart.

Comments

nikky alegre said…
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