Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Taking notice, Firmalo asks Fabicon to mind culture

The report was sketchy, but it was a report worth writing about.

Last week, Ismael Fabicon, Asi poet and Banton’s cultural warrior who divides his time between Chicago where his family lives and Banton where his roots belong, called me with the happy news that Gov. Lolong Firmalo has asked him to be provincial consultant on cultural affairs.

I was delighted and promised to write about it, not only because Fabicon fits the job description perfectly, but also because culture at last has registered in the radar of the provincial government.

This is not to say that the provincial government is not culturally-minded, but I have been around long enough to observe that past provincial administrations have displayed total indifference, if not deliberate ignorance, when it comes to cultural matters. This is a pity because the richness and color of Romblon culture, had we only taken the initiative to polish and highlight them, would have been a strong unifying element that could push faster our development efforts. Cultural unity is always a development imperative.

As I said, the news about Fabicon’s ‘appointment’ as ‘cultural consultant’ was yet unclear, in terms of what his functions will be. Will he, for example, just dispense advice, or will he lead in implementing programs and projects aimed to revive Romblon culture? Will Gov. Firmalo provide him an office with a budget to make plans related to culture?

I would be very interested to know the answers to these questions. Thus, I proposed, without being asked because I support 101 percent this initiative of the governor, to participate in a future meeting precisely to hammer out the mechanisms and processes of Fabicon’s consultancy. I said I could join the meeting on-line, if that could be arranged.

My interest in this development stems from the fact that in Romblon, only the Asi has a non-government body dedicated to propagating, preserving, and promoting our cultural heritage. I refer to the Asi Studies Center for Culture and Arts, or ASCCA, based in Banton.

ASCCA is very culturally active, but unfortunately, its work is confined to Asi. In recent years, the ASCCA has done a lot of research, publication, and coordinative work to highlight the Asi cultural tradition in the arts and literature.

And Fabicon has played a major role in the ASCCA’s prominence. Using his own time and personal resources, he had nurtured the Unang Usbor, a musical group, and shepherded the conduct of an annual writing workshop on the three Romblomanon languages, a project sponsored by the Romblomanon online network, Sanrokan.

In Romblon, I would suppose that the mere mention of culture will always spark lively discussion and debate. Given the vast differences—political viewpoint, level of economic development, religious orientation, and educational achievement—between the Romblon ‘tribes’, the Asi, Unhan, and Ini, there is bound to be loud disagreement in the proper ‘treatment’ of culture in our lives as Romblomanons.

This is what, I am afraid, awaits Fabicon as Firmalo’s cultural guru. He will be in an official position to recommend cultural policy, but at the same time, he will have his hands full in refereeing expected debates on, say, how the provincial government should proceed in moving culture from the bottom of provincial priorities to a prominent place in Firmalo’s development agenda.

But that is of little moment as of now. What is of big—and surprising—consequence is the fact that Firmalo had taken notice of the importance of culture in his governance agenda. That he has recognized the need, perhaps, for a vibrant ‘cultural’ Romblon is a necessary first step. Let us join him in a journey that will finally transform us to a culturally united Romblon.