Valuing Cultural Heritage from Within : Screening of “Sa Rikaw” in Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro

Last May 1, I was asked to show my film “Sa Rikaw” in a youth camp in Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro. After screening the film, I shared a little story to the community composed of the seven Mangyan tribes.

I prepared a presentation on culture and storytelling beforehand but felt unnecessary to share it. The least this people need to hear is me lecturing them about their own culture.

So I started sharing a very personal story. I shared the very reason why I document cultures in the Philippines. I told them they their tribes, languages, cultures and traditions were all valuable because God made each creation unique. The deep reason why I do what I do (traveling and shooting across the Philippines) is because I believe that the story of each tribe and community is valuable. The diversity of humanity is what makes the world beautiful. This diversity is something I feel compelled to tell stories about.

The response of one of the organizers to my story was both affirming and humbling. He said that the tribes in Bongabong were all using their languages and continuing their culture. They value their culture.

As a visual anthropologist and culture conservationist, I always have that deep urge to document what I can conserve. However at times even acting more knowledgeable. I don’t need to tell them their cultural heritage is valuable. They know it and embody it. The best people to express the value of their culture are the culture bearers themselves. The people who behold the tradition. The people who live among the community where the language thrives. The people who are capable to conserve culture because they can pass it to their next generation.

Mindoro has been the most impactful place in my life. Almost 6 years ago, i embarked on a journey of documenting the story of Iraya Mangyan of Magnot. I told them them that they matter to me because I came to know more about myself by being with the Iraya Mangyan in Magnot. Because of that I started loving culture and conservation even more. I learned a good lesson. Conservation should not just be founded in deep emotions of value but must be grounded in reality.

My main role is to document. My main goal is to tell their stories. I may not be in the perfect position to conserve their culture because I am an outsider, but I can still be part of that journey. This is the reason why culture conservation calls for empowerment. Conservation that is driven by the valuing from within.

Watch my film “Sa Rikaw” here:

Published by Kathleen Lei Limayo

Documentary Filmmaker, Documentary Photographer & Visual Anthropologist

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