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Dama Ko, Lahi Ko

By LEN CABILI, The Philippine STAR Published May 05, 2021 5:00 am

Our Filipino culture is our Soft Power.  And the beauty of this is that the ability to harness it lies within each and every one of us.  Culture is inclusive.  Everyone can claim ownership of it, no matter who you are or how much or how little you have, or whether you are in the motherland, or anywhere else in the world. 

One may argue that now may not be the time to be talking about culture, as we continue to battle the pandemic and its impact on our economy and people. 

However, observing our neighboring countries in Southeast Asia who are fully utilizing their way of life as a soft power — Japan, China and South Korea – we may very well conclude that it actually underpins economic recovery and growth.

Culture is the soul of the nation; as we go through hard times, it is even more important to remember and be encouraged by who we are as a people – to dig into the repository of our values, beliefs and attitudes.  To distinguish our fingerprint and what sets us apart from others.

#DamaKoLahiKo is a campaign that seeks to fan into flame the growing appreciation, celebration and practical application of Filipino culture. The aim is to inspire the use of our five senses as we observe Philippine Independence Day this year and in the years to come. 

And maybe, just maybe, we are needing something good, something true, something noble and beautiful to celebrate in the midst of our challenges?

#DamaKoLahiKo is a campaign that seeks to fan into flame the growing appreciation, celebration and practical application of Filipino culture. The aim is to inspire the use of our five senses as we observe Philippine Independence Day this year and in the years to come. 

We launch the effort on May 19, which is the anniversary of the arrival of the first Philippine flag from Hong Kong. The first call to action is for the display of the National Flag at our homes or places of business starting on May 28. 

We then channel our bisperas tradition by initiating conversations and exchanges through various media, culminating the activities on June 12, our Philippine Independence Day. My fellow Filipino Cultural Collective volunteers and I invite you to join us!

Ang Limang Pandama (The Five Senses)

Paningin (Sight)

The visual of a colorful dirty ice cream cart or of the Visayan puso, of the intricacies in the work of Filipino art, the image of our gleaming white sand beaches lined with graceful coconut trees as a port of entry into one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world. 

To engage sight in the celebration of our culture, let us become more aware of what we see around us, wherever we are, that can help us appreciate our being Pinoy.  Pause and take a second look.  Take a photo or two of something that you see around you that helps define who you are as a Filipino.  #KitangkitaKoLahiKo

Pang-Amoy (Smell)

The fragrance of the ylang-ylang wafting into my childhood home in Iligan. The scent of the sea enveloping our 7,101 islands, reminding me of spontaneous family sunset trips for a quick swim at the beach. The aroma of the coffee beans of the Kalinga bringing me back to my adventures in the north. The whiff of copra as its oil is being extracted, like the smell of days spent tagging along with my Mama on weighing day. 

Let olfaction come alive to make connections with your childhood memories, and to create new ones. What are the scents that transport you to your roots? What are the scents around you that you may have forgotten about, but that are truly unique to our islands? In your celebration, make our fragrant endemic flora — the sampaguita or the rosal, perhaps — adorn your table.  #LanghapKoLahiKo

Pandinig (Hearing)

Kay ganda ng ating musika, galing man sa kaluskos ng hangin, sa rondalla o sa tinig ng mga mang-aawit. 

Filipino singers are even spread out all over the world, emphasizing our innate love for music.  Also, how rich we are with the diversity of our dozens of dialects! The harmony of those distinct sounds and intonations! #NabatiKoKaliwatKo

Let us bring back to our everyday conversations traditional words like “salamat,” “po,” “mabuhay,” “ingat,” “paalam,” “kamusta ka” and others like them that elevate our Pinoy-ness.  Realizing that the word “po” conditions us to act in a respectful way.  That saying “Paalam” makes farewells more special, more heartfelt. 

In our celebrations, let us bring in traditional music, current OPM or the kundiman.  Maybe throw in some dancing.  Have the older family members share the stories of their yesterdays.  #PandinigKoLahiKo

Panlasa (Taste)

The wealth of our thousands of islands and our rich cultural influences through the centuries have blessed us with a wide array of flavors and tastes in our cuisine.  We have something for everyone. The north offers bagnet, pinakbet and longganiza, to name a few. The Visayas has the inununan, humba, Pancit Bisaya, among many others. And who can discount Mindanao’s curacha, guinataang bagoong and durian? The list is endless!

Engage your sense of taste and cook your favorite Filipino dish, make a popular dessert from your roots or pull out the secret recipe that your Lola passed on to you.  What about your favorite kakanin? #PanlasaKoLahiKo

Pansalat (Touch)

The touch of the Filipino is shown in the intricacy, meaning and color seen in the arts and textiles of our culture. The surface application — of embroidery and beadwork on the traditional garments — is a testament to the sophisticated skill and artistry of the Filipino artisan. The way the artisan is meticulously attentive to the details of what they create is reflective of our malasakit. 

It is second nature to the Filipino to invest undivided care and attention into what we value, whether it is an artistic creation or a fellow human being.  It is no wonder that we are known as among the most hospitable peoples in the world, and our nurses are held in high esteem across the seas. 

As you think of the Filipino touch, what are some of our traditional wear or local arts and crafts with distinct details and textures that you can incorporate into your cultural celebration? Try the terno or the kimona for size, and don’t forget the barong. 

What is a piece of art that you can encourage children to make with their hands? When you have more than enough for your own celebration table, why not share what you can through the community pantry? #HawakKoLahiKo

On June 12, let us celebrate the day by experiencing Philippine culture through a simple Filipino meal, evoking all the five senses. May it inspire us, make a difference in how we live our lives, and heighten our understanding of and respect for our culture. May this renewed awareness connect us all in a deeper way, and prayerfully make us a better people. Together, to awaken the sleeping giant of our Soft Power.  For each other, for the motherland and for the world.

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Photos by Paco Guerrero