Evidence of Culturalism in the Philippine Genre using the film
“Ang Larawan (2017)”
Production of Philippine films started in the year 1919 after entrepreneurs from Switzerland introduced several European films in the city of Manila. When the Spaniards came to the Philippines in the 1930s and 1940s, film producers created dramas, sarswelas, and komedya based on religion and other themes or concepts brought by the Spaniards. When the Japanese started to colonize the Philippines, they influenced the Philippine Film Industry by showcasing their films. After the colonization of the Japanese, films which narrates the struggles of Filipinos on their hands started to outpour in the film industry. Some of the movies that were released and were adopted from the Japanese war were Garrison 13 (1946), Dugo ng Bayan (1946), and Guerilyera (1946). Lastly, when the Martial Law was put into action, the Philippine Film Industry totally changed its nature. It was more of an ideological approach when the producers manipulate their own film for the audience. The government ensured that censorships will be applied before screening the films, spearheaded by the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures (BCMP). The Philippine Film Industry during the Marial Law faced a very manipulative act to screen and produce films. It created the ideology to the audience to favor the New Society that has been established by the government.
For the year 1910s until 1980s, the genre of Philippine film depends on the current events in the country. For that era, most of the films have focused on foreign influences, religion, war, and politics because those are the significant events that have transpired in the Philippines. Though time, the foreign influences have been integrated to the Philippine culture. This paper, Evidence of Culturalism in the Philippine Genre using the film “Ang Larawan (2017)”, will aim to figure out how evident is culturalism in the Philippine Genre in the said film. This will explain how the film was created using culturalism through the choice of place, character, conflicts and issues. To weigh how evident culturalism is in the Philippine genre, evidences in the film will be enumerated by how the characters live, act, and communicate. Lastly, this will conclude why culturalism is still being part in the Philippine genre.
Culturalism, according to Hoggart, Williams, and Thompson, is a methodology that states the importance of culture to sociological and historical understanding1. Even before, in history, culturalism is already present in the genres of the Philippine films. We know, and we understand, that we have acquired religion and its practices from the Spaniards and that is Christianity. Religion is part of culture, it is part of how we live today and even before. Therefore, it is important that we know how to integrate and contextualize this part of culture in order to understand the history of the Philippines in obtaining Christianity from the Spaniards. As stated on the first paragraph, films in the in the 1930s and 1940s have integrated religion as part of the story. Other examples have also applied in the Japanese and Martial Law period wherein culture is being integrated to films in order to understand history of the Philippines as well as the sociological development, structure, and function of Filipinos. Sociological understanding through Philippine culture is being integrated in the films being screened in Martial Law period wherein it describes the development of Filipino citizens in the eyes of the government. It describes that Philippine culture, in Martial Law period, is that people live and behave according to what the military dictates. Having Philippine culture in the genre of Philippine films back then have been crucial for its citizens to understand what critical events have transpired in the history and how people behave in the society.
The film, “Ang Larawan (2007)” is based from “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino” and it was restored from the 1965 film through L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratories in Bologna, Italy. The producers were willing to allocate time, budget, and effort to restore the film in order to give importance to our national heritage and culture through the presence of Filipino films and to be able to convey an important
1John Storey, “Culturalism.” Cultural Theory and Popular Culture an Introduction, 5th Edition. England: University of Sunderland, 2009)
message to the Filipino citizens. “Ang Larawan” is a Filipino musical film by Nicomedes Joaquin y Marquez or simply known as Nick Joaquin, a Filipino national artist who is known to have written numerous literary works regarding Philippine culture with a really deep message to be revealed in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. Nick Joaquin’s works makes the unconscious conscious to his readers and audience through the hidden messages that he portrays in his literary works, which allows them to gain insight. “Ang Larawan” is about the struggle of two sisters, Candida and Paula Marasigan regarding the known piece of artwork made by their father, Don Lorenzo Marasigan. The film was introduced to happen before World War II in the city of Intramuros where the house of the two sisters was located. The author chose Intramuros as the setting and he also chose the house to be similar than that of traditional Philippine houses to integrate the idea of Philippine culture. It shows the struggle of the two sisters living with their father, who does not go out of the room, and his notable painting that is being valued a lot by the neighborhood. Candida and Paula were greatly suffering from their financial needs and it showed the different pressures that they are receiving that they should sell the painting and their house in order to recover from their suffering. It showed how they and their values have remained strong enough to let the external pressures pass and uphold what they have until the end.
In Frederik Stjernfelt’s definition of culturalism, he said that culturalism “assumes that culture determines the individual through and through; that cultures are endlessly diverse but internally homogeneous; that culture shapes the world view of the individual so he is unable to understand other cultures; that it makes universal human rights impossible; and that culture in this sense forms the basis for the common life of different people2…” In the film “Ang Larawan”, the house of the Marasigans represents Philipine culture and the obra represents
the barriers to Philippine culture. The reason why Don Lorenzo painted his obra, ‘Retrato del Artista como Filipino’ and locked himself in his room was because of Candida and Paula’s confrontation to him. In their confrontation, Paula blamed their father for the hardships that they face. Candida said “Saying lang ang
2Frederik Stjernfelt, “What is Culturalism? The Anatomy of a Contemporary Disease in Academia and Politics”. ResearchGate, (accessed July 12, 2018).
galling niya!” and Paula added “Bat ‘di siya gumaya kay Don Perico?” lastly, Candida finishing her statement with “Sana’y nakapag-asawa kami nang mahusay at gumaan ang takbo ng aming buhay.” This confrontation made Don Perico realize that his two daughters are starting to constitute the idea of running away from the Philippine culture like everybody else. Candida and Paula were his remaining children whom the civilization and foreign influences did not cause them to change, unlike their siblings, Pepang and Manolo. He wanted Candida and Paula to remain the same, to still embed their values and appreciation for the Philippine culture that is why he decided that he would not go out unless his two daughters figure out their way back to Philippine culture, their world, way of living, and way of thinking. In the film, the two daughters were able to do that by finally destroying their pressure, the painting that was created by their father. They realized that money and foreign influences were not important for them, they reiterated that it’s more important to be free as stated by Paula, “Wala na ang mga multo, wala na ang mga pangamba. Ang sumipig sa’king maligno, yumayakap na sa iba. Matayog na ako ngayon, sa ulap na ako muli. Ang pugad kong nasa Panginoon rin, ngayo’y maari muling liparin, ngayo’y maari muling liparin” and “Tumindig kung gan’on, malaya tayong muli. Ikaw, ako, at ang papa.” She said that the presence of the painting was a proof that their ideals, belief, and way of living cannot be taken away from them.
The way how Candida and Paula behave compared to the people who visited their house, Tony Javier, Violet, Susan, Pepang, Manolo, Don Perico, Doña Loleng, Patsy, Elsa Montes, and Charlie Dacanay differs by the way culture determines them and what shaped their view so that they only understand Philippine culture, unlike the others who have been influenced by the American culture. Pepang and Manolo wanted to escape their own culture which is why they desperately wanted to sell the house, the thing that represents Philippine culture. Manolo said that “Naiimbyerna na ako sa lumang bahay na ito” supported by Pepang, “Ako rin, aaminin ko.” It was clear that they are trying to escape to what haunts them even though they have adopted another culture. On the other hand, it is still evident that Philippine culture is still the basis of the life of the two, because they are still living up to the ideology of their own culture on the basis of giving. Filipino families love to help their relatives even though they have their own family already, and in the film, Pepang and Manolo are still supporting Candida and Paula through monetary donations.
Culture, as a way of life as stated by Raymond Williams in his “social” definition of culture3, is also evident with that of Don Perico’s behavior and actions because even though he chose to be in the government instead of being a Philippine poet, it’s still embedded to his heart and soul, with Doña Loleng saying that every time he visits the house of the Marasigans, his husband is being attacked by poetry. With the influences of American culture and the government, the senator still has the heart of the poet and that anything or anyone cannot take it away from him. In the end, he said “Kontra mundo” to Candida and Paula which means that they should protect what they have and to stand for what they believe in even though the world is against them.
Similar to what conflicts and issues the Philippines is facing today, we are struggling with what keeps us distant from our own culture. We have the mindset that we should serve foreigners over ourselves and our countrymen, similar to that of Tony Javier and Doña Loleng, and the mindset that we will prosper without our own culture, similar to the characters who ran away and chose to support other culture rather than that of their own. Despite all the struggles, it can still be observed that we have what Candida, Paula, and Don Perico has. We still have the heart of our culture and that it has not died yet because like what Raymond Williams defines it, it is a particular way of life, a part of our self. Culturalism can still be observed as part of genres in Philippine films because according to Frederik Stjernfelt and John Storey, culture is a crucial part not only of our actions and words but also as part of our whole being and that nothing can ever take that away. Film writers or directors, with culture being embedded to us all, tend to consciously or unconsciously apply it to whatever film genre they produce.
Culturalism still takes part in the Philippine genre because according to Arif Dirlik, it is the way
3John Storey, “Culturalism.” Cultural Theory and Popular Culture an Introduction, 5th Edition. England: University of Sunderland, 2009)
for us to see the world so that we too, can also act to change it. Filipino nationalist, as well as Filipino film producers tend to create media texts such as literature and film not only to entertain viewers or earn income and fame. They create these literary pieces such as “Ang Larawan” to raise awareness among Filipino people, to wake up the nationalism inside us despite the several foreign influences that we have today. They use media as a platform of disseminating information, as well as ideas to inspire and create a change among the target audiences. It is an art of telling people that we’re facing a serious issue in our country today, and that calls out the need to take a stand and to take an action to what has to be done in order to preserve our culture and to let us realize that we ourselves are embedded with the culturalism, no matter what we do. According to the study, Culturalism as Hegemonic Ideology and Liberating Practice ; The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in The Age of Global Capitalism, culturalism is a way for us to liberate our society from the influences of the west, a way for us to instill in the society that we too have our own ways of dealing with our culture, and a way of bringing back our intellectual when it comes to the reality of culture. As a reformed society, we are capable of making our own decisions, what to believe or what not to believe. We have the capacity to select what to adopt without thinking what the western culture has brought us.
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Dirlik, Arif. “Culturalism as Hegemonic Ideology and Liberating Practice.” Cultural Critique, no. 6, University of Minnesota Press, United States, 1897, pp. 13-50.
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