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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kuh Ledesma: Artist...Censor?

That's the thought bubble I had hearing the latest utterance from Kuh Ledesma, one of OPM's (Original Pilipino Music) stalwarts in a recent news item.

Nationalism. The Kuh way.
(Courtesy of

"Kung ako ang tatanungin, kung ako ang president, dapat limitado talaga. Kasi, nakikita ko talaga na kapag sinuportahan natin ang mga Pilipino, talagang lalawak ang bayan natin." (If I will be asked, if I was the president, it should be limited. What I see is that when we support our own, our country will really improve.)

(See more here:  )

In case you're wondering what it is she thinks should be "limited", it is to curb the entry of foreign musical acts into the country (presumably to perform in concerts and sell their records), for the sake of, and in the service of some version of "nationalism".

The oddest thing about this situation is that I would think that an artist, of all professions, would be abhorrent and unequivocally against the idea of censorship: So the solution she proposed is to simply ban foreign acts?

Where does it end?

Should we also stop Korea-novelas - not the "best" representative of a stellar foreign example of art, but they are being devoured by local consumers as evidenced by their ubiquitousness - as well from being shown on TV, since they prevent locally produced shows - such as they are - from being more malawak? (have more reach)

Should Indian restaurants be closed down because they threaten to overshadow Filipino cuisine? (Side note: Andrew Zimmern, host of a food/travel show, thinks our cuisine is the Next Big Thing. Should America stop him from saying that, because it may impede the spread of American fast food world wide?)

Should we ban a sculpture, a painting, a piece of literature, produced elsewhere but the Philippines?

Again, where does it end? This has always been the problem of censorship. It opens the floodgates for more disturbing scenarios, than the one it purportedly wants to "save".

How would our local performers feel, if they applied to foreign productions or films, and were rebuffed not on the basis of lack of talent, but after showing so much of it, would simply be told "Sorry, we can't get someone from another know, for nationalism reasons"? (In the same link to the news item, Isay Alvarez defends her stint in Miss Saigon. And in spectacularly laughable fashion.)

Should they have banned Lea as well?
(Courtesy of

Besides, we have seen this so-called "nationalism" take place: one week in December, all residents of this country have no choice but to pay a local movie producer if they want to watch a movie in a theatre. It's called the Metro Manila Film Festival, an attempt to supposedly shore up support for the local film industry by snuffing out foreign competition.

Yes, it achieves that purpose, it really lines up the coffers of local film outfits, because people have no choice. Other than not going to a movie.

Let's make an example of last year's topgrosser: a film by present-day Senator Bong Revilla. (A senator with another job - something I will tackle in a future post.)

He acted (and I understand also produced) in a film that was fantasy-action in genre. It bragged about its "special effects" - which was roundly ridiculed in cyberspace for one stark reason: the graphics of the fantasy monsters and characters seemed to be "lifted" from a foreign film of the same genre, Clash Of The Titans.

This is our best response?
(Courtesy of

That makes a mockery of the entire "point" of holding the festival: you are given a week to sell to people the idea that our local films can stand on their own, and the best we can do is to copy a rehashed concept from a foreign film, using the exact same character/costume/idea?

This is an increasingly smaller world because of the myriad of ways we can now connect and share information with practically everyone else on the planet. We should not fight the future, unless we are prepared to live with the consequences of obstinately clinging to misguided forms of "patriotism" that shut out ideas instead of welcoming them, instead of using them in ways that enhance our own art, food and our very lives.

In the marketplace of ideas that are free-wheeling and free-flowing, the test of an idea's appeal and longevity is whether it can stand scrutiny in the face of other competing ideas. No one wins when the solution becomes to prevent other ideas - or performances - from seeing the light of day, or showing up in our concert venues.

We're not even discussing how this proposal infringes on one's personal preferences or tastes.

I'm not prepared to have Anne Curtis on endless loop in my music player.

1 comment:

  1. I can appreciate where Kuh is coming from. Hers was a generation of nationalism when Filipinos were trying to discover their national identity. It seems today's youth don't carry the baggage of the past. They are happy with themselves, comfortable with their language and Filipino identity (whether proud or not) and feel they have nothing to prove. In a sense, this is confidence. In practical terms, the world is getting smaller and people will always look overseas for new inspiration. I understand that a major chef predicted Philippine food will one day be THE food of choice. So perhaps it's the new way of the digital world.