by Terence Repelente
National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario said he isn’t very concerned on regaining Philippine literature’s glory in this age of selfies. As chairman of the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), Almario said he’s more focused on birthing an entire generation of passionate readers.
“Wala na tayong magagawa sa mga matatanda kasi pag ayaw talaga magbasa, ‘di na magbabasa yun (We can’t do anything about the adults. If they don’t want to read anymore, they really won’t). What we can do now is to start a new generation of readers. Let us encourage and influence them,” he said.
In a roundtable discussion with the Manila Bulletin editors, Almario drew attention to foreign cultural manifestations, such as K-Pop (Korean popular culture), which are one of the problems of globalization. While he sees its importance because it could enrich our own native culture, he also encouraged that our artists should be much more inventive to shift the people’s appreciation to our own culture.
The National Artist for Literature stressed the importance of education and literature.
“Ang tingin ko kasi (My observation is that) one failure of education is that once we graduate, graduate na din tayo sa literature (we also graduate from literature),” he said.
Almario revealed that the Duterte administration has put a priority on forming the Department of Culture. The department will have police powers to implement promotion, protection, and preservation of culture-related programs, which will ultimately help NCCA fulfill its mandate.
“I am for the forming of the Department of Culture. It is not about the budget. But there are things that a department can do that NCCA can’t,” he said.
Almario also advocates the preservation of the rich but unappreciated cultural treasures of the pre-Spanish period, which, according to him, will definitely boost our enjoyment of Philippine literature and help the country discover our real cultural identity.