23 January 2021 GMT 12:58 PM

And The World Became Art

by: Achinette Joy Villamor

What if our world were turned upside down, inside out, and Rizal had never sparked the fires of a revolution through his writings? What if, by some evolutionary catastrophe, we never evolved beyond the confines of a primitive civilization whose greatest masterpieces are doodles in the sand? Much worse, what if the arts did not, at all, exist?

All throughout the years and the whole world over, budget for developing the arts has always taken a backseat to many other concerns. Governments spend billions for tourism and weapons but hack and cut out, or scrimp on, allocations for the arts. Consequently, support for the arts and its developments have been relegated to schools and universities, institutions, and private groups and individuals. Senator Raul Roco once condemned this practice as tantamount to destroying the "soul of the nation".

But why support the arts, really?

The arts play a vital role in our existence. They help define the culture and the ultimate value of our collective history, giving us a deeply rooted sense of our proud heritage, and providing us with a profound idea of who and what are we as a nation and as a people. Major achievements in the arts are the hallmarks of a civilization, the bastion of a country's great, colorful legacy. England has Shakespeare. France has Voltaire. We, on the other hand, have the powerful triumvirate of Edades, Ocampo, and Francisco, the romantic and impressionist styles of both Luna and Hidalgo, the dreamy landscapes of Amorsolo, and the countless others who forged, spliced and molded the bonds between art and life and inspired a nation to a transcendental path for greatness.

Nietzsche held that the art is the highest task and the proper metaphysical activity of this life. And he is right. The arts have a positive impact on our cultural experiences as well as the cultural experiences of those who would come after us. They inspire a sense of personal and collective achievement as well as develop creativity, enhance multicultural understanding, and even improve interpersonal relations. Above all, they remind us that life is beautiful, that the past had vibrated with life, that the present is a fascinating struggle, and that the future would truly be something to look forward to.

But there is no such thing as art for art's sake. The arts have never been a passive medium and people are becoming increasingly aware of the crucial part the arts play in advocating social reforms. The arts are weapons for peace, freedom, and justice. Weapons that are incomparable to bombs, cannons and even a deluge of green bucks. As early as 1821, paintings have been used for propaganda, as evidenced by Estella Villanueva's depiction of the Ilocanos' revolt against the basic monopoly. The dynamic propaganda movement itself evolved around harnessing and utilizing the genius and the capabilities of the Filipinos in the arts to promote and advance the cause of Philippine self-rule. Juan Luna's Spolarium chronicled the suffering of the Filipinos under Spanish yoke. Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo challenged the Spanish gold, cross, might and gloriously paved the way for our independence.

Today, the arts are still legitimate avenue to cry out against the tyranny of dogmas, the vicious reality of third world desperation, the corrupt and corrupting political acrobatics of those in power. From placards to uncompromising novels, from militant student publication articles to avant-garde paintings, the arts have become blueprints for socio-political changes. Still, despite the new-age art's almost belligerent bid to give reforms a face, the arts remain a celebration of life, of courage, and of honored traditions.

So why support the arts?

Ask the young actor given the instruction to fulfill a dream. Ask the child who tiptoes her way through a bamboo dance routine. Ask the humanities teacher who spends years firing up the passion and the imagination of his students and passing on to them "the soul" of this nation. Ask the student college editor who inks his articles with the sweat of the browbeaten and the blood of the broken. Above all, ask the countless nameless persons who faced public scrutiny and braved public scorn to find, through the arts, their own pieces of a bleak world to change. For truly, there is nothing more liberating than supporting a cause far bigger and greater than one's self.