One of the videos recently making waves among Filipino netizens is this one of two professional wake-skaters Brian Grubb and Dominik Preisner. Apparently, the location they used was that of the Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao.
According to the video caption:
Respect for the environment was a priority from the beginning of this project! The team has assured that the plants and wildlife have neither been damaged nor disturbed at any time during the project. All agreements have been made together with the locals and under respect of their traditions and culture.
Professional wakeskaters Brian Grubb (USA) and Dominik Preisner (GER) travelled to the Philippines to have an epic winch session at one of the most beautiful spots in the world. The famous rice terraces of Banaue are considered to be the Eighth Wonder of the World and were surely the perfect playground for an unique wakeskate session!
As with a lot of things concerning the Philippines, this one stirred a bit of controversy, and Pinoy Pride. On one hand, there are those who see the video as something “that could help boost the country’s tourism” by showcasing the Rice Terraces, so to speak. Some of these people threw the “crab” label upon commentators who dared disagree with them, as is the norm in Philippine society.
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On the other hand, conservationists took issue with the video and accused the sponsors (Red Bull being the most visible of them) of “exploiting the site”. The “stunt”, as it was termed, was also accused as one that could damage the terraces.
“Wakeboarding at the terraces? It is a stunt totally inappropriate to the site. And stunt it is,” Augusto Villalon, president of the Heritage Society, told AFP.
“The world heritage property and the local residents should not be exploited.”
Another such example of a statement is below (taken from this article):
But heritage conservation architect Joycelyn Mananghaya said the terraced paddies were carved out on the slopes of the Ifugao mountain region by ancient people “for the prime purpose of planting rice”.
“If the intent is to attract tourists and assist in improving the economic conditions of the people, it remains as an activity that is grossly out of place and if encouraged and continues will significantly remove from it the values by which the site has been inscribed in the world heritage list,” she said.
A lot of the commentary in the articles and pages that featured this video, while slightly amusing, had, it seems to me, all but overlooked a few fundamental questions:
What were Filipinos doing about this and other national treasures here in the Philippines before foreigners found value in them?
How in the world is such a video going to be a tourism boost for the Philippines when the focus is on wake-skating?
What is the point in having something featured in which Filipinos have, at best, a tenuous connection to the object in question?
Filipinos have long been known to ignore the good things that they have in their own backyard. Even more distressing is that a lot of the time, they appreciate what gifts or resources they have only after foreigners tell them how good they are. One of the worst ways that Filipinos treat their heritage sites and national treasures is to let them deteriorate without the necessary upkeep and maintenance. And accompanying that “pabaya” attitude towards them is to commercialize them to excess. Just take a look at what happened to Boracay: what was once a little-known paradise getaway has now been overdeveloped into a crass and unappealing overcrowded tourist spot.
Excuse me, the Rice Terraces and its native inhabitants were there long before modern Filipinos were. That they happened to be on land that modern Filipinos claim to be part of their “nation” is a mere coincidence.
Manila Times and fellow GRP writer Ben Kritz had written about the sort of hollow sloganeering that Filipinos employ when it comes to tourism and preserving their heritage:
One of the things I’ve always found intensely annoying about this country is that for all the chest-thumping and boisterous lip service paid to “Filipino heritage,” there are very few people here who have a true appreciation of what to me as an outsider, even having been here as long as I have, is a fascinating national history. History for most people in this country only exists as long as it’s visible in the rear-view mirror; when the names of streets change at every election, it’s no surprise that society would let a place like the rice terraces go to pot.
Something which I happen to agree with.
In that same article, he makes references to Lira Dalangin-Fernandez’s own feature in Interaksyon.com. Ms. Fernandez had pointed out that changing times had rendered just planting rice an unsustainable way of life for the native people who live there. As a result, they have had to find other ways of living, even if it meant culture change such as the old ways no longer being passed on the younger generations.
Ben ends with this passage:
Hopefully, Ms. Fernandez’ article attracts some attention and starts a conversation among people here who both give a shit about their cultural heritage and are inclined to do something about it. If it were up to me, I’d turn the whole area into a national park: Employ the people who live there to maintain and preserve the terraces and the way of life of that part of the Cordilleras, promote but manage tourism to keep it as low-impact as possible, and save something uniquely worth saving and sharing with the rest of the world. It’s not that hard to do, with a little planning and determination; if an even worse basket-case of a country like Cambodia can do it, so can the Philippines. All you need to do is stop yapping about how much pride you have, and actually demonstrate it for a change.
That’s exactly what is ridiculous and downright irritating about the Filipinos’ attempts to display their national pride. Filipinos like to thump their chest about certain Filipino natural wonders or Filipino nationals being featured, yet for the former, they think that natural beauty is forever and thus would rather let their wonders deteriorate. As for the latter, they would rather latch on to his/her success and brandish it as an accomplishment of the whole Filipino people. And especially for both, they wouldn’t recognize that what they’ve got is of value unless a foreigner points it out for them.
There is no other way to put it. Filipinos NEED to add substance to their pride, and that means actually appreciating what they already have for themselves, and doing the hard work of maintaining and improving it.
А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. – But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.