Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Moral despondency in the Daragang Magayon Festival

The rage that the controversial effigy of the Tambaluslos stoked during the recent Daragang Magayon Festival still sizzles these days as Albayanos continue to air their reactions on the streets and on social media.

On one hand, there are those who maintain that the effigy is against public decency, especially because the venue in which it was exhibited was a parade. They point out that among the throngs of people who gathered to watch the parade were children, who, at their impressionable age could not have possibly understood wholly the context of the effigy’s appearance.

Meanwhile, the other camp argues that the effigy of the Tambaluslos is a work of art. Invoking poetic license, they claim that the artist is necessarily free from pressures to conform to demands of public decency or morality. Rather, his or her job is to create a piece that will evoke emotions and ideas, regardless of whether these are favorable or not.

The debate becomes more muddled, however, when the question of historical authenticity is raised. With the claim that the effigy is based on a mythical, that is, imaginary, creature, whose imagination must be privileged in deciding what physical attributes it must have? With several clashing ideas of the appearance of the tambaluslos, whose idea in the end should be championed as correct? Is it the tambaluslos with the oversized phallus, or the one with the gigantic mouth?

Of course, these debates over opposing descriptions of the tambaluslos, or whether the effigy belongs to the province of art or pornography, are hardly anything new. Even for Albayanos, it is not the first year that the Daragang Magayon parade featured a controversial effigy that prompted local officials, and even the Church, to speak against its inclusion.

That said, the real issue at hand does not concern these questions—both, after all, are subjective, and ultimately depend on one’s personal values and convictions. The core concern, and the one that Albayanos must take seriously, is whether the creation of such a controversial figure was a proper use of the government’s funds. Was it truly beneficial to the masses, especially considering that Albay remains one of the poorest provinces in the entire nation? Given the rage that some groups displayed because of the image, was it reflective of the public’s desire on how they would want local funds to be spent? Finally, was it effective in promoting the historical significance of the local myths and legends, given that some contest the basis of the effigy’s appearance?

In society, festivals such as the Daragang Magayon serve specific functions. In the case of the Daragang Magayon Festival, its aim, it appeared, was to celebrate culture and inspire locals to continue and enrich age-old traditions. To gain the people’s ire, however, whose culture and traditions the festival is supposed to celebrate, should not be among these objectives. Sure, stirring some controversy would prompt some to do a double-take, perhaps crane their necks at the spectacle. But when the same old stunt is pulled year after year, all that is gained is no more than a few raised eyebrows, and perhaps the question of whether there remains a trace of creativity left in the brains of the organizers to draw in people than this annual shocker.

All things considered, the ultimate person responsible for the circus of bad taste that the Daragang Magayon Festival has become, is Governor Salceda. It is he who should have looked into the participating effigies of the parade, he would should have made sure, as he promised last year, that no more offensive effigies would be present. It is, after all, his primordial duty as the father of the province, to not only entertain his constituents, but also, and much more importantly, to look after their well-being. As opinions clashed regarding the Tambaluslos effigy, he should have made a stand for what he believed was right, instead of ignoring the issue, instead of hoping that the public would not take note of his poor judgement.

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