Two Pinoy students, other Asians sign pact to preserve cultural traditions

Photo by Analyn Perez

By MARK MERUEÑAS – Two Filipino college students joined other Southeast Asian students in signing a pact to help preserve cultural traditions in an age of modernity.

The signing of the pact on October 12 was part of the annual event “Sakai-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Week.”

Those who signed the pact were De La Salle University students John Robert Villar and Audrey Rose Dusaran and eight other students from Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Villar and Dusaran, as well as the other foreign students who signed the pact are formally studying the Japanese language in their respective colleges.

Villar and Dusaran are senior and junior DLSU students respectively. Both are taking up degrees in International Studies major in Japanese.

They were accompanied to Japan by their professor, Bernadette Sarmiento Hieida, who is also the practicum coordinator for DLSU’s Japanese Studies Program.

During their two-week stay, Villar and Dusaran also made the rounds in Sakai elementary schools, sharing to Japanese students the Filipino culture and tradition.

The students’ flight to Japan was sponsored by the local government of Sakai City, which hopes to open up the city to traditions from the Asean region.

Declaration of cooperation

Villar, Dusaran and the other Southeast Asian students signed the declaration at the Osaka Prefecture University in Sakai City.

Reading out from the declaration, Villar and Dusaran said in Japanese: “In our long history, each town suffered from war or disasters. But over the difficult times we have worked together to restore and acquired this peace in our lives and in our towns.”

Dusaran explained that through the declaration, the participating students have committed to continue exchanging insights about their respective countries’ efforts to preserve their cultural traditions amid globalization.

Presentation about Manila buildings

During the event, the students were asked to make presentations in Japanese about their respective countries.

Addressing students and professors of the Osaka Prefecture University, Villar and Dusaran spoke about architectural buildings in Manila City that have either been destroyed or have been neglected by the local authorities in the past.

“Ngayon kasi, it does not come out much in the news. This issue that this architectural buildings get demolished. It does not seem to be a big deal talaga back in Manila. It’s an issue that not many people pay attention to but it happens,” Dusaran told GMA News Online after their presentation.

Villar and Dusaran cited the Manila Metropolitan Theater is an Art Deco building along Padre Burgos Avenue in Manila. This theater, opened in 1931, used to accommodate more than 1,600 theater-goers. The structure, however, was severely damaged during World War II.

They also talked about the Manila Jai Alai building, built in 1940, and widely considered as one of the finest Art Deco buildings in Asia.

In 2000, then Manila Mayor Lito Atienza ordered the building’s demolition to give way to the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice.

“May Heritage Act of 2009 tayo, pero even if it was passed, it just gets ignored. Natutuloy pa rin ang demolition ng historical buildings na puwede pa namang i-restore,” Dusaran said.

“These buildings are still part of our history and identity. So we think it’s an important issue to talk about kasi no one talks about it… We are ignoring and disrespecting the work and the efforts of those who built those buildings,” she added.

Learning from Sakai

Dusaran said she wished Filipinos can learn from cities like Sakai, which succeeded in preserving important historical sites and tradition despite embracing modernization.

She cited the ancient royal burial sites called “tumulus clusters” scattered around Sakai as well as the thriving bicycle and knife industries, for which the city is most popular.

She also cited the “Old Wooden Lighthouse,” which no longer operates but still stands undisturbed on the city’s coast line, a famous international sea port in Japan.

“If you compare Manila to Sakai, Sakai is very proud of its history,” Dusaran said of the Japanese city which prides itself as being older than the country’s capital of Tokyo.

With a population of more than 840,000, the almost 60-square-mile city in southern Osaka Prefecture – located southwest of Tokyo – has for centuries been a major driving force behind the economy and culture of the Kansai Region.

In Sakai, high-rise buildings co-exist with ancient Japanese temples, and modernity complements eco-friendly technology, the students noted. – GMA News

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