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AVANT GARDE by Lenard Stuart

Collective Amnesia

With over three centuries of foreign rule and a smorgasbord of contact with outside cultures, the Philippines has achieved a colorful and multifaceted culture of its own. Our culture is therefore an amalgam of both East and West.

Ask any Juan dela Cruz about which cultures he thinks of when asked about his own, and he will probably answer: Malay, Indian, Chinese, Islamic, Spanish , and American; the cultures we have been taught to acknowledge. Sadly, it is likely that there will be no mention of indigenous cultures and peoples that have graced the country long before "orthodox cultures" set foot on our shores.

Cowed and shamed to forgetfulness caused us to confine within our collective psyche our common intrinsic identity, in which according to Marrian Pastor-Rocess, an expert on Filipino culture, ". . . we deny, reject, hold in contempt. . . ; or conversely, with the same degree of alienation, glorify as our version of Paradise Lost, package into consumables, 'popularize' as in other seasonally fashionable iconographies, plagiarize."

Yet amnesiac as some of us may be, efforts underway by a few to allow the public to perceive the currentness and dynamism of our heritage, more specifically the past. But it is hard for us to accept ideas which are contrary to what we have been taught without the presence of physical evidences.

This is exactly where archaeologists come into the picture. Archaeologists strengthen our identity as a people by clearing up the mirror into the past, thus creating a new zeitgeist for the old.

Archaeologists do not try to find artifacts in order to lock them up in museums, never to be seen by the public; on the contrary, they are feverishly hard at work in order to "return" these pieces of our national heritage back to the people in the form of exhibits and expositions. Even though the taxidermic characteristic of archaeology cannot be denied, it focuses mainly on the study of archaeological evidences, and ultimately the sharing of the acquired knowledge to the people.

Archaeology not only gives us a sense of identity, it also supplies us with a sense of national pride of having our very own culture. Also foreign tourists, planning to catch a glimpse of our heritage, may come to visit the country. This will not only provide much needed income but once again boosts our national pride.

Dr. Eusebio Dizon, the country's leading archaeologist said, "We can [also] appreciate [these cultural artifacts]. We sometimes underestimate ourselves, and the tourists that come here. We assume that they only came to watch the dancers in Baclaran."

In the end, the significance of archaeology in the country will depend in how it can help us forge our own identity. Archaeology provides a direct link to the past. Unlike written accounts that are colored by the author's opinions, archaeological evidences present transparently presents the truth.

"It [our culture] was not given by the Chinese or the spanish." Dr. Dizon concluded, "It is ours."


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