One of the harsh facts of life, reflected in history, is the loss of knowledge from one generation to another. Sometimes the advances of technology render ideas and things and practices obsolete, and we are quick to shed these things along with our memories. We live in a world where we record the meaningful, the mundane and the mysterious in an effort to see what shapes our thinking and our identities.
There are parts of the Philippines that feel that tug of war between tradition and modernity. When we lost The Last Bagobo Weaver (Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 12, 2009), the Philippines lost someone incredibly unique, and I feel sad that no one is left now who knows how to weave Bagobo tube skirts, from harvesting and preparing the fiber, to the weaving and construction of this indigenous garment. How relevant is this to us today? I believe costume is part of identity, and craftsmanship is part of a larger tribal value system (read about Salinta Monon’s value as a bride). Monon was recognized internationally for her work, but not in her own home town. The present generation of Bagobos prefer to find jobs that put food on the table regularly – a goal we can’t fault them for.
The world has changed so much that there are many things we take for granted. Sometimes, when we don’t realize what is worth saving, we have the great luck that someone else does. During a visit to the Philippines early last year, Australians Maria Cameron and her husband Ed Wise lived for five months with a Kalinga indigenous community in Ichinanaw. They returned the following year, on a mission to “help the tribe preserve its oral customs and traditions in storybooks.” Such fantastic luck – they were funded!
As I read this news article my heart felt light again. In many cultures spoken word art forms relied on memory for preservation. Yes, the world has changed, but technology gives us the tools to remember when our collective memory can no longer hold.