Valor: An Evening of Culture and Camaraderie

Opening Remarks by Renato Redentor Constantino
Managing Director, Constantino Foundation
April 9, 2017

Our elders are currently elsewhere on a much-deserved break. So, in behalf of RC and Dudi, who are at the moment in Sri Lanka, and in behalf of Nina and Randy who are in Europe right now with their children and grandkids, I welcome you all to this fine event, in behalf of the Constantino Foundation and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities. Thank you for finding time to share the gift of music and words, in memory of Letizia Constantino, or Dada Ming, to her grandchildren. Thank you for gracing this occasion co-organised as well by ICSC, which is manned by some of the country’s brightest, goofiest fierce folks working on climate and energy policy.

This event is titled Valor for a number of reasons. Certainly, it echoes Araw ng Kagitingan, or as some call it, Bataan Day. But as Tato and Letty taught early, we mark the day more in recognition of Filipino revolutionaries who fought to throw off the foreign yoke, in particular Japanese fascists, rather than simply fight under the banner of, or fight for the return of, US imperial forces.

Letizia, who passed away last year, would have turned 97 today. And it is her life that we mark today, because by celebrating her example, we likewise celebrate our ability to rise up against ignorance and mediocre leadership and the twin tyrannies of consumption and accumulation.

Letty and Tato, as our grandparents were known to friends, lived thoroughly partisan lives. They were active politically, through scholarship and pedagogical work, and their personal lives spoke as well about their view of the liberated, decolonised Filipino: they were omnivores of the humanities and the arts, which always intersected with their profound commitment to analyse and influence the political, economic, cultural and social trajectories of the Philippines.

The nationalism Tato and Letty promoted was vibrant and dynamic, driven by the goal of pursuing long-term social, economic and national democracy, based on ever changing global and country realities. Their embrace of nationalism was marked by an abiding faith in the role of history, particularly the dialectics of Philippine history, in emancipating current thinking from the shackles of neocolonial, misogynist, and anthropocentric consciousness.

Their promotion of nationhood, in this sense, is thus linked to the revolutionary movements of the past that sought not just to repel foreign occupiers but also to elevate the cause of working class kaguinhawaan, which was already a solid, tangible program of action among Katipunan revolutionaries way over a century ago. Today, we are compelled to act based on the same yardsticks of development. We need to measure the notion of ginhawa not by the dictates of our current economic system, which seeks to confine our ability to reproduce based on the act of purchase. Instead, we need to promote more and more the concept of ginhawa based on its original revolutionary premise: a depth and breadth of wellbeing that celebrates diversity and is enjoyed first and foremost by the poor and the most vulnerable among them – women and children – in a way that secures intergenerational equity. Because our ability to advance today must not injure the capacity of generations that will come after us to enjoy happy, safe and meaningful lives.

This is also why our event’s title is Valor. We face today the most serious crisis in global and national history. Climate change is bigger than everything, and it is time we all act with a sense of urgency that our period requires, using everything we have – brilliant strategies, perseverance, tolerance, a renewable sense of humor, a capacious sense of anger, an even greater store of love, and yes, music and literature, food and wine and, for today, one of the best beers you’ll encounter in the world, called Beer No. 1, courtesy of friends from Boondocks Brewing in Cubao.

There is a note written by the intellectual Walter Benjamin in 1929 from Berlin where he tells a friend of his about a new friend he just met. “I have had some noteworthy acquaintances,” said Benjamin, referring to Bertolt Brecht. His letter reminds me of a good friend of mine, Viking Logarta, who helped me bring the magic of IPAV’s music here today. I recall Benjamin’s note not because I think Viking was born in 1929 (in fact Viking is 450 years old), but because Benjamin’s letter reminds me of the intergenerational generosity of family and friends. Viking was a friend and comrade of Letty and Tato, and my parents RC and Dudi, and he is now an esteemed colleague of mine, as well as a friend to Kala and Ninel, and Karmina, who I want to thank for ensuring our setting has the right grace, reflective of Dada Ming’s sensibilities.

You should have the program with you by now, and it should show you a full repertoire of songs and a reading from the world’s first literary anthology on climate change, Agam, by the esteemed author Marj Evasco.

Before I call on the first performer, I want to draw your attention to some upcoming activities by the Constantino Foundation: I can’t disclose yet the final venue, as we are still in negotiations, but in September this year, please expect the Constantino Murals to be on public display in Quezon City. One is currently installed in the Ospital ng Makati in Pembo, and the other is in the old San Juan City Hall. Very few know the murals. They are astounding works, made by some of the country’s top painters in 2007 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the hanging of Macario Sakay and 20th anniverssary of the assassination of Lean Alejandro.

We asked the painters to create the murals with two rules in mind. First, although the activity was being undertaken to remember Sakay and Lean, we said we did not want the paintings to be about the two, where they appear exalted above everyone. We said Lean and Sakay are considered heroes because they were ordinary Filipinos who rose above their limitations in a period of crisis that demanded leadership from everyone. Second, we said we did not want militant murals. Instead, we want subversive paintings, the kind that goes under the skin of viewers.

So you can catch the murals today in those two places, but expect them to be closer to you by September. We will also publish a book on the Constantino Murals, and two of their contributors are here today, the country’s first woman editor-in-chief as the hepe of Malaya, who was a giant when I first met her and who is still a giant to me today, Chuchay Molina Fernandez. She is joined by the writer, editor, fountain pen connoiseur, and fellow cyclist, Boojie Basilio, known to some as Bertong Badtrip but who is considered by his very good friends (I consider myself one of them) as a cupcake.

The book they are making will be published same time next year, together with Letizia: A Life in Letters.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to present to you the first performer for today, Roniel Santos, who studied classical guitar at UP Diliman and who has received a whole lot of distinctions for his craft, most recently the 1st prize at the Trattoria Poggio Antico Guitar Competition in 2014.

Editor’s Note: The Institute for Climate & Sustainable Cities and The Constantino Foundation in cooperation with Independent Philippine Art Ventures, Inc. hosted the event Valor, in honor of Letizia Constantino’s 97th birth anniversary. The event featured a reading by Dr. Marjorie Evasco of her contribution to the climate anthology ‘Agam’, as well as classical guitar performances from Roneil Santos, Aaron Aguila and Marga and Thibauld Momper of Duo Harmonique.