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A Woman of Culture, LOREN LEGARDA

Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda
Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda champions Philippine heritage fabrics in her daily and formal wear. Here, she is in an abaca silk wrap with piña belt from La Herminia Piña Weaving Industry of Kalibo, Aklan.

By DTI-Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion
October 4, 2023

MAKATI CITY – The name Loren Legarda has always been synonymous with the conservation and promotion of Philippine culture and arts, traditional knowledge, and indigenous systems.

Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda’s pursuit to increase the level of cultural heritage awareness to preserve and protect our age-old knowledge, traditions, and practices that we inherited from our forefathers can be seen through all her efforts to champion the cause of cultural preservation and advancement.

Capacitating culture-based livelihoods

With a distinguished career as a journalist and public servant, and a deep-rooted passion for cultural heritage, Legarda has emerged as a remarkable figure in Philippine society – a true woman of culture.

This advocacy has led her to author and sponsor legislative measures and support programs and initiatives that promote Philippine culture and arts, protect the rights and traditions of the indigenous peoples, and advocate for cultural integrity and culture-based livelihood.

“Tayong mga Pilipino ay sadyang malikhain. Our love for the arts is immeasurable, and this can be seen in our ancestors’ works. We have to promote it as well as embrace it. The world needs to know more about the Filipino culture and artistry – our own identity,” Legarda said.

As a long-time advocate of cultural heritage and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), Legarda emphasized the need to capacitate MSMEs, including culture-based livelihoods, as part of the overall strategy on economic development, providing opportunities for support and growth, and ensuring that their needs are addressed.

“We need to sustain our gains by strengthening our MSME programs because aside from generating employment opportunities and better incomes, MSMEs are powerful platforms for promotion of viable rural livelihoods, cultural preservation, socioeconomic empowerment of indigenous communities, and environmental protection,” Legarda, author and principal sponsor of the Magna Carta for MSMEs said.

Recently, the Cultural Mapping Law authored by Legarda was enacted, which sought to make heritage an inclusive tool for local and national development, employing a grassroots approach that empowers local communities to identify and assign cultural value to properties that are important to them.

Cultural mapping provides a powerful tool for MSMEs and indigenous communities to infuse cultural richness into their livelihoods. By preserving and celebrating their cultural heritage, these enterprises can differentiate themselves in the global marketplace, create sustainable livelihoods, and contribute to the preservation of cultural diversity.

“It is but fitting to help bring our culture closer to our people, to reawaken the citizens’ pride in our culture, history, and heritage, and to strengthen our nationalism. We must explore initiatives to reintroduce our culture and traditions, especially to the newer generation. We must gather more heritage warriors to conserve and protect the Philippine cultural heritage effectively,” Legarda said.

Empowering the Philippine Cultural Capital

Aside from the Magna Carta for MSMEs and the Cultural Mapping Law, the four-term Senator initiated several programs and policies to promote our people’s arts and cultural diversity.

To preserve the art of Filipino weaving, Legarda pushed for the strengthened implementation of the Philippine Tropical Fabrics Law, which she principally authored, as it seeks to expand the tropical fabrics industry and support the local and indigenous weavers and artisans. She also coauthored the National Cultural Heritage Act, which primarily protects the country’s cultural wealth and treasures.

Legarda also filed Senate Bill No. 1866, or the proposed National Writing System Act, which aims to promote patriotism among Filipinos by inculcating, propagating, and conserving the cultural heritage and treasures of the country through our indigenous and traditional writing systems. Moreover, Legarda proposed the establishment of a Department of Culture, which will initiate programs and activities promoting national identity and culture.

The Senate President Pro Tempore provided support for the Schools of Living Traditions (SLT) Assistance to Artisans, Enhanced SLT Program; the establishment of weaving, natural dye, and processing centers; and the establishment of pineapple farms and fiber extraction facilities and abaca fiber production in some localities in the country. She spearheaded projects covering the protection and promotion of various cultural traditions, including Hibla ng Lahing Filipino, the Philippines’ first permanent textile gallery; the Baybayin Gallery, the Philippines’ permanent ancient scripts gallery in the National Museum; and the Likha-an in Intramuros, a space and repository for Philippine traditional arts. She also supported and honored the Manlilikha ng Bayan (National Living Treasures) through the establishment of cultural centers and a permanent gallery at the National Museum of the Philippines.

Legarda’s tireless crusade for the arts does not end in the traditional. She has been the visionary and driving force behind the Philippines’ return to the Venice Biennale after a 51-year hiatus, considered as the Olympics of contemporary art. To further cement the Philippine presence, she filed a bill that institutionalizes the participation of the Philippines in the said exhibition. Through her initiative, the Philippines is also set to be the Guest of Honour for the 2025 Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s oldest and most prestigious book fair. To strengthen cultural diplomacy, she initiated the advancement of Philippine studies in United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Singapore, United States of America, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Belgium, Canada, and France.

Just last year, the Philippine Creative Industries Development Act, which she coauthored, was enacted, marking yet another milestone in her relentless efforts to support cultural workers and advance Philippine culture and arts.

Reignite and Reconnect: NACF returns after a three-year hiatus

In 2016, to further showcase Filipino creativity and ensure that the legacy of the Philippine culture and heritage lives on, Legarda launched the 1st National Arts and Crafts Fair in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry to create a nurturing environment where our indigenous crafts and artistry can flourish.

Legarda posed the question: “The challenge against a fast-changing globalized world is this: How do we promote, preserve, and sustain the artistic creativity and culture-based crafts of our artisans deeply rooted in our respective cultures? How do we support talented weavers, our culture-bearers, and encourage them to continue their crafts and to pass on their expertise and art to the next generation?”

The National Arts and Crafts Fair emerged as a robust platform to address these challenges. It was designed to support indigenous communities and local entrepreneurs by providing them with the means to reach broader local and even international markets. The fair became a venue that showcased innovative products and celebrated the indigenous culture and traditions of various Philippine regions.

However, in 2020, the world grappled with the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The NACF faced an unforeseen hurdle, leading to a three-year hiatus.

As the world slowly recovers, the NACF returns with renewed vigor and purpose that drive Filipino artisans and indigenous communities to continue creating, innovating, and inspiring.

The return of the NACF after the three-year hiatus signals a fresh opportunity for us to showcase the rich and diverse heritage of our country which we must protect, preserve, and rightfully pas on to the next generation.

“The NACF is back to open doors of opportunities for our indigenous communities and local entrepreneurs. Our culture is our soul, and while many do not realize it, we need to release our cultural energy, which motivates us to work and engage in meaningful and profound social interaction. With the return of the NACF, I encourage our artisans to embrace our diversity and always bring with you the legacies of Filipino cultural heritage,” Legarda said.

“Undeniably, our MSMEs, IPs, and culture-based livelihoods have been among the most affected by the pandemic. To ensure the inclusive and sustainable development of our cultural communities, we are happy to bring back the NACF. I invite everyone to visit and participate in this year’s National Arts and Crafts Fair, not just as spectators but as active contributors to our cultural revival. Together, let us reconnect with our roots, rediscover the culture and traditions that reflect the identity and history of a community, and support the talented individuals who keep our heritage alive,” she continued.