Conversations: Commercialization of Culture (1)


The article on Banaue Coca Cola which touched upon how our indigenous Igorot culture has become an object of commerce prompted Pagano, a good friend and relative, to write me a letter. He raises very important points so I decided to post portions of his letter (with his permission of course) in this blog. We then agreed to do an ongoing conversation — by writing open letters — on this matter as the commercialization of our culture is fast becoming a critical issue and we as a people appear to have no idea on how to go about dealing with it.

You are invited to join us in this conversation either in the comments section (which we will upload to the main page if appropriate) or by email ( But first, here’s Pagano’s letter (edited and with some paragraphs omitted) to start the ball rolling:

Dear Bill,
The dragging of indigenous culture into the mainstream or commercial music industry has been going on for quite a long time now. The likes of Joey Ayala, Grace Nono, Bayang Barrios, etc. have been dishing out [indigenous] music to the public, some of which conservatives, I think, wouldn’t approve of. I, myself, feel uneasy listening to songs with the words “Ay, Ay, Salidumay” being continuously repeated or watching singers dressed in full indigenous attire.

There must be a way of presenting your cultural self without offending the sensibilities of your fellow ‘natives’. I say if it’s done right, the artist could even generate additional respect to his/her origins.

While at this commercialization of culture thing, you might find it interesting that the municipal council of Sagada has passed a resolution prohibiting the taking of video footages of the community’s cultural celebrations. The aim seems good although one might say that it could be another case of ‘too late the hero’. One need not bust his/her butt all the way up here if it’s natives s/he would want to take pictures or videos of. There are lots of Igorots for hire in Baguio who would be very glad to pose for him/her.

There are numerous instances which have ruined my belief in the integrity of our culture but foremost among these was that time when the celebration of the dangtey was performed way off-schedule just so it could be shot by some rich man. How could the elders allow such a thing to happen? How, ever, could they let what seems to be the highlight of all our traditional observances be bastardized? Kega nataitaiyan nan kaugalian tako. (It is as if someone crapped on our cultural traditions.) And the anitos? Well, they punished the transgressors by making them wealthier. Ay ngan nan. Ngan nan aped ko insulat sina? (What is this. What have I written here?) He he.


RELATED POST: Banaue Coca Cola; PHOTO CREDIT: Ballet Philippines.

5 thoughts on “Conversations: Commercialization of Culture (1)”

  1. I was supposed to comment this morning but when I clicked “publish”, nawalan ng dial tone ang Piltel. Hay..

    This post reminded me of Michael Tan’s article. I could not locate the URL but I was able to save the file. It’s interesting and I think he just nailed it. It’s here by the way. I pasted it on word.

    Pardon my cynicism but Filipinos don’t only do that to the Igorot culture, they also do the same thing with their OWN culture and other countries culture. It was years ago when I saw this on a variety show(wala na yung show na yun). It was Buwan ng Wika that time. The “dancers” of the show came out… wow…nakabarong, camisa de chino and saya… but there was something wrong…the “dancers” were wearing rubber shoes(males) and heeled sandals(females). And the music was TECHNO…! Cultural celebration, Filipino-style.

    You see, not only do they do this to their own culture. I remember when the Sexbomb dancers had a tour in Japan, they were nearly mocking the Japanese culture. They kept on saying Moshi-moshi….If I were Japanese, I’d probably be offended.

  2. i feel uneasy about the commercialization and modern interpretation of these people using others indiginous dances and songs to create their own. I feel offended while watching kalinga dances interpreted by the choreographer. for example, performers are well dressed with kalinga costumes but they do the “salisid” wedding dance in the tune and likes of ati atihan.. i am running a website inorder to promote our own culture,and yet others are trying to promote kalinga dances with their own degrading style

  3. Nats,
    I know the feeling about how our dances are interpreted by dance troupes whose interpretations do not resemble the real thing at all. You might notice that I used your video here. Thanks for uploading it to youtube. Thanks also for linking this blog from your site 🙂

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