Why cultural statistics?

Cover of Bilang Filipinas, A Primer on Philippine Cultural Statistics, and NCCA poster on PSA-FLEMMS (Philippine Statistics Authority-Functional Literacy, Education, and Mass Media Survey).

Bilang Filipinas: Why cultural statistics?
By B.P. Tapang, Jr.


The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 has a full chapter on “Promoting Philippine Culture and Values.”  Reaching advanced creative excellence requires permeating “public consciousness as the foundation of a globally-competitive knowledge economy.” The plan recognizes our need to develop Filipino creativity toward a culture-based industry and creative economy, foster an entrepreneurial spirit that values intellectual property, and one that treasures the arts, science, technology, and innovation.

At the moment, however, the targets identified in the Philippine Development Plan are still “to be discussed.” The targets could not be set—and this is a gap that the Plan recognizes—because there is, as yet, no up-to-date baseline upon which to base those targets.  And baseline depends on data that still need to be obtained from a national survey. But prior to data collection those indicators and targets (and each of the “industries” in our creative economy) need to be elaborated in more concrete terms that, to be useful, translate themselves to statistical levels of measurement, i.e., to nominal, ordinal or interval data.

The law mandates the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to collect statistical and other data reflecting the state of the country’s cultural conditions to serve as basis for formulating cultural policies. Included in the legislative agenda of the Philippine Development Plan is elevating the NCCA to become the Department of Culture, and establishing offices for culture and the arts in the local government units “to protect and promote local cultural heritage and arts.”

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics points out that cultural statistics formalize “what is (still) currently viewed as an informal sector” so that its contribution to the economy and to society is finally acknowledged. When cultural statistics are collected and analyzed, a more systematic approach can allow creative industries to flourish and culture to take center stage in constructing economic and social policy. Quantitative data allow us to appreciate the multiplier effects generated by the economy of culture and its positive impact on employment.

The 2009 UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics organizes the creative industries into domains for purposes of cultural statistics work, and provides suggestions as to the possible sources of the data on these domains: Cultural, Related, and Transversal. The local version, based on UNESCO’s, is the Philippine Cultural Statistics Framework (PCSF).

The Philippine creative industries that have been identified (Heritage and the Arts; Architecture and Design; Audio-Visual; Printing, Publishing and Print Media; and Creative Services) fall under what UNESCO classifies as “Cultural Domains” and may represent the minimum set of core cultural domains.  Parallel to but separate from the cultural domains are the “Related Domains” of Tourism, and Sports and Recreation. While they are not generally considered as cultural activities, they contain elements that may have a cultural character that can apply also to both the cultural and related domains. The “Transversal Domains” include not only our intangible cultural heritage (e.g., oral traditions and expressions, rituals, languages, and social practices), but also education and training, archiving and preservation. And there are, finally, those industries still considered transversal that facilitate or enable the creation, production, transmission, dissemination and distribution of cultural goods and services.

Collecting and organizing cultural data

In this regard, the NCCA has issued “BILANG FILIPINAS: A Primer on Philippine Cultural Statistics” that collects and organizes cultural data, based on the PCSF although without the financial and economic measures yet, except for some “Labor Force and Establishment Statistics.”

The primer reports data on heritage (i.e., museums of National Museum of the Philippines and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, declared historic sites and structures, world heritage sites, Muslim cultural centers, and the number of views). Data on performances and celebrations are from those organized by or held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The information on festivals, fairs, and feasts includes a list of Philippine festivals; the data on books and press are from the National Library of the Philippines; and from the audio- visual-, broadcast- and interactive media is information on foreign- and local-, and mainstream- and indie- films.

Of those under “Related Domains,” tourism reports on the number of and receipts from foreign and domestic tourists, and tourism’s share to total employment and to GDP.  Reportage under the “Transversal Domains” include data on Philippine languages, the major Philippine languages, participation in the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino language seminars/fora/training programs which are parts of the intangible heritage domain and the transversal domain of education and training.

While data sources in use were not designed to collect cultural information, they could accommodate disaggregation where the cultural, artistic and artisanal elements are allowed to surface.

Direct measurements may be financial and economic, e. g., asset turnover, annual investment, levels of output, market/s and market shares/niches, earnings, employment, etc. available from the annual reports of private sector firms and in the documents required yearly by such the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Parallel information from the public sector can come from the required periodic reports of members of the Creative Industries Board/Task Group: National Economic Development Authority; the Department of Trade and Industry), including the latter’s key agencies, the Board of Investment, the Intellectual Property Office, the Design Center of the Philippines and the Export Marketing Bureau.

In this new board/task group are the Department of Finance, the National Museum of the Philippines, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, the Philippine Statistics Authority, and the NCCA. One or the other of them does censuses, household income and expenditure surveys, business registration, labor force participation reports, etc. Both private and public contributions to the production of, and expenditure on, the final goods and services of the country are to be found in the measurements of the annual Gross Domestic Product accounts, including the values of the country’s exports and imports.

There is long road to travel for culture and the arts to find its rightful place in our national life. Let all good men and women take necessary steps to get there.

B.P. Tapang is a professorial lecturer of economics at the College of Social Sciences, University of the Philippines Baguio where he was once also the director of the Cordillera Studies Center. (bentapang@gmail.com)

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