Sentro Rizal addresses cultural needs of overseas Pinoys
By Sir Albertti G. Flores
The emerging socio-cultural realities of the 21st century caused a shift in traditional cultural borders. Together with migrant labor diaspora, this led to the gradual formation of new sites of cultural production in foreign cities while maintaining distinct indigenous cultural elements. This is the context of the foundation of Sentro Rizal, a responsive, inclusive and transformative cultural program that addresses the needs of overseas Filipino communities.
Established in 2011 on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Jose Rizal, the Sentro Rizal (SR) is dedicated to “the promotion of Philippine arts, culture and language throughout the world.” As mandated by Republic Act No. 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009), the Sentro Rizal as a cultural center “shall be a repository… of materials on Philippine arts, culture and language.” Many such centers have been established in different parts of the world since 2011.
SR aims to be the bastion of Filipino cultural vitality abroad. It acts as a beacon that enlightens overseas Filipinos, most especially migrants and their children, in reconnecting to their roots and rich cultural heritage. The SR exists to instill a strong sense of nationhood and national pride while assuring social cohesion throughout the country and beyond. Through the SR, the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) has an invaluable platform for engaging in transformative discussions on Filipino ideas, sensibilities and identities. These discussions reflect our diverse, rich and vibrant narratives as a multi-cultural nation.
A primary concern of the Philippine government is the promotion of the well-being of overseas Filipinos. In line with this, the SR seeks to address the needs of Filipino communities abroad through cultural engagements, especially those involving second- and third-generation Filipinos.
Extensive resources on Philippine culture, heritage and languages in print and electronic media are readily available at the centers. These will be continuously developed to provide the latest information on the country’s evolving cultural landscape. As international cultural hubs, the SRs regularly organize cultural activities that educate Filipino youths abroad on their roots as well as their roles as Filipino citizens.
Since its foundation, numerous cultural-literacy activities have been carried out such as lectures on Filipino culture, history and identity conducted by prominent Filipino thinkers like former NCCA Chairman Felipe M. De Leon, Jr., historian Ambeth Ocampo, and National Artist and incumbent NCCA Chairman Virgilio S. Almario. There have also been exhibitions on Philippine visual arts and culture, film screenings of critically acclaimed Filipino films, and Filipino language courses and trainings for volunteer teachers. To foster mutual understanding and respect among peoples, the centers also welcome foreign nationals interested in learning more about Filipino culture.
In partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, the NCCA coordinates the overall administration of the SR in planning, carrying out and evaluating cultural activities. There are currently 26 established centers worldwide catering to almost two million overseas Filipinos.
In 2017, the NCCA set out the institutional direction of the centers to effectively deliver the highest quality of services to overseas Filipinos and their children. The SR extended its reach to Filipinos in Singapore and Japan, two countries with many Filipino nationals. NCCA Chairman Almario officially inaugurated SR Singapore and SR Tokyo in September and December 2017, respectively.
Taking into account the socio-cultural realities of Filipino children overseas, steps have been taken to enhance the SR’s language program by using Second Language Learning approaches that fully consider the learners’ linguistic competencies.
In A la Juventud Filipina, Dr. José Rizal called the youth the hope of tomorrow. Similarly, the Philippine government sees great potential in this sector. The youth are the movers and agents of change in contemporary Philippine society. As a catalyst of cultural reorientation based on Filipino values, narratives and identities, the SR equips overseas Filipinos, primarily the youth, with the knowledge, skills and sensitivity necessary to a multi-dimensional and multi-linear development of Filipino culture within and beyond the archipelago.
Sir Albertti G. Flores is the assistant head of the International Affairs Office-Sentro Rizal, NCCA. He is a summa cum laude graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman with a degree in European Languages (French and German) and currently pursuing his Master in International Studies at the same university with special emphasis on cultural diplomacy and cultural/creative industries. (firstname.lastname@example.org)