Can art and culture change the world?

Natashya Gutierrez

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At TEDxDiliman, Patricia Evangelista talked about the riveting story of a woman named Edith.

Pat Evangelista speaks about storytelling on TEDx.

MANILA, Philippines — In her winning speech in London, writer Patricia Evangelista confidently stood on stage to tell the story of a girl who wanted to be blond, blue-eyed, and white.  

Seven years later, Evangelista is still telling stories. Over and over, she speaks about the face of human rights in the country. At TEDxDiliman, a local TED-like forum held at the UP College of Law this afternoon, she talked about the riveting story of a woman named Edith.

TEDxDiliman takes off from the non-profit TED Talks (after Technology, Entertainment, Design) which started out as a conference in 1984. Its mission is to spread great ideas. 

Evangelista said of Edith, “She was a teacher, who wanted to be a nun, and then she met a man who loved her and who she loved and then they got married and had children and life was fine. Then martial law happened, and her husband was arrested.”

Evangelista did not hear the story as a kid. She learned of it when Edith’s son, Jonas, 37, himself a family man, was kidnapped by the military on April 28, 2007. He was suspected of being an intelligence officer of the New People’s Army working under the alias “Ka Ramon.” As a journalist who passionately pursues stories about injustice, Evangelista chronicled the plight of Edith.

Evangelista complemented her poignant storytelling with an independently produced video about a woman searching for her son.

“I tell the story again and again because I can’t forget and because sometimes, I’m afraid I will, ” Evangelista concluded.

The TEDxDiliman Talks revolved around how art and culture can change the world.

Criticizing Art

The audience eagerly anticipated the talk of four-time Palanca Awardee and musician Lourd de Veyra who, however, failed to show up.

Instead, he sent a video that questioned the definition of art and its importance. He argued that no song has saved a nation and no movie has rescued people from starvation. Nor has Bob Dylan been able to prevent a war. 

In the end, he claimed that perhaps it was enough to accept art for its expressive value, a point he drove home powerfully with his fittingly artistic video.

Masyado naman nating binabasag ang art (We are criticizing art too much),” he said. “Insight into the human condition. Ito ang sinasabi nilang silbi ng sine (This is what they consider one of the purposes of film).”

Alternative Form of Expression

While most of the talks focused on conventional forms of art, British student Roy Moore spoke about a more unusual form of expression: football.

Moore coaches Payatas FC, a football club for underprivileged children who live in Payatas, home to the largest dump site in Metro Manila. Inspired largely by the growing popularity of the Azkals, he started the football club, which has changed the lives of kids there.

“Football provides a level-playing field for these children where it doesn’t matter where they’re from. It doesn’t matter who they are and it doesn’t matter how much their parents have,” he said. “If they have the skill, the determination, the hard work, they can succeed.” 

Football, Moore said, is not just a sport for children, but more importantly, a powerful tool for expression.

“It is about expressing themselves, and football provides that place,” he said. “The best thing I did for the kids really is just to give them the ball and they express themselves after that, and they do the hard work after that.”  

Other TEDxDiliman speakers included theater performer Glecy Atienza, musical video director Rico Gutierrez, film director Auraeus Solito, painter Fernando Sena, educator Nina Lim-Yuson, and editor-in-chief Roby Alampay.

Follow the reporter on Twitter: @natashya_g

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.