Malungon Mayor Tessa Constantino writes open letter for cultural sensitivity

Atty. Tessa Constantino, mayor of the Municipality of Malungon in Sarangani Province, on Monday, April 9 2018 published in her Facebook account an open letter calling for cultural sensitivity. This comes after the controversy regarding a photo of a model wearing a Tagakaolo blouse paired with a bikini was published in the Philippine Star on Sunday.

Here is the letter in its entirety:
Malungon Mayor Tessa Constantino writes open letter for cultural sensitivity

AN OPEN LETTER FOR CULTURAL SENSITIVITY

This is in light with the controversial photo of a female model wearing a traditional blouse of the Tagakaulo tribe and a bikini (underwear) which was featured in a Philippine Star article and had now gone viral in Facebook. Just like the sentiments of those who shared their disappointment over the matter, I, in behalf of the Local Government of Malungon, together with my family, would like to express and convey my deep dismay and distaste on what seems to be a display of cultural misappropriation.

The Municipality of Malungon is known to be inhabited since time immemorial by 2 major tribes, the Blaan and Tagakaulo. We knew them as one of the founders and our great ancestors of this municipality. With that, we have high respect, recognition and appreciation to them for all their contributions by becoming the pillars that made Malungon what it was in its early times, today and what it can become in the future. We are very proud of our ethnic origins as a people and we value our cultural heritage that in all the undertakings of our local government, we see to it that our tribes are not offended and neglected. Thus, it truly hurts us to see and hear anything related to our culture and norms being disrespected and insensitively disregarded.

After seeing the said photo and upon inquiring, I was informed that the particular blouse worn by the model is actually a work from the Tagakaulo Tribal Museum located in Sitio Kityan, Barangay Poblacion of this municipality. What saddened and dismayed me is there were no consultations, coordination or inquiry to our local government office from the team or designer who would make use of the traditional blouse to be featured in any form of medium. No one from their side bothered to reach and ask us if it is alright and appropriate to do such thing.

As the leader of this humble town and as a member of the Indigenous Cultural Community (being a descendant of the Blaan Tribe), I demand the responsible people behind this to make up for whatever damage and misconceptions incurred by that feature. We ask for more than a public apology which can best explain to the entire Tagakaulo tribe the essence of that and if ever they meant no offense and disrespect to the tribal community and their treasures. I hope we would not be able to forget all the struggles and hardwork we’ve been through by advocating and pushing for cultural sensitivity and appropriation in the face of commercialization and exploitation of our ethnic heritage. In our town, we always say that we are embracing and celebrating our cultural diversity. But even for the sake of art, promotion, economic profit or whatnot, we must not ever forget that we can do so only in ways that are ethical, decent, and with highest integrity.

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My Mindanao by Nanardx: Malungon Mayor Tessa Constantino writes open letter for cultural sensitivity
Malungon Mayor Tessa Constantino writes open letter for cultural sensitivity
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