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Ato Ini (This is ours)

By Kim G. Libarnes
(Agusan National High School)

It was on the day of the resurrection of our Lord, March 31st 1521, where an unfazed fleet headed by Spaniard Ferdinand Magellan drifted towards the shores of Masao bagging with them will, determination, and the word of Christianity, as they set foot to celebrate the first Christian mass on Philippine Soil spearheaded by Friar Pedro Valderama.

An event of significant magnitude that would pave the way for the Philippines to become one of the most prominent Christian nation in the world.

A mass that has been etched in the Butuanons culture for centuries, but as the ascent of the new millennium advances, technology and innovations seemed to have faded the inks of our history books, with this long commemorated event becoming footprints in the sand of Masao, washed-up and forgotten.

Fast forward to today and we come across artifacts that have collected dust in deteriorated museums, rusty historical monuments that have become ghost towns, and vanished traditions and heritages in a small town riddled with ailing principles, sadly, Butuan has become a dying culture.

Heritage that are slowly being toppled with the idealisms of becoming “modernized” and “innovated” with the unruly cost of a distraught cultural identity.

The question then revolves around asking ourselves ‘who?’ we are as Butuanons, where our roots originate, and what our pioneers have contributed.

Our identity as people of this city is our common ground; it is the writing force that drives us towards unlocking our caged heritages and becoming ‘cone’ as a people, culture, and as a voice.

Let us refrain from forgetting the 3As of preserving our cultural identity: awareness, appreciation and advocacy.

The cool breeze of air conditioning topped with the glamour of malls may be hard to resist but best we remember to look back where we came from, and that leads us to awareness, awareness of the historical landmarks that is fit to cover weeks of history classes while enjoying the beauty of its richness and intricateness, something that no shopping mall can offer.

Being educated for our diverse background by researching and by building an interest towards our roots is even made simpler with just a few clicks away from hundreds of information made possible by recent technological advancements.

Let our costumes, dances, and traditions may not be of Paris fashion show or “hip-hop” standards, but it is a part of how our town was molded to what it is today.

Thus, appreciation of our culture despite advancements and means of modernization is too significant factor in keeping the fire burning in a town that is melting pot of diversity and ethnic backgrounds.

Placing in mind the Manobo attire and supporting our local delicacies such as the luscious palagsing.

Lastly, promoting and encouraging others to preserve our cultural identity is vital in advocacy. This is “moving” our city-folk to take its part in maintaining and reviving Butuan’s “dying culture”.

The Department of Education has even inculcated in its new K-12 curriculum the promotion and use of the student’s mother-tongue language in the child’s developing years.

This is to aid in pulling back fallen dialect. Advocacy can start in any way, as small or as big it may be, one step is significant.

Let us all help and take our own part in reviving this dying culture. Remember the 3 As- awareness, appreciation, and advocacy.

Just like Magellan’s journey, let us sail towards promoting this cause.

We should not forget our culture, who we are, because our heritage defines being a Butuan, and in turn defines who we are.

We are our culture, this is ours; or in local dialect, “Ato Ini.”

Note: This piece won first place in the ‘First Eastern Mass in Philippine Soil’ essay writing competition for senior high school students organized by Butuan City Government through the City Tourism Office, March 31.

The second and third placers will be published here next week and the next.

The is the official and sole online and print publication of the contest.

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