Monday, March 3, 2014

Defending The Right To Call Something A "Bad Idea"

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece wherein I voiced out my dislike of the Ullalim Festival's Awong Chi Gangsa. You can read the article here but if you don't have the time, here's the gist of it: I didn't like it. I called it a bad idea. I called it noise. Most people didn't agree with me including a fellow blogger who wrote a lengthy rebuttal on his blog. I'll address his reply in a moment.

But before anything else, I'd like to apologize to the folks who left comments on my article about the Awong but were deleted. I think there were about two dozen comments on the article, all of which mysteriously disappeared. Almost all of these comments were negative (some were even below the belt) so people might be thinking that I've deleted them intentionally because they were in disagreement with what I wrote. No, I assure you, I didn't. And I have an explanation. 

When I published the article two weeks ago, this blog still had the domain name When I transferred the blog to the new domain name of, the Facebook comments section just went kaput. The comments left by readers just disappeared. All of the comments left by Facebook users before the change in the domain name were automatically deleted. My apologies for that. I never anticipated that changing the domain name of the blog will clean out the comments left by people via Facebook.

Now, back to the fellow blogger who penned a rebuttal to my thoughts on the Awong, here's my reply. I'll just address some of the issues and concerns he raised in a numbered form. I find it easier to do. And I love numbers. 

Dear fellow blogger,

1) I still stand with most of what I said in my article. The Awong is a bad idea. I didn't like it. Looking at the thousands of people dancing was quite a sight, it was beautiful, BUT the sounds they made was noise. There's no way a thousand people will be simultaneously beating on gongs and music (at least the kind of Cordilleran music I'm accustomed to listening) will come out of it. I'm NOT an expert in Cordilleran dance and music (far from it) but I know if what I'm hearing is music or if it's noise.

2) Oh yes, there are a lot of fallacies and poorly reasoned out arguments in my article. My bad, that was sloppy of me. Thanks for pointing them out. You see, as a blogger, I often find myself writing posts on the fly. And unfortunately, you came around and dissected my article word by word (like a surgeon on a mission), looking for contradictions and flaws in the arguments. I'm imagining you doing a lot of facepalms reading the piece. I'm not making the thirty-minutes-or-less time that I burned to write the piece as an excuse. But things happen - you know - write something without thinking all the sentences through then hit on the "Publish" button. Let's just say, you got me, - the fallacies and poorly reasoned out arguments - I realize them now. I learned my lesson. Thank you.

3) You used the term "audacity" in referring to my write-up. Not so sure about the definition of the term, I consulted with my friend Google and she came up with two definitions. The way you used the term, I can see that you meant rude and disrespectful. So I reread my article on the Awong. Rude? I don't think so. Disrespectful? Nope. If you think that my saying that the Awong was a bad idea is rude and disrespectful, I disagree with you. If I say that the Panagbenga Festival is a bad idea and a waste of time, does that make me rude and disrespectful? Disagreeing with something doesn't equate to rudeness nor disrespect.

4) You questioned my credentials as a critic. The idea that I need credentials before I can have the right to criticize is just nuts. Tell that to the millions of bloggers who write about movies, music, politics, etc. In most cases, they are just ordinary folks who haven't spent a single day in a film school, can't even strum a guitar, or haven't written a single academic paper about Plato, Aristotle or Hobbes. You mentioned me judging "what is culturally proper or not for the Kalingas". Yeah, I did. And I did it based on what I know about their culture and music. Yes, my knowledge of them may be very limited but this shouldn't prevent me from voicing out my views. You seem to be implying that I MUST be a cultural worker, an academic, or an indigenous person before I get to have the AUTHORITY to criticize. If I can't criticize the Awong, then who can (besides the academics, cultural workers, indigenous peoples that you speak of)? By they way, I'm a full-blooded Igorot, a Kankana-ey.

5) You wrote "In calling the Awong “a bad idea,” is this critic trying to tell us that he has moral and intellectual ascendancy over all these Kalinga leaders?" Needless to say, I had a WTF moment when I read it. If I say the Panagbenga Festival is a bad idea, am I claiming "moral and intellectual ascendancy" over the people in City Hall, the organizers of the festival, and all those who participated? No, no, and no. In essence you are telling me that if I'm not with you, then I'm against you and that I'm claiming to be better than you. And why in the world did you have to include the "moral" thing? Where did that come from? You also threw around the names of the people involved in the conception of the Awong. Names I never even mentioned in my article. Basically, what you said was because the people behind the Awong are very talented and accomplished people, I should not speak ill about their Awong concept because if I do then I'm claiming "moral and intellectual ascendancy" over them. I do hope you realize how screwed this is.

6) I never claimed that my "ear for music is of a finer order". All I said was I didn't like the Awong, that it was a bad idea, and what I heard was noise. It's called criticizing. Roger Ebert, a famous film critic once implied that Brillante Mendoza's film Kinatay could be the worst film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival. Mendoza went on to win the Best Director award for the film. In saying that the film was bad, was Ebert claiming that his eye for film is of a finer order than that of Mendoza and the judges in Cannes? No and no.

7) I never claimed that the reader's ear for music is inferior to mine. Why can't you just accept the fact that I disagree with you? You liked the Awong, great, good for you. But why don't you allow me the freedom to dislike it and call it noise? And why do you keep on making the assertion that because I didn't like it, I was claiming superiority when it comes to "ear for music"?

8) Thank you for pointing out that the name of the Kalinga singer is Mauricio Patungao. But I find offense in your assertion that in calling the Awong a bad idea, I was claiming a "more polished musical schooling than" Mr. Patungao. You seem to have a HUGE problem with people who don't share your views.

9) I admit, my use of the term "the true nature of Cordilleran culture" was a bit irresponsible. However, I defend it based on what I know about the Cordilleran culture. I repeat, I'm not an expert in Cordilleran culture. I'm not claiming to be one. But I do have an idea (kind of a ballpark estimate) of what's true and what's not. When I say true, I'm referring to a purist point of view. I get your point when you discussed on the evolution of the Cordilleran culture. You seem to be saying that even if changes are introduced to the culture as a result of outside forces (like modernization), the culture can still be considered as true. What if I don't agree with such a view? We're talking about two views here. Mine and yours. So your calling me naive tells me you're a rather close-minded person. Yes, I do realize that you have a MUCH wider knowledge and experience with the Kalinga culture than mine. You might even be among these experts you earlier mentioned. My knowledge is the size of an ant compared to your elephant. But we are talking about views here. Nobody has a monopoly on views regarding cultures. What I deem to be true may be deemed false by somebody else.

10) My view of tourism. What is it? Because you seem to know it. You called it skewed. I don't remember telling anybody my views on tourism.

11) As to the spectacle thing, I admit I messed up with that one. And to referring to the Awong as nothing but tourist-bait, my bad, I was wrong. I do sincerely apologize.

12) As to the congratulations I extended, yes, that was a sincere congratulations. Just because I didn't like the presentation doesn't mean I didn't appreciate the effort behind it.