Saturday, January 12, 2008

Songs of Our Times

Dec 8, OISE Auditorium, Toronto

“Songs of Our Times” was an impressive debut for community organization Philippines Advocacy Through Arts - Canada (PATAC). The concert featured a variety of musical performances, ranging from traditional Filipino, to modern folk, to ballads, to comedy. It was also a multimedia event, as PowerPoint videos accompanied the performances and exhibitions of photographs, paintings, and other visual arts were on display.

As well as being entertained, the capacity crowd learned more about the human rights situation in the Philippines. Many of the songs highlighted the struggles of the Filipino people, forced to either live under a corrupt government at home or to go abroad as migrant workers to seek a better life.

The concert was organized to raise funds for the Childrens Rehabilitation Centre in the Philippines, a place where children who have been victims of state violence receive physical, psychological and social rehabilitation services. The children have suffered arrest, torture, displacement, or other human rights violations at the hands of the brutal and corrupt army, police, or paramilitary of the Philippine government in its all out war against the peoples movement. The death toll of children killed by the military during operations has reached 54. Seventeen children have been tortured, 69 illegally arrested, and 63 beaten and raped. Many are also traumatised by the killing of relatives by security forces. Over 800 unarmed, legal mass activists have been killed by security forces since current President Arroyo came to power in 2001.

The event also received the warm greetings of exiled revolutionary poet Jose Maria Sison, who praised the use of arts and culture “as truly a potent instrument for reaching out and inspiring the people to act and change their lives and the world.”

Canadian artists and community activists should take inspiration from PATAC and the kind of work that they are doing. Songs can do more than just entertain - sometimes, they can bring people together, united in the struggle for justice!