An article about PATAC

by: Anne C.F. Bernardo

Apart from sending the occasional balikbayan box to relatives back here in the Philippines, some Filipinos in Canada have found a new way to show that they have not forgotten us. 

Showing that they still care for people back home, a group of Filipino artists and concerned citizens in Toronto formed an organization that aims to cure the ills that beset Philippine society through the arts.  The members of the group feel that art can help Filipinos—wherever they might be—understand the current issues and problems in our society.  They also believe that art can help Filipinos realize that they can do something to improve the existing state of affairs, however dire the situation may seem. 

And so in May 2007, amid news of widespread social injustices and human rights violations in the Philippines, Philippine Advocacy Through Arts and Culture (PATAC) was born.

PATAC’s pact

When PATAC was formed, the Philippines was in a state of turmoil.  Then Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was being accused of corruption, causing her ratings to plummet.   Violence and fraud marred the mid-term elections in May.  Everyday, there were reports of extrajudicial killings on television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet, filling Filipinos all over the world with fear and dismay.

In Toronto, Canada, a number of Filipinos were particularly alarmed by news of the increasing number of children being subjected to violence, abuse, and other forms of cruelty.  The news of the death of nine-year-old Grecil Buya, in particular, caused them great distress.  Grecil was killed by soldiers who claimed that she was a child soldier of the New People’s Army (NPA).  United by a desire to get justice for Grecil and many others like her, they decided to band together and form PATAC.

PATAC aims to affect change by promoting Philippine arts and culture.  The group believes that art, in its many forms and genres, is an effective tool for opening people’s minds to the problems that plague Philippine society, as well as for calling them to action.  “Art as most know is a universal language,” explains PATAC president Paulina Corpuz.  “It makes difficult issues and topics palatable and understandable for the average…person.”

Indeed, throughout the course of history, art has proven to be a successful means of conveying socio-political messages and making people understand society’s issues.  It has also proven to be an effective way of calling people to action.  In the Philippines, the effectiveness of art as an instrument for change is best exemplified by Jose Rizal’s novels on the inequities of Spanish rule, which inspired Filipinos to revolt.  PATAC also dreams of using art to bring about “a future where each person’s [rights are] respected and upheld.”


Campaigns, projects, and advocacies

Since its founding three years ago, PATAC has held several activities and events that highlight Philippine arts and culture.   Part of PATAC’s 2007 campaign “Touch a Life, Help a Soul”—the goal of which was to raise awareness and money for children victims of human rights violations in the Philippines—was held at the University of Toronto.  In celebration of Earth Day 2008, a photo exhibit and concert entitled “Mine, Mine, Mine” was held, exhibiting the ill effects of mining in the Philippines.  What's more, PATAC held an essay-writing contest for young Filipino-Canadians; aspiring writers aged 13 to 24 were encouraged to write about the challenges of being a minority.  Through these projects and campaigns, Corpuz says that it is PATAC’s goal to teach young Filipino-Canadians about their heritage by focusing on Filipino music and the arts. 

Working well with others                

Realizing the need for cooperation, the group works with several non-profit, non-government organizations here and in Canada.  One of the organizations that PATAC has partnered with is the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC).  The CRC, with offices in Quezon City, Legaspi, Iloilo, and Davao, helps children and families who are victims of violence and social injustices.  It also provides them with basic medical care and counseling.  Some of PATAC’s events have raised several thousand dollars for CRC. 

Aside from the CRC, Corpuz says that they also support and collaborate with the Philippine Independence Day Council of Toronto, Migrante-Ontario, Bayan-Canada, Scarborough Arts Council, Support Enhance Advocacy Services, Grassroots Hub, and churches. 

In addition, PATAC works with affiliate artists who are based in Canada.  These artists perform and exhibit their work during PATAC events.  Some of them even help in promoting the programs and activities.  The artists share PATAC’s belief that advancing the arts and culture of the Philippines is a very effective way to educate people and inspire them to take action.

Corpuz also says that to become a member of PATAC, one doesn’t need to be an artist.  As long as you love art and the Philippines, you can join the group.  “Even people outside of Canada can become members of our organization to expand our movement globally,” she adds. 

One drop

PATAC is the anglicized spelling of the Filipino word patak, which means drop.   The word embodies PATAC’s basic principle of giving whatever one can afford, kahit patak-patak lang (even just a little), to help someone in need. Just as one drop is enough to disturb the still waters of a pond, one drop of kindness is enough to change the world.   

Sources: and www.childrehabcenter.orgs