‘A Dog of Flanders’ and other stories
Art speaks, and art that speaks to the heart draws a response from other people’s hearts, just like when the poignant story of “A Dog of Flanders” is told over and over againd. Who’d work for his sainthood?
Those days when only black and white television sets with glass tubes in its innards were available, there were only three television channels popularly known for their initials: IBC, RPN, and SBN (which later became the precursor of GMA). One movie I was able to view on television at that time during the Christmas season was, “A Dog of Flanders.” The film has a story that would break every child’s heart in the mold of “Bambi” and “Dumbo.”
In later years, after colored television was invented, Christmas cartoons would become common fare, like “Frosty the Snowman” and “Andy and the Chipmunks.” “A Dog of Flanders” was no longer TV’s regular offering.
I loved “A Dog of Flanders” so much. The image of the dead grandfather on the couch got embedded in my mind along with that scene wherein Nello, the central character of the movie, shared gruel with his dog. Then there was their frozen bodies under the triptych.
I cried each time I watched the movie, and cried some more while reading the story in a book that was among the most-coveted collections that only the school library and our wealthy classmates had: The Companion Library series.
It was much later, four and a half decades later to be exact, when I learned that it was in Flanders where the heart-breaking and awe-inspiring truce agreed during Christmas in World War I happened. That was almost a century after the original novel was written. That broke my heart some more. The sadness that the story evokes softened by one’s knowledge of what happened in that Christmas truce painted a poignant moment that made you long to reach out to the characters involved, except that centuries separate you.
So out there in a faraway lumad school while staring at the full moon and waiting for a school program to start, I pondered on the day’s art workshop. The children were supposed to draw the Pantaron Mountain Range, a place inhabited primarily by the Manuvu tribe, a range so rich it is being lusted for by big mining companies. The unspoken rumblings were the cry for justice, for self-determination, and for the protection of a tribe’s ancestral domain.
But will crying out work? We know too well that, many times, the answer is no. What if we speak from the heart about our home, the range’s lush environment, and its biodiversity not as angry rallyists but as artists well-connected to the earth bringing out the colors of the land and our people?
In the first place, no one ever wants to listen to an angry crowd; no one even wants to stand close to one. But art speaks, and art that speaks to the heart draws a response from other people’s hearts, just like when the poignant story of “A Dog of Flanders” is told over and over again.
Today’s younger generations know the “A Dog of Flanders” story as different versions of anime and no longer as the black and white film of my childhood.--from