‘A Dog of Flan­ders’ and other sto­ries

Sun.Star Cebu - - OPINION - STELLA A. ESTREMERA [email protected]­hoo.com SunStar Davao

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

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