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How Miyazaki's Masterpieces Schooled Me on Being an Igorot

Ghibli-ing my way to reconnecting Please note that these are my own reflections and do not necessarily reflect Miyazaki's views.

 |  3 min read

Photo source: Pinterest
Photo source: Pinterest

When it comes to animated films, I've always been a Ghibli fanatic. Hayao Miyazaki's works have always had a special place in my heart, and as an Igorot, they hold even more significance. You see, growing up in the mountains, I was surrounded by the beauty of nature. But as I grew older, I began to see the harsh realities of industrialization and modernization creeping into our land. I couldn't help but feel a sense of loss and disconnection from my heritage.

But back to Miyazaki, from "Princess Mononoke" to "Spirited Away," his stories always feature a strong connection to nature and a deep understanding of the relationship between humans and the environment. His characters, particularly the minority ones, are portrayed with such depth and nuance that it's as if he truly understands and respects the struggles of indigenous peoples like myself.

Moving on, per my observation, Miyazaki's films often highlight the importance of preserving cultural heritage, as seen in "Princess Mononoke" where the main character Ashitaka, an Emishi prince, tries to find a way to coexist with both the wolf gods and the humans who want to destroy them. And isn't this a common struggle for many indigenous peoples, who are often marginalized and threatened by dominant cultures?

I also love how the plot of this film wasn't primarily centered around the lead characters, but rather, it explores the complex relationship between humans and the natural world, and the consequences of our actions on the environment. This is a theme that is particularly relevant to the struggles of indigenous peoples around the world, as they have long fought to maintain a harmonious co-existence with nature and their traditional ways of life.

In "Spirited Away", Miyazaki also highlights the dangers of greed and the need to respect the balance of nature. The lead character Chihiro, a human girl, finds herself in the spirit world and must learn to respect the balance of the spirit world and the natural world to be able to return to her own world. This is a metaphor for how we must respect the balance of nature and the rights of indigenous peoples in order to have a sustainable future.

But it's not just about the environment, Miyazaki's works also touch on the importance of traditions. In "The Wind Rises," the lead character Jiro Horikoshi, who is an aeronautical engineer, has a dream where he meets his hero, Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Battista Caproni. Caproni tells Jiro that his planes are not for making money or winning wars, but for giving people dreams. This message is something that resonates with me as an Igorot, because it emphasizes the importance of preserving our traditions, while also being open to progress and new developments.

Overall, Miyazaki's films have taught me that it's possible for a society to be progressive and embrace new developments in terms of science and technology without the need to destroy the long-held harmonious co-existence with nature, the land, and all its inhabitants. It's a message that is particularly important for indigenous peoples around the world, who are often caught in the middle of these conflicting forces.

And to the rest of Ghibli fans out there, I'd say you have great taste in films. 😉

Ibaloi-Kankana-ey hybrid.

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