Monthly Archives: April 2011

In Not So Recent Memory


by Oliver Geronilla

Taking a stroll down memory lane always makes me smile. I smile for all the things I did in the past—both good and bad.

March and April are special months. They are the months when graduations are held—the time when many– if not all school friends– say goodbye to each other. They’re also the months when I reminisce the graduations that I was a part of. At BNCS-A, I lead the graduates of school year 1991 in reciting the “Pledge of Loyalty.” We didn’t wear academic gowns then.

Weeks before the most anticipated day, we rehearsed two “graduation songs” (If We Hold on Together and The Greatest Love of All) which until now I still remember very clearly–both the lyrics and the melody. Our teachers painstakingly taught us how to pronounce the words correctly.  Mrs. Lilinda Golloso repeatedly told us to say MOUNT’NS and not MOUNTAYNS.

During the Closing Ceremonies, everyone was in high spirits except for me. I was disappointed– terribly disappointed. I felt bitter that time despite the two medals I received—a bronze medal for being the first honorable mention, and one gold medal for being the representative of our district to a science quiz bee.  In my mind, my teachers “cheated” me. I knew I wasn’t the best pupil, but I knew I was the second best among us.

I told mama and papa about my disappointment, but they just smiled at me; they were happy for what I achieved. They were proud of me. That’s what mattered.

From the processional down to the recessional, I wasn’t excited. But I could see that all parents were. We, the graduates, were there… just there trying to remember all the things we had to do. It was more of a performance.  There were speeches. There were rounds of applause. It was an academic pageantry that I wanted to erase from my memory.

That childhood angst lingered for more than a decade. I just couldn’t see beyond the end of my nose. Acceptance, or should I say “closure,” came only some years ago when I personally witnessed how academic rankings were actually done. It was far more complicated than I thought. That  gave me a blast of the past with a twist I failed to recognize.

Maybe it’s too late for me to personally extend my gratitude to my teachers back then at BNCS-A. After all, without them, I wouldn’t have learned the ropes of the English language. My elementary school teachers, for sure, played a pivotal role in shaping my future. That’s a fact of life I can’t deny. And that’s something I should forever be grateful.

Some of them are no longer with us mortals; some of them are now enjoying their retirement days. Some of them may still remember me: the lanky boy who didn’t copy the notes written on the board. I do still remember most of them. Who could forget, for example, our math teacher from  the 5th grade to the 6th grade? Her weapon was not the quintessential rod or stick –which every school teacher had that time–which could leave a bruise on our skin when we’re hit, but her (right?) thumb and index finger that could skillfully grab our sideboards …to either pull them up or down.  Addaayy!!

There’s, of course, our SIBIKA teacher who was fond of delivering monologues mouthing out all the names, places, and dates he could muster from our textbook.

(to be continued)

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Justiniano Asuncion’s Album Of Watercolors Mirrors 19th Century Filipino Life

 A reprint of Mrs. Florina Capistrano -Baker’s article in Philstar in connection with our search for the artist Justiniano Asuncion. junasun

 
 
 By Florina H. Capistrano-Baker


Not a few art enthusiasts are under the mistaken notion that the 19th century album of watercolors depicting various peoples and costumes of the Philippines in a special collection at the New York Public Library is yet another version of the Damian Domingo album at the Newberry Library in Chicago, a misconception apparently stemming at least in part from a typed commentary on a small slip of paper appended to the album stating thus: “Artists: Damian Domingo and Justiniano Asuncion, according to Mr. A. Roces, July 8, 1980.”Further, an earlier notation presumably handwritten shortly after the album was completed, indicates that: “These figures were painted for the sake of the costumes by a native artist of Manila [sic] for M. Soden Esq. of Bath — in the year 1841 or 2 (9 in number). The other four by an inferior artist the former being ill. [signed M.M.S.]”If we were to believe the 1980 notation that the artists were indeed Damian Domingo and Justiniano Asuncion, the logical assumption of most would be that the nine superior paintings were by Domingo, and the other four by Asuncion, who was the more junior of the two. Closer scrutiny, however, disputes the attribution to Damian Domingo, for the rendering of the figures is distinct from that of the signed Domingo album in the Edward Ayer collection at the Newberry Library.
 
 Moreover, it is the opinion of many that Justiniano Asuncion surpassed his erstwhile mentor in artistic skill and virtuosity. It is therefore unlikely that the “other four by an inferior artist the former being ill” could refer to the talented Asuncion. Rather, the nine superior works are clearly those of Asuncion himself, and the four inferior works by another, unidentified artist.The handwritten notation placing the year of manufacture to the early 1840s similarly refutes authorship by Damian Domingo, who is said to have died a decade earlier in the early 1830s. A careful reading of the images, in fact, brings to mind the many unsigned 19th-century prints attributed to Justiniano Asuncion that are still seen occasionally offered for sale in various art shops today.Belonging to the genre popularly called tipos del pais, this album labeled simply as Philippine costumes consists of 13 gouache images of individual types and costumes of the Philippines on European wove paper, with three additional images that do not seem to belong to the set, namely fragments of an image of a Chinese lady, an illustration of different types of butterflies, and a print of a European hunting scene.
 
The album was formally accessioned by the New York Public Library in 1927, although, even before this date, it was most likely in the collection of one of the three philanthropic institutions that were consolidated to create the core collections of the New York Public Library – namely, the Astor, Lenox and Tilden foundations.Ironically but most appropriately, I first experienced the Justiniano Asuncion album at the New York Public Library two years ago, on the afternoon of July 3, while in pursuit of Damian Domingo albums overseas. As with my first encounter with Damian Domingo at the Newberry Library in Chicago, I sat transfixed as the album was placed before me, prolonging the chase a bit longer, relishing the anticipation, savoring the warmth of the lustrous wood around me – the rhythmic rows of reading tables embraced by luxuriously paneled walls, the hushed readers consumed by their particular passions and obsessions.

Subjecting the exquisite images to my trustworthy magnifying loupe, Asuncion’s distinctive rendering of facial features was magnificently revealed in consistent details otherwise invisible to the naked eye – a dab of red here, a bit of gray there, a dot of white strategically situated to simulate those vibrant, luminous eyes. Painted in a different style from that of Domingo, the Asuncion images appear more European in both features and skin coloring, in stark contrast to the Domingo images which are more Southeast Asian. Despite the marked stylistic differences between Domingo and Asuncion, it is clear upon careful comparison of the images of the Newberry and the New York Public Library that the types and costumes portrayed in the Asuncion album were inspired by, if not directly derived from, the Domingo album.

Besides its artistic virtuosity, the Asuncion album is particularly valuable because of the copious handwritten notes accompanying the images. Thwarted by the Fourth of July celebrations during my first visit, I successfully completed my own transcription of all the notes during my second, longer visit last year.

This revealing essay, for example, accompanies an image of a man with his fighting cock:

“No. IX. This is one of the best. The color, the dress, and the character altogether is exactly that of a Manila man. The fighting cock under his arm is very characteristic; for the two are inseparable — quite! They are constantly training their cocks to fight, and as they meet in the streets they always let their cocks have a little sparring. The peg attached to their leg is stuck in the ground when their owner is tired of carrying them, and they are allowed the range of the string. The natives like gambling better than work, and the Spanish government instead of discouraging, do all they can to encourage them to gamble. In every town or village is a theater built by the government for the sole purpose of cock-fighting; and upon every bird that enters they impose a tax which yields to government 100,000 or 200,0000 sterling.”

How little has changed today, from the lowly jueteng and small-town cockfights, to world-class government-sponsored gambling casinos similarly entrenched, siphoning hand-earned monies to line the pockets of some morally decrepit few!

A chatty commentary describes the customary way of wearing tresses of Rapunzelian proportions:

“No. VII. This is by the same artist as the two first – A Spanish mestiza of Manila. – The most striking part of this figure is the manner of wearing the hair, which gives a most fascinating appearance to the tout ensemble, but unfortunately this is not correctly painted; the hair when worn in this fashion is parted in the center of the head and allowed to fall gracefully and naturally from each side of the forehead over the shoulders and down the back: The comb has no business here; it being quite unnecessary. The hair is so abundant as nearly to obscure the whole figure if not thrown off the face. When bathing it has the strangest effect to see such a quantity of hair floating over the surface of the water and extending such a distance.”

Another detailed account describes the well-dressed damsel’s complete ensemble:

“No. II. Is a Mestiza. This gives a very good idea of the female costume. The blue stripe is a little jacket made of the same material as the man’s shirt; it has not so much work upon it, the cuffs only being embroidered. It reaches to the waist, and is made very loose: Under it is tied the red and yellow plaid petticoat; over which is the cabaya, a long piece made either of silk or cotton, as the wearer can afford; which is wrapped tightly around the body and the end tucked in; which if properly done never comes loose; this is so tight over the hips as to appear to impede the free motion of the limbs… Their slippers, which are very small, only just sufficient to cover the foot, are very prettily embroidered in gold, generally done by themselves. They are so small that the little toe is always outside, which helps to keep them on. They are never worn out of doors in dirty weather, but carried in the hand, and when the señorita arrives at her destination, she finds at the door a pan of water into which she immerses her feet before putting on the slippers. The handkerchief over her shoulders is made of piña cloth, or cloth made of the pineapple fiber, this is peculiar to Manila; in no other part of the world has it ever been made. It is as fine or finer than the finest cambric, and beautifully embroidered; all the señoritas excelling in that kind of work, and in doing which they spend a great portion of their time. The fair sex… pride themselves much in their hair, with which their heads are most luxuriously covered; if they were seen in this country, it would excite much envy… It is all combed to the back of the head where it is dressed; plaited or otherwise according to fancy; but it is always particularly neat.”

While clearly impressed with the mestiza’s charms, the author did not seem to think too highly of her male counterpart:

“No. 1. An exact representation of a rich Mestizo. The complexion is admirably painted and likewise the dress. He is a great dandy and fond of imitating the Europeans, as you may see by his hat and umbrella… The umbrella is to preserve his complexion from the sun. Most people use them when walking in the heat of the day… This man leads a most idle dissipated life; he spends his day in gambling and cockfighting; his evenings in playing and singing the guitar; the songs are limited to very few in number.”

Certainly not a very inspiring image of the ideal Romeo, but most likely gifted with such charisma as to render hapless ladies oblivious to such deficiencies. Nonetheless, one must keep in mind that these commentaries are from a western, presumably male, perspective – male colonial gave undoubtedly swayed by the legendary charms of the winsome Filipina. How much or how little out world has changed since the 1840s!

About the author:

Florina H. Capistrano-Baker
Director, International Exhibitions, Ayala Museum
Born in Manila, the Philippines. Ph.D. from Columbia University. Visiting lecturer at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York. Specializes in Pacific and Island Southeast Asian art history. Publications include Art of Island Southeast Asia: The Fred and Rita Richman Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA, 1994), “Containing Life: Basketry Traditions on the Cordillera” (Basketry of the Luzon Cordillera, Philippines, Roy Hamilton, ed., UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1999), and Multiple Originals, Original Multiples: 19th-century Images of Philippine Costumes (Ayala Foundation, 2004). Works in New York and Manila.

 
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A Visit To Sta. Remedios Charity Medical Clinic

 by jun asuncion

Last 2009, 2010 and early this year, we were in the Philippines for various reasons.

In some occasions, we went as far as Bulan, visited relatives and nice places in the region

and, of course, Sta. Remedios and took some photos of people and of these  places.

This year, we shall be continuing with the projects we have in mind for the medical mission

and for the Bulan Observer Foundation that we are trying to set up.

The  Bulan Lions Club Medical Mission

 (photos courtesy of the Bulan Lions Club)

On Mission: Mr. Antonio Vytiaco, Sr. of Bulan Lions Club.

 A photo of Mr. Antonio Vytiaco, Sr. of Bulan Lions Club,
the person who organized the distribution of the medicines
sent by Bulan Observer and Team to the people in need.
 
Special thanks to Dr. Maria Belen Gordola, the president of
the Lions Club International, Bulan Sorsogon Chapter and
all the helpers behind for making their medical missions a success.
 
 
Bulan Observer, together with Franklin Patricio, Elizabeth Patricio,
 Mila Asuncion (all professional medical staff working in
 Clinic Hirslanden, Zürich, Switzerland)
 and our artist, the pianist/conductor Aries Caces are doing
their share (although they are not from Bulan themselves)  in helping the
Sta. Remedios Charity Medical Clinic and the Bulan Lions Club
 sustain their important medical missions.
 
Our involvement in Bulan is purely humanitarian in nature,
 nothing political as we do not have the ambition, the need,
the proximity or the time to engage in politics.
 
 However, to have compassion for the poor people
is something that transcends borders, colors and cultures.
 
 We just respond to this call of compassion, do something with it,
 help and expect nothing in return.
 
This year 2011, our pianist will be performing another
 concert in Zürich for the Sta. Remedios Charity Clinic
 and Bulan Lions Club and will be playing the works of Franz Liszt
in commemoration of  the 200th birth anniversary of this
 great composer. This will be on June 17, 20011 at 7.oo pm.,
 Gemeindesaal Zollikon.
 
Shown here are some photos of the Bulan Lions Club
medical mission held at Sabang Park in Bulan Sorsogon last year.

2010 Medical Mission at Sabang Park Pavilion

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Sta. Remedios Charity Medical Clinic
 (photos taken by Mila Asuncion)
 
Here is the  Sta. Remedios Charity Clinic.
 
The need for repair is very visible.

The Sta. Remedios Charity Medical Clinic

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  Part of the interior of the Clinic.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 The children who live around the clinic area.
 
 .
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
Faces of hope.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Signs of peace.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
L is for love, not for Laban or political fight (opposition).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 A talk with an older inhabitant as he informs
 about the U.S.- based nurse Angelita Kowalewsky,
 the founder of the Clinic.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And the time to say goodbye has come.
A quick visit yet we took time to take photos of these children.
Their laughter and vitality is a good sign and their needs are
as small as they are.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Though their needs are small, help them to have medicines
 and medical care when pains and sickness rob them
of their vitality and laughter.
With these images and thought, we left Sta. Remedios and
were happy to be in Bulan again,
 a charming town between its hills and the waters of China sea.
 
 
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