Imprinting Andres Bonifacio: The Iconization from Portrait to Peso by The Malacañan Palace Library


Imprinting Andres Bonifacio: The Iconization from Portrait to Peso by The Malacañan Palace Library Source: Andres Bonifacio: The Iconization from Portrait to Peso by The Malacañan Palace Library   The face of the Philippine revolution is evasive, just like the freedom that eluded the man known as its leader.     The only known photograph of Andres Bonifacio is housed in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain. Some say that it was taken during his second wedding to Gregoria de Jesus in Katipunan ceremonial rites. It is dated 1896 from Chofre y Cia (precursor to today’s Cacho Hermanos printing firm), a prominent printing press and pioneer of lithographic printing in the country, based in Manila. The faded photograph, instead of being a precise representation of a specific historical figure, instead becomes a kind of Rorschach test, liable to conflicting impressions. Does the picture show the President of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan as a bourgeois everyman with nondescript, almost forgettable features? Or does it portray a dour piercing glare perpetually frozen in time, revealing a determined leader deep in contemplation, whose mind is clouded with thoughts of waging an armed struggle against a colonial power? Perhaps a less subjective and more fruitful avenue for investigation is to compare and contrast this earliest documented image with those that have referred to it, or even paid a curious homage to it, by substantially altering his faded features. This undated image of Bonifacio offers the closest resemblance to the Chofre y Cia version. As attested to by National Scientist Teodoro A. Agoncillo and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, it is the image that depicts the well-known attribution of Bonifacio being of sangley (or Chinese) descent. While nearly identical in composition with the original, this second image shows him with a refined–even weak–chin, almond-shaped eyes, a less defined brow, and even modified hair. The blurring of his features, perhaps the result of the image being timeworn, offers little room for interjection. In contrast, the next image dating from a February 8, 1897 issue of La Ilustración Española y Americana, a Spanish-American weekly publication, features a heavily altered representation of Bonifacio at odds with the earlier depiction from Chofre y Cia. This modification catered to the Castilian idea of racial superiority, and to the waning Spanish Empire’s shock–perhaps even awe?–over what they must have viewed at the time as indio impudence. Hence the Bonifacio in this engraving is given a more pronounced set of features–a more prominent, almost ruthless jawline, deep-set eyes, a heavy, furrowed brow and a proud yet incongruously vacant stare. Far from the unassuming demeanor previously evidenced, there is an aura of unshakable, even obstinate, determination surrounding the revolutionary leader who remained resolute until his last breath. Notice also that for the first (although it would not be the last) time, he is formally clad in what appears to be a three-piece suit with a white bowtie–hardly the dress one would expect, given his allegedly humble beginnings. Given its printing, this is arguably the first depiction of Bonifacio to be circulated en masse. The same image appeared in Ramon Reyes Lala’s The Philippine Islands, which was published in 1899 by an American publishing house for distribution in the Philippines. The records of both the Filipinas Heritage Library and the Lopez Museum reveal a third, separate image of Bonifacio which appears in the December 7, 1910 issue of El Renacimiento Filipino, a Filipino publication during the early years of the American occupation. El Renacimiento Filipino portrays an idealized Bonifacio, taking even greater liberties with the Chofre y Cia portrait. There is both gentrification and romanticization at work here. His receding hairline draws attention to his wide forehead–pointing to cultural assumptions of the time that a broad brow denotes a powerful intellect–and his full lips are almost pouting. His cheekbones are more prominent and his eyes are given a curious, lidded, dreamy, even feminine emphasis, imbuing him with an air of otherworldly reserve–he appears unruffled and somber, almost languid: more poet than firebrand. It is difficult to imagine him as the Bonifacio admired, even idolized, by his countrymen for stirring battle cries and bold military tactics. He is clothed in a similar fashion to the La Ilustración Española y Americana portrait: with a significant deviation that would leave a telltale mark on succeeded images derived from this one. Gone is the white tie (itself an artistic assumption when the original image merely hinted at the possibility of some sort of … [Read more...]

Novel: Noli Me Tangere by José Rizal. First Published in Berlin, Germany 1887


  Noli Me Tangere is a novel by Filipino polymath José Rizal and first published in 1887 in Berlin, Germany. Early English translations used titles like An Eagle Flight and The Social Cancer, but more recent translations have been published using the original Latin title. Though originally written in Spanish, it is more commonly published and read in the Philippines in either English or Filipino. Together with its sequel (El Filibusterismo), the reading of Noli is obligatory for high school students all throughout the archipelago. References for the novel Jose Rizal, a Filipino nationalist and medical doctor, conceived the idea of writing a novel that would expose the ills of Philippine society after reading Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He preferred that the prospective novel express the way Filipino culture was backward, anti-progress, anti-intellectual, and not conducive to the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment. He was then a student of medicine in the Universidad Central de Madrid. In a reunion of Filipinos at the house of his friend Pedro A. Paterno in Madrid on 2 January 1884, Rizal proposed the writing of a novel about the Philippines written by a group of Filipinos. His proposal was unanimously approved by the Filipinos present at the party, among whom were Pedro, Maximino and Antonio Paterno, Graciano López Jaena, Evaristo Aguirre, Eduardo de Lete, Julio Llorente and Valentin Ventura. However, this project did not materialize. The people who agreed to help Rizal with the novel did not write anything. Initially, the novel was planned to cover and describe all phases of Filipino life, but almost everybody wanted to write about women. Rizal even saw his companions spend more time gambling and flirting with Spanish women. Because of this, he pulled out of the plan of co-writing with others and decided to draft the novel alone. Plot Having completed his studies in Europe, young Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin came back to the Philippines after a 7-year absence. In his honor, Don Santiago de los Santos, a family friend commonly known as Captain Tiago, threw a get-together party, which was attended by friars and other prominent figures. One of the guests, former San Diego curate Fray Dámaso Vardolagas belittled and slandered Ibarra. Ibarra brushed off the insults and took no offense; he instead politely excused himself and left the party because of an allegedly important task. The next day, Ibarra visits María Clara, his betrothed, the beautiful daughter of Captain Tiago and affluent resident of Binondo. Their long-standing love was clearly manifested in this meeting, and María Clara cannot help but reread the letters her sweetheart had written her before he went to Europe. Before Ibarra left for San Diego, Lieutenant Guevara, a Civil Guard, reveals to him the incidents preceding the death of his father, Don Rafael Ibarra, a rich hacendero of the town. According to Guevara, Don Rafael was unjustly accused of being a heretic, in addition to being a subservient — an allegation brought forth by Dámaso because of Don Rafael’s non-participation in the Sacraments, such as Confession and Mass. Dámaso’s animosity against Ibarra’s father is aggravated by another incident when Don Rafael helped out on a fight between a tax collector and a child fighting, and the former’s death was blamed on him, although it was not deliberate. Suddenly, all of those who thought ill of him surfaced with additional complaints. He was imprisoned, and just when the matter was almost settled, he died of sickness in jail. Still not content with what he had done, Dámaso arranged for Don Rafael’s corpse to be dug up from the Catholic church and brought to a Chinese cemetery, because he thought it inappropriate to allow a heretic a Catholic burial ground. Unfortunately, it was raining and because of the bothersome weight of the body, the undertakers decide to throw the corpse into a nearby lake. Revenge was not in Ibarra’s plans, instead he carried through his father’s plan of putting up a school, since he believed that education would pave the way to his country’s progress (all over the novel the author refers to both Spain and the Philippines as two different countries, which form part of a same nation or family, being Spain the mother and the Philippines the daughter). During the inauguration of the school, Ibarra would have been killed in a sabotage had Elías — a mysterious man who had warned Ibarra earlier of a plot to assassinate him — not saved him. Instead the hired killer met an unfortunate incident and died. The sequence of events proved to be too traumatic for María Clara who got seriously ill but was luckily cured by the medicine Ibarra sent. After the inauguration, Ibarra hosted a luncheon during which Dámaso, gate-crashing the luncheon, again insulted him. Ibarra ignored the priest’s insolence, but when the latter slandered the memory … [Read more...]