A Tale To Tell & Remember

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Friday, 26 April 2013


Teddy at the Intramuros, Manila

I don't really know how should I share my latest adventure in the Philippines, but it seems that for the past three days it has been a very good close encounter between me and this country. The trip around Manila had opened up my eyes to a much more larger perspective on what Philippines is and how does she behaves and very much upon this blessing, I feel obliged to share it with all my viewers.

I went to the National Museum of the Philippines, located near the Intramuros (city inside the wall) and Rizal Park. My new friend Erwin whom I just happens to know by accident, brought me here just to give me the perspectives and so that I will understand the psyche and way of life of the Filipino peoples. Upon registering names and buying the tickets, they introduced to the Museum curator named Jesse. He began to bring me to see this special national treasure which is a painting twice larger than the school blackboard. This painting is called Spoliarium. It was painted by one of the Philippines founding father Juan Luna in the year 1884. It took Juan Luna 8 months to finish his masterpiece using a used galleon mast.

Teddy and Spoliarium
Actually I wasn't that interested to see or try to understand this painting at the first place. Then Jesse starts to explain to me the meanings of the depicted images. It intrigues me little by little of the meanings and then he had me completely. Spoliarium (spoilsr) was an image or a scene of a moment after the death of a Roman Gladiator in Coliseum, Rome. It shows many moments in one sketch. The figures of a dead Gladiators hauled by a Roman soldiers for them to be stripe of their belongings such as shield, swords, helmets, sandals and their garments. There are also figures of businessman or poachers that are trying to take advantage of getting the belongings of a slain gladiator and all the belongings to sell it later. One figure of a Roman Soldiers shunned one poacher for being too greedy. Other figures are a weeping woman perceived to be the lover of the dead gladiator in grief and the mother looking for their sons dead bodies to be cremated. The last figures would be commoners and aristocrats jostling down the stairs to see their role model and dead heroes (gladiators are like a rock star that period in Rome) and Romans would believe that "if you drink the blood of the gladiators, you will be cured of your illness". Everyone is vying for something from the slain gladiators including his blood. Death brings life to others. The paradoxes of it is that after much of entertainment given by these gladiators to Romans, they were hauled down in such a way more to be exploited.

Most of us might wonder what is the relation between Spoliarium and Philippines and their road to nationhood. Plus Roman 2,000 years of history is different from 19th century Philippines. The answers are everything is related. Spoliarium in way also depicted a lot of domestic struggles and inequality experienced by the Filipinos during the Spanish era. The images depicted by Juan Luna in some way have also encapsulates on how Filipinos sees their road to nationhood. They treasured dead heroes as in Jose Rizal and Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. The Filipinos way is the hard way of life as depicted by the slain gladiators. And most of all they love heroes better still they dead. Spoliarium is an everyday scene of life of the Filipinos.

Looking back in retrospect of the painter Juan Luna himself, the Spoliarium painting is an equal of Lt. Adnan when he proves that a Malay soldier also can lead among the throng of the British officers. In 1884, Spoliarium won the gold medal in 1884 Madrid Expo beating all the Europeans painters most important of all it beats the Spaniards artist. It shows that pure Filipinos like Juan Luna can also do better than their Spanish masters (those day Filipino were treated as second class citizens compared to Spaniards). This painting sparks a concept of nationalism and the fighting for equality as similar as the Malay novel of Pak Sako - Anak Mat Lela Gila/ Putera Gunung Tahan. Road to nationhood indeed starts with fine arts. Juan Luna is a close friend of Jose Rizal, and the Philippines founding fathers are close buddy alongside Dr. Ariston Bautista Jr travelling all over Europe such as Spain, France, Austria and Germany. Philippines are built as an amalgam of their founding father experience in Europe. And they love fine arts in a way it shows their psyches are much more advanced than us (in some areas perhaps).

The Parisian Life

I learnt a lot of things that day. Apart from Spoliarium, many more mesmerizing and beautiful paintings, sculptures, I was also shown the other famous paintings by Juan Luna which called the Parisian Life. But that golden experience and info is just for me to keep between me and myself. There is too much to tell in one painting. I also learnt that Jose Rizal was also a playboy and a poet, by that he just happens to be my new heroes. :)

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Faces of Tun Teddy

Faces of Tun Teddy