The Magic of Maps

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining a media tour at the exhibit “Pen, Paper and Bookmaking: The Life of Carlos Quirino” at the Yuchengco Museum.

Carlos Quirino, National Artist for Historical Literature, is a writer, scholar, sportsman, and bibliophile who made invaluable contributions to the study of Philippine history.

2010 marks Quirino’s birth centennial, and in celebration of this auspicious event, three erstwhile out of print Carlos Quirino books are lined up for release by the Vibal Foundation: Philippine Cartography, Old Manila, and Filipinos at War.

First out is the third edition  Philippine Cartography, a landmark history of Philippine maps and their cartographers, considered as Quirino’s magnum opus. First published in 1959, the book traces the evolution of the Philippine map, from a speck in the Pacific Ocean to its current iconography.

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El Indio

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If you’ve been a regular visitor to this site, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been slowly acquiring the taste for graphic novels, as more and more of them seem to be making their way to my shelves.

Last week I had the chance to read Francisco V. Coching’s El Indio, a action adventure “komiks” (local comics) series first published in Pilipino Komiks back in the ’50s, which is said to be the golden age of Philippine comics, which flourished until the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines.

Francisco V. Coching dominated this era of comics, hailed by general consensus as the Philippines’ greatest komiks illustrator, with 61 komiks novels, all but 10 of which were turned into popular films. El Indio is one of Coching’s most popular works, the sequel to the komiks “Sabas, Ang Barbaro.”

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In Remembrance of Botong

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National Artist for Visual Arts Carlos "Botong" Francisco. Photo courtesy of Vibal Foundation.

Yesterday This week, I went on a media tour to Angono, Rizal, touted to be the “Art Capital of the Philippines.”

Angono has produced two National Artists, namely Carlos “Botong” Francisco (for visual art) and Lucio San Pedro (for music), and several well-known artists such as Nemiranda, the Blanco family of painters, and Perdigon. In recent years, younger generations of artists have emerged in Angono and art galleries and studios are a familiar sight in this municipality.

The subject of our tour was Angono’s most famous son, Botong Francisco, best known for his sprawling murals (some up to 200 feet!) that are a familiar sight to Filipinos as a lot of them are displayed in prominent institutions. His masterpieces, which depict historical scenes and Filipino communities, include the Malacañang mural “Fiesta”, “Blood Compact” (Yuchengco Museum / RCBC Building), “First Mass at Limasawa” (National Museum), “The Martyrdom of Rizal” (Fort Santiago), and “Stations of the Cross” (Far Eastern University).

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Every Filipino’s Lolo Jose

History was the topic of the May book discussion for Flips Flipping Pages, and because I’d been reading the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, I chose to read a book about their author, national hero Jose Rizal. Luckily I had a copy of Lolo Jose by Rizal’s own grandniece Asuncion Lopez Bantug.

Lolo Jose (book #81 of 2009) is an “intimate and illustrated portrait of Jose Rizal,” is a one of a kind biography of Rizal, culled from the Rizal family lore and personal anecdotes. “Lolo” is the Filipino word for grandfather, and the book is entitled as such because it paints a different picture of Rizal, reminding us that Rizal was not born a legendary hero, that before he became that figure mounted in a glorious pedestal in a park now named after him, he was a son, a brother, a friend, a scholar, and a leader.

lolo_jose_book_coverHistory was the topic of the May book discussion for Flips Flipping Pages, and because I’d been reading the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, I chose to read a book about their author, national hero Jose Rizal. Luckily I had a copy of Lolo Jose by Rizal’s own grandniece Asuncion Lopez Bantug.

Lolo Jose (book #81 of 2009) is an “intimate and illustrated portrait of Jose Rizal,” is a one of a kind biography of Rizal, culled from the Rizal family lore and personal anecdotes. “Lolo” is the Filipino word for grandfather, and the book is entitled as such because it paints a different picture of Rizal, reminding us that Rizal was not born a legendary hero, that before he became that figure mounted in a glorious pedestal in a park now named after him, he was a son, a brother, a friend, a scholar, and a leader.

Bantug states in her introduction:

“Here is the Jose Rizal I met and learned to love from all the anecdotes told to me since childhood. Here is the Jose whom the older brother he called ‘Nor Paciano led and guided with unflagging and perceptive devotion, the “little brother” whom my Lola Sisa (Narcisa) loved with passonate unquestioning loyalty, the little playmate who was teased and ordered about on errands by Lola Biyang (Maria) and who played practical jokes on her and Panggoy (Josefa), the fond brother who shed his first tears over the death of little sister Concha. Here is the brother, now grown into manhood, on whose unfailing support Lola Lucia could turn to in times rizalof stress, who stamped his feet and almost cried in grief and frustration when he could not prevent Lola Pia (Olimpia) from dying in childbirth, who was always quick to show gratitude especially to Lola Neneng (Saturnina) and Lola Sisa who could deny him nothing. Here is the solicitous big brother to younger sisters Panggoy and Trining (Trinidad), whom he taught French and English, and to whose wise counsel they listened with respectful attention and who alternately pampered and tenderly chided baby sister Choleng (Soledad).

Here is a son, brother, uncle, mentor, friend, leader — aye, even a young, susceptible swain, always a lover of beauty in all its forms.

I want the young to know that no man is born a hero…I hope that after reading about the young Jose, their inquisitive nature roused, they will want to know about Rizal the Man and Patriot. And I hope that once their interest is stimulated, they will yearn to know more about the hero and martyr. Then they can pursue their reading to include all the well-known biographies written by our eminent scholars who present Rizal in all his different aspects. “

The book was actually first published in the ’80s by the Intramuros administration, but what makes this 2nd edition special is the visual showcase: over three hundred historical photos and reproductions. The appendices are also chock-full of important information: a timeline covering Rizal’s life (1861-1896)and beyond — when he was proclaimed national hero (1901), the Rizal Monument was unveiled (1912), and Rizal was made part of school curricula (1956); a catalog of Rizal’s artworks; important letters; a comprehensive bibliography of Rizal’s written works; a list of readings on Jose Rizal; and the Rizal family genealogical charts.

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I love this book not only because it is beautifully produced by Vibal Foundation (the first book in their Filipiniana Clasica series, which aims to uphold the continuity of the Filipino reading canon), but because it provides great insight into Rizal and reveals stories and information about Rizal that do not appear in any other Rizaliana books and writings.

Earlier, before the discussion, a few Flipper friends — Marie, Cecille, MayD, Oel, and Didi  (who is a real live princess from the Sultanate of Sulu, no kidding!) went walking around Intramuros (a walled district of Manila which used to hold the seat of power in the Spanish regime) and went to Fort Santiago, where Rizal spent his last days before he was executed.

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Rizal’s detention cell

I felt a sense of reverence tracing his footsteps (and there are actual brass footprints that mark the path), and as we went around the detention cell that has been converted into a museum about him, I was able to share with my friends some bits of knowledge I got from the book.

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Rizal’s final walk

The discussion that followed in the afternoon was one of the best our book club has ever had, which is fitting, I think, as this marks our second year into our monthly book discussions. We all read different history books on a variety of subjects and time periods, and it was a lively discussion, held in a place steeped in history.

This is the last stop in my Rizaliana phase this year (I think), and it has been very rewarding. I’ve always loved Rizal — and not because he’s the most familiar hero to me because he’s a part of every Filipino’s education, although that helps — but because I really admire him for being a Rennaissance man (and I’m a sucker for overachievers), and I loved getting to know him more through his works and his family stories this year.

And, as cheesy as it sounds, he makes me proud to be Filipino. Rizal’s legacy lives on.

***
my copy: paperback (although I am drooling for the hardcover edition, which comes with the Codex Rizal, a cd-rom containing a photo gallery, the full text of Rizal’s novels and some of his works, and important writings on Rizal).

my rating: 5/5 stars

*cover photo from Vibal Foundation

Flippers discuss history!
Flippers discuss history!