The Colonial Imaginary visits Vigan City

VIGAN CITY – An exhibit on photography in the Philippines during the Spanish period opened last Feb. 19, 2008 at the Father Jose Burgos Museum.

The photographs were shown last year at the Fort Pilar, Zamboanga City and the museum branch in Tagbilaran City, Bohol with P. Burgos house as the last museum to be the venue for the exhibit.

The opening of the exhibit was attended by National Museum Director Corazon S. Alvina, former Deputy Executive Director, National Commission on Culture and the Arts Emilie Tiongco, former Ilocos Sur Governor Carmeling Crisologo, Vice Mayor Franz Ranches who represented Mayor Eva Marie S. Medina, City Councilor Everin Molina and several government officials.

The show is a monographic exhibition on the development of photography in the Philippines during the 19th century. The term imaginary is not only used as a reference to symbolic landmarks shared by a given social group, but also alludes to the nineteenth century maker of image, the idea that has inspired this visual accounts of a history and a memory common to Spain and the Philippines. The pictures evoke colonial society and Spanish cultural heritage in the islands, in particular at the end of the Spanish rule and the emergence of policies of national identity that called for independence.

The exhibit is divided into seven thematic areas: Light and Darkness in Colonial Rule, a Natural and a Cultural Landscape, the First Philippine Fine Arts, Mestizo Identity, the Exposition of the Philippines, the Katipunan Revolution and 1898.

One hundred thirty four photographs from private and public Spanish Collections, comprised the photo exhibit, most of which have been assembled in the Philippines for the first time. It was shown last year in Fort Pilar, Zamboanga City and at the museum branch in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, with P. Burgos House as the last museum branch to be the venue of the exhibit. At the end of the exhibition, the photographs will be donated to the National Museum.

The exhibition is organized by State Society for Action on Cultural Affairs (Sociedad Estatal para la Accion Cultural Exterior)  (SEACEX), Casa Asia of Barcelona, Spain and the National Museum. The exhibit will last until 18 May 2008.

In his speech, Vice Mayor Franz Ranches described the photo exhibit as “a silent and unspoken homage to our heritage conservation program, our tool for development and an instrument to make Vigan, a city of legacy, a legacity”.

“The exhibit’s coming to Vigan is a recognition that we can appreciate the power of photographs as witnesses to an era gone by. In our resolve to make our past, the centerpiece of our present endeavors towards a vibrant livable city for the next generation, we need to learn what and how it was at some period in our history,” Ranches said.

Ranches said, “Places change, people die, monuments crumble and all things become extinct but photographs are lasting documentations of those that perish and that these pictures paint a thousand words.”

“From these photographs, we can imbibe facets of our culture that we can re-employ towards a progressive Vigan. From them we can discern aspects of our past that we can put to good use towards sustaining the reputation of our city as having the finest example of a conserved heritage,” Ranches said.

The vice mayor mentioned that the Spanish government was also Vigan’s principal partner in the formulation of the city’s master development plan thru the Agencia Española Cooperacion Internacional and the Fundacion Santiago.

“It is this vein of cooperation that runs in our system, it is between colonizers and the colonized, now friends embarking on a journey of rediscovering a common past and together traversing the road towards a brighter future, that gives mankind the greatest reason for it to survive; and for its heritage to be passed on to the next generation in the service of humanity. This speaks of the bond between the Spanish and the people of Vigan,” the vice mayor said.#