At the turn of the century, the Philippines is presented to the world in two cities
In July 2015, Filipinas Heritage Library collaborated with the Toronto-based independent researcher, Francisco G. Villanueva, in organizing the mini exhibition entitled Felix Laureano: First Filipino Photographer at the Ayala Museum. The Panay-born photographer had successfully set up his own photo studio in Barcelona and was likely friends with the propagandista who fought for reforms in Spain in the late nineteenth century.In 1895, Laureano published Recuerdos de Filipinas, a photo-album of Philippine scenes accompanied by short descriptive essays. Recuerdos de Filipinas was displayed at the Exposición Regional de Filipinas in Manila in the same year.
The Felix Laureano exhibit highlighted the lack of research on the history of photography in the Philippines. Most of Laureano’s contemporaries in Manila were European, like the Spanish Manuel Arias Rodriguez and Francisco Pertierra, and the British Albert Honiss who all established their own photo studios along Escolta Street. Another photographer, Enrique M. Barretto, went on in 1890 to build Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel, which later became San Miguel Corporation.
On a visit to the Geronimo Berenguer de los Reyes, Jr. (GBR) Museum in General Trias, Cavite, the FHL Team saw a substantial number of photographs by Honiss and Rodriguez, including those of the 1895 Manila Exposition where Rodriguez was the official photographer. This gave us the idea of developing an exhibition on the 1895 Regional Exposition and its precursor, the 1887 General Exposition in Madrid.
Both expositions aimed to stimulate trade and commercial activities in the Philippines. The Exposición General de Filipinas ran from June 30 to October 17, 1887, covering a wide range of subjects — the archipelago’s geographical and natural features; its flora and fauna; the colony’s agricultural, commercial, and industrial states; and an anthropological and ethnological characterization of its inhabitants. Fifty-five Filipinos were hired and brought to Spain to demonstrate abaca weaving and tobacco making, or were simply displayed in their “native” dress in the middle of Retiro Park. Basalia of Jolo along with two persons from the Carolinas died during the three-month-long exposition.
Meanwhile, the Exposición Regional de Filipinas took place from January 23 to July 19, 1895. Asian countries and colonies such as China, Japan, Siam (now Thailand) and Annam (now Vietnam) were invited as participant exhibitors. The 1895 Manila Exposition replicated the subjects covered by the 1887 Madrid project but without the anthropological and ethnological exhibits. About 1,950 exhibitors divided into 80 groups participated in the event. The Manufacturing Industry had the most number of exhibitors (679) followed by Agriculture with 405 participants. Companies that took part included: La Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas, La Insular, Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel, Inchausti y Compañía, Distillería Ayala, and Botica Zobel. Tobacco, abaca, sugar, and textiles were the major products exhibited.
An important contribution of both expositions was the participation of artists who were women at a time when women were prohibited from studying formal art alongside their male peers in art schools such as the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura. Unlike in the 1887 Exposición General where only two Filipina artists participated, Manila’s Exposición Regional attracted 17 women painters including Paz Paterno and Carmen Zaragoza. Paz was the sister of Pedro Paterno, the only Filipino member of the 1887 Exhibition Committee; while Carmen was the sister of Miguel Zaragoza, whose paintings were among those exhibited in Madrid along with the works of Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, and other painters and sculptors.
The Doble Mirada exhibit includes library-owned copies of rare books that were displayed in both expositions, including travel writings by the Europeans; Paterno’s study of the Tagalog alphabet; and Isabelo de los Reyes’ El Folk-lore Filipino. The exhibit also features the original catalog of the 1895 exposition which lists the exhibitors, as well as perhaps the only existing copy of Rodriguez’s original photo album in the Philippines.
The exhibit aims to open up new avenues for research such as turn-of-the-century photography, architecture, and exhibition making; the history of women and art; and trade and economic history. It is also a chance to display reproductions of the works of little-known Filipino artists that can only be accessed now in museums in Spain.
The Doble Mirada: Madrid-Manila exhibition is held with the support of the Geronimo Berenguer de los Reyes, Jr. (GBR) Museum and other museums and archives in Manila and Spain. Opening with a curatorial talk on November 5, it runs until December 4, 2016 at the second floor of Ayala Museum.
Filipinos from Northern Philippines housed at the Rancheria de los Igorrotes in Retiro Park, Madrid. Photo by Jean Laurent. Album Exposición General de las Islas Filipinas. 1887 [Patrimonio Nacional]
Marques de Berges (lower right) was another photographer who documented the 1887 Exposition. He is pictured in this installation of Philippine costumes, dress, and similar anthropological objects. Photo by Marques de Berges. Album Exposición Filipinas. 1887 [Biblioteca Museu Victor Balaguer]
Section 7 of the 1895 Exposición Regional de Filipinas included an installation of the Ateneo de Manila featuring an enormous sea turtle and stuffed birds. Photo by Manuel Arias Rodriguez [Geronimo Berenguer de los Reyes, Jr. (GBR) Museum]
Section 4 of the 1895 Exposition featured Philippine industries and manufacture. Pictured are Filipina embroiderers. Photo by Manuel Arias Rodriguez. Album de Exposicion Regional de Filipinas. 1895 [Filipinas Heritage Library]