How to spend your Saturdays

On Saturday, 16 November,  go to the National Museum of Fine Arts, bring  your  family and friends to spend a delightful afternoon among our national cultural treasures. You will not regret it. In fact, a friend of mine, Dr. Paulina Baclig, recently sent me her testimony via PMS. She had casually asked me about museums and I told her to visit  the National Museum complex consisting of Fine Arts, Anthropology and Natural History, each neo-classical edifice a stone’s throw away  from the others. Finally, she went , “just to get a feel of it, but I had a good time. I should have done this years ago!”

This coming Saturday, from 2 to 5 p.m, there is an added bonus. Two lectures will be given  at the Laurel Hall  in connection with the “Quadricula”  exhibition in Galleries 27 and 28. For those who have not heard, “Quadricula” is the grill pattern used by the Spanish colonizers to build coastal towns with Christianization as the ultimate objective. Intramuros, the “Noble and Ever Loyal City” established in 1571, was the first Quadricula in Luzon.

One of the lecturers is Prof. Dr. Jose Victor Torres whom I met a few years ago at a conference about how the   Rizal Course is being taught in the 21st  century. As you all know,  Republic Act 1425,  sponsored by the late Senator Claro M. Recto, ever the most polemical piece of legislation, riled the Catholic Church (in the Philippines)  which  has always considered Jose Rizal  a godless subversive who denigrated the sacred doctrines of the faith.  He did no such thing,  but for  the Catholic clergy, Rizal was  a Mason and an atheist (although  Masons are not atheists).   Pres. Ramon Magsaysay signed the bill into law shortly before he died in that fatal plane  crash in Cebu.

Dr. Victor Torres is a conscientious Rizalist. He may not know how many times the hero darned his woolen socks,  but he can tell you about Rizal’s blueprint for the nation  and what exactly he stood for. He  also worked for the Intramuros Administration during which he wrote books about the”Noble and  Ever Loyal City,” still available at local bookstones. He will talk about the trappings of the first Quadricula.

The other lecture is “Re-imagining Lost Stories of 18th Century Manila, Using Graphic Arts Evidence”—what a kilometric title, I thought, it is almost like a colophon which was how titles were written in the eponymous period. Prof. Cara Gamalinda will reveal why   18th century Manila  is one of the most obscure periods of Philippine colonial history. I do think she is right  because many of us are focused on  the 19th century, the “Gilded Age,” “Age of Enlightenment” with its intoxicating  liberal ideas  that inspired people like Jose Rizal, Antonio Luna, Marcelo del Pilar, Mariaino Ponce, Andres Bonifacio,  to name only a few.  Let Prof. Gamalinda take us further back into time.

She  is a visual artist, a graduate of Cultural Heritage Studies with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Santo Tomas, and  is currently the program head for Fine Arts at the prestigious Far Eastern University (FEU) of Manila. Using elements of graphic art like fonts, borders, initials, Prof. Gamalinda recovers hidden cultural identities of colonial Manila. I am intrigued and can hardly wait to learn from her.

I invited the superintendent of the DepEd Manila Division of Schools, Dr. Maria Magdalena Lim, and asked her if she could spread the word around to the public schools of the City of Manila and the NCR. I remembered the tertulias we used to organize at the City of Manila during the terms of Mayor Alfredo S. Lim. Mrs. Monina Santiago, who was in charge of the Museo ng Maynila, had the brilliant idea of inviting teachers of the public schools of Manila.  We always had a full house and the educators appreciated all those lectures.  I remember Professor Hila whom the teachers extolled because he spoke about the various forms of Filipino music, playing on a piano segments of balitaw, kundiman, kumintang. Perhaps I should invite him again because there are two paintings in the Quadricula collection about music — “El Canto Boholano” and “Escuelas  y Rosarios.”

The Quadricula exhibition will be open until March, 2020,  so the lecture series will continue until  2020, also on the 3rd Saturday of each month — January, February and March.  There will be no lecture in December 2019 as everyone will be busy preparing for Christmas. See you this coming Saturday, 16 November, at 2 pm at the Quadricula lecture.