Review: Land Of The Morning: The Philippines And Its People

Reference: // Alex R. Castro

This slim, but large page book is actually the companion guide to the Philippine exhibit staged at the Singapore Art Museum, with over 14,000-sq m dedicated to showcases of Philippine cultural artifacts from the precolonial era until today. It explores the identity of the Filipino people, described as “warm, resilient and synonymous with the People Power movement.” The exhibit ran from October to January 2010.

The exhibit book documents, in rich, color photographs, a lot of the stunning items loaned from prominent collectors like Paulino & Hetty Que, the Lopezes, Ramon Villegas and Dr. Teyet Pascual and from private corporations like the Ayala Museum and Intramuros Adminsitration. Highlights include Philippine colonial ecclesiastical arts. An exhibit on Philippine culture is not complete without a look at the influences of Roman Catholicism.

On display is a 19th-century carroza made of silver sheets and adorned with mother-of-pearl flowers. Atop is an image of Mary and the Infant Jesus in ivory with silver gilt, velvet gown and gold threads. Ivory Ninos, folk santos, relieves, a Leyte gilt altar and other outstanding religious carvings like a folk belen and God the Father retablo, are featured in this section annotated by Dr. Julius Bautista, a Filipino professor working at the National University of Singapore. (I had the pleasure of meeting Julius in Pampanga, when he came over to research on the province’s Lenten penitential rites last April.)

The book also explores ethnic arts, fashion and even the 1986 People Power with political memorabilia like Ninoy pinbacks, headbands, yellow ribbons and other EDSA mementos. Interesting too are the gowns created for former First Ladies, including the Valera-designed balck and white terno made for Imelda Marcos. Page after page of beautifully photographed pictures of colonial paintings, Lozano letras y figuras and hand colored antique prints of Philippine costumes are virtual eye candies for collectors and art historians alike. The book, a bit pricey at PHP 1200, is available at National Book Store, but copies are very limited.