Monday, November 23, 2009

'StarStruck Pax Hispanica'

We're almost glued to the Kapuso Network last weekend so we did not miss the presentation of the twenty-eight finalists of their talent search StarStruck V. Except for eight that came from Pinoy communities in diaspora around the world, all the others are home-country bred.

It did not surprise as though that not anyone in this batch stuck out as belonging to the Nora Aunor genre. It looks like we've seen the last of aspiring Marky Cielos to represent the 'natives,' a racial category used by foreign, particularly American, writers when they set foot here by the end of the 1800s and in the early 1900s, to set apart the Jackie Rice and Iwo Moto 'half-castes,' their term to denote Spanish or Chinese mestizos and mestizas (metis or metisses to the French journalists). Today, their equivalent tisoys and tisays who 'dream, believe and [hope to] survive' StarStruck V to become popular TV-movie idols are of multi-racial stocks.

While there was no StarStruck during the Spanish regime, foreign journalists had favorite photographs of mestizas to accompany their stories.

The 'half-caste flower girl at the opera' (right) is found in Yesterdays in the Philippines (1899) of Joseph Earle Steven. Ramon Lala Reyes (The Philippine Islands, 1899) and Ebenezer Hannaford (History and description of the picturesque Philippines ..., 1900) called her simply 'mestiza flower-girl.' All are American writers. Reyes described himself a returning 'native of Manila;' he settled in the USA in the late 1880s and became a naturalized American citizen.

The photographer might have been smitten by the beauty of the flower girl that he made her his model (she posed; did she receive a talent fee?). Photography was not a hobby then and the few photoshops could have been the foreign writers' main source of illustrative materials for their works. We're certain this picture has been reproduced in other foreign narratives about the Philippines and its people.

The metisses de Manille (mestizas of Manila, below) is an earlier work, an engraving based on a photograph, found in Lucon et Palaouan (six Annees aux Philippines), I-XII (1886) by the Frenchman Alfred Marche. The American writer George Waldo Browne used this same artwork in his The pearl of the Orient: the Philippine Islands (1900) but he captioned it simply mestizos.

It would be very interesting to find the original photograph of these two beautiful mestizas. We might yet stumble on it as we combed through the digital libraries and photo collections of the Cornell U and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

Were they of the StarStruck generation, their families and friends may probably encourage them to 'dream, believe, survive' the rigorous screening process of the TV talent search.

If they win, GMA7 (and even rival ABS-CBN network) still has plenty of foreign telenovelas to adapt for prime time showing, and these two mestizas may have an edge over the rest of the talent pool for any leading role.

Materials cited are in the Southeast Asia Visions digital library collection of Cornell University.

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