Sunday, January 10, 2010

Where are Guillermo Tolentino's "Rizal's Dreams" and other patriotic works?

Guillermo Tolentino could have created "Rizal's Dreams" when he was still a student at the Royal Italian Academy of Fine Arts or when he had just graduated from there with honors.  A young Filipina woman looking far away was his sculptural interpretation of the fourth stanza of the national hero's Mi Ultimo Adios (My Last Farewell) --

Mis sueños cuando apenas muchacho adolescente,
Mis sueños cuando joven ya lleno de vigor,
Fueron el verte un día, joya del mar de oriente
Secos los negros ojos, alta la tersa frente,
Sin ceño, sin arrugas, sin manchas de rubor.

My dreams, when life first opened to me,
My dreams, when the hopes of youth beat high,
Were to see thy loved face, O gem of the Orient Sea,
From gloom and grief, from care and sorrow free;
No blush on thy brow, no tear in thine   eye.
          -  Tr. by Charles Derbyshire, 1911.

Tolentino could have included this work in his sculpture exhibition that opened at the Casa d'Arte in Rome on April 24, 1924.  It was reported that "the Royal Princesses, Giovanna and Mafalda, paid Tolentino the honor of attending his exhibition, and were lavish in their praises of his work, obtaining for the young Filipino sculptor considerable favourable publicity in the Rome newspapers and art journals."

We have not yet seen any reference to this inspired creation in existing webpages about the National Artists of the Philippines, in general, or Guillermo Tolentino, in particular. 

Except for an article in The Philippine Republic (1924), there is nothing else also on the "Peace" statue that he did while he was a waiter in Washington DC to commemorate American President Woodrow Wilson's struggle for peace, and which he presented to the president himself on August 21, 1921.  

Millinoire Bernard Baruch was inspired to send the struggling Filipino artist to study in Italy after Wilson showed him the art piece. He paid for Tolentino's expenses there for two years. 

Neither are there references to his patriotic creations in Rome that could have been in his public exhibition there in 1924 like "The Philippine Republic" and "The Filipinos."  The first one had three figures, one of them representing a Filipina and the other two, the forces that saved the Philippines from the Spaniards. Tolentino intended this for consideration in a proposed monument in Malolos, Bulacan to commemorate the short-lived republic.  The second piece represented "a group of powerful Filipinos, who by their united strength, are able to successfully carry a great rock on which appears in bas relief a map of the Philippine Islands."

Tolentino could also have carved "The Philippines" in Rome, it's picture was in the cover of the January 1924 issue of The Philippine Republic.  The caption said that it was "the creation of a young Filipino sculptor, Guillermo Tolentino. He molded it with loving hands, inspired by the hope it might prove (sic) an urge to the American Congress to grant his country’s independence."

After his graduation in Italy, Tolentino made plans to go home to the Philippines soonest and possibly put up an exhibition in Manila.  It would be very interesting to know if the works exhibited in Casa d'Arte in Rome came home with him, and if they did, where are they now?

A report said that "Tolentino has been made a tentative proposition to design an elaborate and costly chapel and monument to be erected in the Manila Cemetery for one of the most prominent and wealthy families of the Philippines."   This could not have pushed through because there are no citations of it in any Tolentino literature.  Otherwise this would be listed alongside his popular statues -- the Oblation of the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Bonifacio monument in Caloocan City.

The Oblation, dedicated at the original UP site in Manila in 1939, was inspired by the second verse in Rizal's Mi Ultimo Adios --

          En campos de batalla, luchando con delirio
          Otros te dan sus vidas sin dudas, sin pesar;
          El sitio nada importa, ciprés, laurel ó lirio,
          Cadalso ó campo abierto, combate ó cruel martirio,
          Lo mismo es si lo piden la patria y el hogar.

          On the field of battle, 'mid the frenzy of fight,
          Others have given their lives, without doubt or heed;
          The place matters not-cypress or laurel or lily white,
          Scaffold or open plain, combat or martyrdom's plight,
          'Tis ever the same, to serve our home and country's need.
                -  Tr. by Charles Derbyshire, 1911.

What we see today at the back of the pedestal are not these inspirational verses in Spanish or English.  It's Rizal speaking in Pilipino through the translation (pagsasalin) of Andres Bonifacio:

Saan man mautas ay di kailangan,
cipres o laurel, lirio ma'y patungan
pakikipaghamok, at ang bibitayan,
yaon ay gayon din kung hiling ng Bayan.

Here in these sculptures, we see Tolentino portraying a Motherland as a young Filipina embodying Rizal's dreams, happy after being freed from Spanish tyranny and yet fettered in struggling for independence from the United States, and her native son offering his life for country and people.

There has been a very wide gulf of changes since Tolentino's patriotic statements in stone, marble or bronze. Are they still relevant to ponder as the May 2010 election approaches.  Has the Motherland achieved her dreams? Is she happy--or frustrated--with her sons?


Note:  Except for the picture of the UP Oblation, which we took ourselves, all the other illustrations and historical information in this article about National Artist Guillermo Tolentino were taken from articles in the January, May and August-September 1924 issues of The Philippine Republic, a magazine published in Washington DC.

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