Monday, June 22, 2015

Propaganda in quest of Philippine nationhood

Note: This photo-essay is in the 'living' section of the 19-25 June 2015 issue of FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America published in San Francisco, CA. This author/blogger is the Manila-based special news/photo correspondent of the paper.

Propaganda exhibiit at the Lopez Museum & Library: 
The Sol issued in Madrid on 31 Decenver 1892.

As prelude to our personal observance of the 117th anniversary of Philippine Independence, we pored through the Propaganda exhibit at the Lopez Museum & Library, and listened to historian Ambeth Ocampo’s discourse on “(A)lamat at (H)istorya sa Paghahanap ng Kalinangan ng Sinaunang Filipino” during the inaugural Lekturang Norberto L. Romualdez  of the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) at the Court of Appeals auditorium in Manila.

“Propaganda” immediately brings to mind patriotic Filipino expatriates in Spain who fought for reforms in their native land through their fortnightly newspaper La Solidaridad (Sol), which they published in Barcelona and Madrid for almost seven years, from February 1889 to November 1895.

Picture from the Biblioteca Nacional de Espana.
Juan Luna painting can be seen at the Lopez
Musuem & Library.
The reform and propaganda movement of Graciano Lopez Jaena, Marcelo del Pilar, Jose Rizal and Mariano Ponce, among many others, however did not succeed in emancipating “the nation of eight million souls [from] the exclusive preserve of theocracy and traditionalism,”  borrowing from the first Sol editorial.  None of these were realized:  secularization of parishes; freedom of speech; equality of indios, Filipinos and Spaniards before the law; and representation in the Spanish Cortes, among their other aspirations.

Juan Luna expressed the vision of the reformist ilustrados in his EspaƱa y Filipinas, which he painted in 1886. The Lopez Museum & Library has a copy of this painting that shows a woman in red classical dress (Spain) holding a lady in white baro and blue saya (Philippines) by the waist,  and leading her toward a bright horizon as they ascend a staircase strewn with flowers.

This painting was adapted by the Spanish colonial government as the cover illustration of the catalog of the Exposicion Regional Filipina held in Manila in 1895 to showcase the social, cultural and economic activities in the colony. Propaganda indeed for Spain guiding her colony to a bright future!

The revolutionary movement that came also had its own propaganda press to spread cause for independence from Spain to the Filipino masses. The Katipunan propagated its ideals through the writings of Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto in the Kalayaan, their newspaper in Tagalog. Thus, the Katipunan gained many adherents in the provinces in Southern and Central Luzon.

After Kawit 1898, the new republic also needed propaganda media to get the respect and recognition of foreign powers and to announce the nation’s aspirations. Its official organ (1898-1899) published the decrees of the government and patriotic literature. The most famous propaganda paper was edited and privately owned by Gen. Antonio Luna: La Independencia. When the Aguinaldo was on the run from the Americans, so was La Independencia with its few fonts of type, and its old Franklin handpress, packed into a carabao cart.

Propaganda exhibit:at the Lopez 
Museum &; Library:
La Independencia of 25 December 1898.
Back in the U.S., the propaganda mills worked to gain public support for their troops at war with Spain in Cuba and in the Philippines.  Harper’s Weekly provided pictorial accounts of how their volunteer troops engaged the insurrecto Filipino armies. [Thomas Alva] Edison’s Manufacturing Company churned out movies at location sites in the Orange Mountains in New Jersey purportedly to re-enact American victories in the Philippine battlefields.  In May 1899, Edison produced U.S. Troops and Red Cross in the Trenches Before Caloocan; Advance of Kansas Volunteers at Caloocan; Colonel Funston Swimming the Bagbag River; Filipinos Retreat from Trenches; and Capture of Trenches at Candaba (‘full of exciting action and excellent detail,’ according to the Edison catalog). Afro-Americans in what seem to be long Johns depicted Filipino rebels.

With the onset of peacetime in the American colony, the Filipinos began exercising their new freedoms, particularly freedom of speech.  The famous “Aves de Rapina” libel case of 1908 was brought about by attacks on the Secretary of the Interior Dean Worcester in the nationalist paper El Renacimiento.

The publicity campaigns of the Philippine Press Bureau in Washington greatly helped the Philippine missions for independence to the United States from 1919 to 1924. The campaigns were intended to develop the interest of the U.S. Congress and the American public in the Philippine issue.  A privately owned monthly magazine, The Philippine Republic (1924-1928) publicized the independence agenda and played up achievements of Filipinos here and those in the United States to highlight their capabilities for self-government.

Picture from the Lopez Musuem & Library.
A poster of great interest at the Lopez Museum is “The Fighting Filipino” that depicts a wounded Filipino about to hurl a grenade while he holds aloft with his left hand a tattered Philippine flagIn 1944, he Commonwealth-in-exile commissioned artist Manuel Rey Isip, who settled in the U.S. in 1925, to make this propaganda poster. According to historical accounts, fifteen thousand copies were smuggled into the Philippines, which provided a boost to the fighting spirit of the guerrillas.

Japanese counter-propaganda in various media vis-a-vis Isip’s Fighting Filipino are on exhibit at the Lopez Museum. Among these are posters hyping on the Asian co-prosperity sphere, movie posters glamorizing Philippine-Japanese partnerships, and cartoons depicting happy relationships between the masses and Japanese soldiers.

Up on the walls too are the editorial cartoons of Gatbonton in the pre-martial law Manila Chronicle. These are drawn commentaries relating usually to current events or personalities.  Gat’s cartoons on our election system and Filipino politicians remain relevant today as ever.

Woven into the Propaganda exhibit are artworks in the museum collection done by our famous 18th century masters, national artists, and contemporary artists.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines propaganda as “ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; [and] also a public action having such an effect.”

Today, we are confronted with propaganda, whether we discern them as such or not, in the social media we seem to have become addicted to.  These may be our own or those of friends or friends of friends shared through various media streams.

Propaganda exhibit at the Lopez Museum & Library: Recreation of installation art
"Pasyon at Rebolusyon", mixed media by the late Santiago Bose.

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