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Ditan,IrisD.

HUMIII

201448971

MHB

MuseumVisitstoNational,Lopez,andAyalaMuseums:AReactionPaper
Downthelongcorridor,onparallelwalls,intheopenroom,litbyminispotlightseachart
installationwasatributetohumanity.Thetemplesthathousedthemsharedthepeaceandquietcommon
toallsacredplaces.Inthatatmosphere,eachmessage,emotionandinternaldialoguewasamplified,
echoinginthequiethallsofthemuseum.ItwasanintimateexperienceandasIlefteachmuseum,
National,LopezandAyala,IknewtherewerenewmarksimprintedonmebyseveraloftheworksIsaw.
Notsurprisingly,oneofthemostmemorableworkswasCarlosBotongFranciscosTheProgress
ofMedicineinthePhilippines.Afourpartwork,thepaintingscapturedthestateofPhilippinemedicine
during the PreHispanic, Spanish, American, and modern times. Each painting is a collage of the
differentelementsthatrepresentmedicineinthedifferenttimeperiods.Thefirsttwopaintingsuseda
warmandearthycolorpalette,indicatingamoreorganicandmysticalapproach,asopposedtothecool
colorpaletteofthethirdandfourth,whichisreminiscentofthecoldhospitalwallsandresearchlabs.The
firstpaintingwasdominatedbypaganmedicinalpractices.ThepaintingdepictedFilipinosgarbedin
ethniccostumesandababaylanperformingaritualfortheiridols,presumablytocurethedyingmanin
thebackground.ThesecondpaintingwassetduringtheSpanishoccupation.Surroundedbybothillness
andmonstersofPhilippinelore,menoftheclothservedashealersofthebodyandsoulduringtheera.
Thesepaintingsreflecthowdeeplyembeddedreligionwasinoursocietythatitevengovernedtheways
wetreatedthesick.WiththecomingoftheAmericans,thethirdpaintingmarkedthetransitionfromthe
useofherbsandmysticalpracticestotheuseofsciencetocure.Finally,thelastpaintingwassetin
moderntimes,whereadvancedmedicalequipmentandtechniquesareusedtobothtreatandunderstand
differentdiseases.Emphasizedintherecurrentcurvylinesandshapesinthefirstthreefollowedbythe

contrastofsharpangularlinesandshapesinthefourthpainting,thenatureofourhealinghastakenaturn
towardsamoreclinicalandfactbasedapproachtohealing.
Inbothcontentandform, TheProgressofMedicineinthePhilippines containsanunderlying
threadthatunitesthefourpaintingsinsuchawaythateachmaystandalonebutisundeniablypartofa
greaterwhole.Thehistorybehindtheworkisobvious.Itisamazingandhumblingtoseethattheluxuries
inmedicineweenjoytodayarearesultofthecompoundedeffortsofthehealersthatcamebeforeus.
Morethanthat,itisabeautifulreminderofboththerootsofourpracticesandthedynamiccharacteristic
ofhealthcare.Justasweseethepracticesinthefirstpaintingsasarchaic,thetechniquesweusetoday
mayberenderedobsoleteaseachpassingyearbringsusbetterwaysofpreservinghumanlife.
Althoughitistruethatforeignoccupationinourcountryhasdonesomegood,aswehaveseenin
thepaintingsofCarlosBotongFrancisco,itisundeniablethattheseinvadershadbroughtdeathand
destruction especially during WWII. One dramatic presentation of the events during the Japanese
OccupationisFernandoAmorsolos BurningofManila.Intheimage,theskyispaintedredbehinda
cloudofsmokerisingfromthecitynestledbesidethebay.Thefearthatthepeopleexperiencedatthe
timewouldhavebeeninsurmountable.Incontrasttothetamewaters,theoldManilawouldhavebeenin
chaos,draggedintoawarfromwhichithasnevertrulyrecovered.AsIlookedatthepainting,Icouldfeel
amixtureofsorrowandangeratwhatmycountryhadtoendureduringthosetimes.Toseethestrong
sturdystructuresoftheireverydaylivescrumbleandthestrangers,friendsandfamilyaroundthemdie,
theFilipinosofthattimewereinahellworsethanwhentheSpanishandAmericaninvadersfirsttook
theirfreedomaway.
TheeffectofthewarontheFilipinosismoreclearlyseeninAmorsolosotherpaintings:Defensa
deHonor,RapeofManila and MaidofBataan. Ineachofthepaintings,womenarewindowstothe
extentofJapanesecruelty.Thefirstpaintingshowsthecrimetobeagainstthewomanbehindtheman
withabolo.Thesoldiershatatthefeetofthemanhintattheperpetratorandthemansfacereflectthe

angerofafather,brother,lover,oranymanofdecentmorals.Thesecondpaintingisbothliteraland
allegorical.TheJapanesedefilednotjustFilipinasbutthewholeofthecountrywhentheykilledcivilians,
infantsandburneddownbuildings.Notonlythat,theyareinparttoblameforthealmostfanaticalview
ofFilipinostowards theUSAwhosaved thePhilippinesfromtheJapanese.The lastpaintingwas
especiallyhauntinginmyopinion.Therewasnooutrightimageofviolenceorcruelty;againstafiery
background,withsmokebillowinginthewind,awomanwaskneeling,herfaceupturnedyethereyes
heldnohope.Itseemedlikeshewaslookinguptoherdoom,orofferingasilentprayerforthedeathof
herorofalovedone.
Ibelievethatpaintingsondisastersareatruetestimonyonhowartcanmoveandelicitemotions.
DespitethefactthatIwasnotaliveduringtheJapaneseoccupation,IreactedstronglytotheimagesI
saw.Ifinditamazingthatasimplecombinationofcolors,images,andstrokescanconveyimmense
emotionandthatthesmallelementsofapaintingcanholdsuchmeaningandweight.
OnegoodexampleisAmorsolos WartimeMarketScene.Atfirstglance,thepaintingwould
seemveryordinary.However,uponcloserinspection,thepresenceofaJapanesesoldierontheleftside
ofthepaintingcanbenoted.Thisaddsfurthertensionandcontexttotheimage.Asidefromthesoldier,
themarketsceneitselfcanexplainalittleofthebackgroundofthepainting.Thewarmcolorsusedforthe
surroundingsimplyhotortropicalweather.Basedontheproducebeingsold,itcanbeassumedthatthe
placeisatropicalandmainlyagriculturalcountry.Also,evenwithoutknowledgeabouttheartist,the
presenceofthekalesainthebackgroundheavilyhintsthatthesettingisinthePhilippines.Meanwhile,
judgingfromtheordinarygarmentsofthepeople,theywereofmiddleorlowereconomicclassduring
thosetimes.
Itseemsthattheideaspaintingscanconveyarenotrestrictedtotheabstractorextreme.Theycan
alsotellalotabouttangibleandmundanedetailsaboutthecontextinwhichapaintingwasmade.One
examplethatexplicitlygivesinformationaboutthesedetailsisPabloAmorsolos PhilippineCharity

Sweepstakes. It used to serve as a poster for the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Organization. The
paintingshowsfarmers,laborersandothercommonpeoplegatheredatthefeetofaladywhoseemsto
representthePCSO.Inthebackgroundhorsesareracing,anobviousreferencetothebettingthathappens
during horse races. This painting may be interpreted in many ways; however, to me, it shows the
desperationofapeoplewhohavetorelyongamblinginordertoimprovetheirlives.Thecolorsusedin
thepaintingalsoseemtoimplythatthereishopeandfortuneingamblingorgamingastheyinsiston
callingit.TheprominenceofthewordsPhilippineCharitySweepstakesandthehorsesracinginthe
pictureshowthebigpartthatgamblingholdsinoureconomydespiteitsdestructiveeffectonthequality
oflives.
I find it amazing that something static can depict such dynamics and that a single moment
capturedinpaintcandepictawholestory.Thisisthepowerofpaintings.Itisatruereflectionofmans
capacity in that everything under the sun and every topic known to man can be immortalized on a
canvass.However,whatismoreamazingistheabilityofthesepaintingstocreatedialogue,toinduce
thought, and to elicit emotion. From what I have seen during my museum trips, art in the form of
paintingsisuniqueinthatithastheabilitytobothcompletelycapturethewholeofhumanity,andatthe
sametimechangeit.