Philippine History in the 19th Century Told Through Rare Photos


“The only known photo about José Rizal’s execution was actually taken by a Spaniard who happened to have a bookstore that time selling a copy of Noli Me Tangere novel too. This same photo by Manuel Aria showing Rizal, behind him are Filipino soldiers holding rifles forced to shoot him if not the Spanish soldiers behind them will shoot them too, later became a serious mistake that stirred a rallying cry and ended the Spanish rule in the Philippines” says John Silva, a writer, arts & culture consultant, tour guide and blogger in “OUR VISUAL HISTORY Discovering the 19th and Early 20th Century Philippines through Photographs” talk in Ortigas Foundation Library.

Silva has been an avid photo collector for the past 8 years about the works of early photographers in the Philippines he acquired from travels and his work. He narrates about the first recorded photographs in the country that came from Sinibaldo de Mas, a Spaniard who always had numerous complaints about the insolence of the natives like not removing their hats or not giving their way whenever he pass by to them in the sidewalks. The camera he used is the daguerreotype and later wrote the Informe sobre el estado de las Filipinas en 1842 (A Report on the Status of the Philippines in 1842).
Jose Rizal’s Execution
Félix Laureano’s photo the Lavando la ropa, may be the earliest account of a homosexual / gay ever existed and recorded in the country. In 19th century since there are no malls yet, after the people attended the mass in the early morning, the town becomes half-empty and during mid-morning everyone goes to the river to socialize while bathing,  washing clothes,  to make chit-chats or see the apple-of-their-eyes. In his photo, he mentioned “Three dalagas and a tauo, sitting on the green grass beside the river and washing clothes, their minute feet being lapped by the crystal clear current. The tauo, who can be identified by his manners, is binabayi, agui, and has the balutan of dirty clothes near him.” Here, binabayi, means effeminate”. Only a local could identify a homosexual in context using local expressions.
Silva also shows a photo of a woman in a carriage beside her groom to church and a band after them with a purpose to cheer her up since it is an arranged wedding.Francisco van Camp’s Indígena de clase rica, a photo of a Mestiza Sangley-Filipina (of mixed race) in a long curly hair with coconut oil or just came from a shower holding a fan half-opened which meant the girl is single and a lady of pleasure. Photos of the St. Louis World Fair in 1904 which brought 2,000 of our tribe men was marked as a fetish display of Filipinos that one of the fair’s highlights is an Igorot roasting a pig daily throughout the exhibition. Rizal himself condemned the unfair or rather inhuman treatment of them abroad.
These photos from his 5,000 pieces of collection are so rare that Silva says should be seen by every Filipinos since we seemed to be only Filipinos by name, we can recite and sing our national anthem but we don’t know our history this much. He shares a few sentiments over historical sites that are being destroyed like the Jai Alai, one of the most beautiful art deco in the Philippines which was destroyed because of a mayor of Manila was maybe having a bad hair day at that time. No article can be fit enough to express the meanings of these photos instead the images itself should be shared to everyone. He is also looking for a sponsor of these priceless photos for future publication.

Felix Laureano’s Recuerdo de Filipinas book about a woman in an arranged marriage
 Indigena de Clase Rica
St. Louis  World Fair 1904
If you want to check out Silva’s blog entitled  JOHN’S THOUGHTS AND DEEDS you may click here  

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