forgottenwarThe photo above is of a film shown on a curved screen – part of the Lopez Museum‘s curved spaces which lead viewers toward areas of its current exhibit, Deleted Scenes, that deserve special attention.  The exhibit’s theme deals with information on the fringes of Filipinos’ knowledge and awareness of history, as depicted in arts and literature – the things that are easily forgotten.  The bench can only seat up to four persons, but that’s how intimate the Lopez Museum is – four of us invited bloggers were soon riveted to the scenes before us.

Memories of a Forgotten War (2001)
is a short film directed and co-produced by Sari Raissa Lluch Dalena and Camilla Benolirao Griggers. It is also a family affair, with writing and design contributions from sisters and fellow artists Gabriela Krista Lluch Dalena and Aba Lluch Dalena.  Writing credits are shared by Gabriela Krista Dalena, Camilla Griggers and Lilia Quindoza-Santiago.

The war in this case is the Philippine-American war (1899-1902).  People are aware of it only as street names or landmarks, such as Pinaglabanan Bridge (“the bridge fought over”), but are no longer aware of their stories. We remember that the Spanish-American war ended with Spain selling its colony to the US for a mere USD 20 million.  People remember only vaguely that there was a time during the First Philippine Republic that Filipinos resisted the control of its new colonial master, and its policy of Manifest Destiny.  What we remember is our Liberation from the Japanese Occupation by American forces in World War II, the glamor of Hollywood, and the now hollow claim that we speak the best English in Asia, thanks to them.

forgottenwar-02This movie takes the national and makes it personal.  The film unfolds with the narrator (Griggers, a Filipino-American college professor) retracing her Filipino roots in an attempt to establish her sense of identity.  As the American daughter of a Filipino-American mother, she was not merely searching for answers about why she and her mother were not acknowledged by her American grandfather.  She asked the questions, “What makes me American?”, “What makes me Filipino?”, and most importantly, “Why do I need to know this for myself?”  It’s a common story being asked by the people around the world whose countries are former colonies of imperial powers, that have since become ethnic melting pots.

This search is the framework for a point of view of Philippine history not commonly known, or shared.  The marriage between the narrator’s grandmother and grandfather has a parallel story to the colonial takeover of the Philippines by the United States.  It’s not as romantic as you’d like to think.  War never is.

I did not know, for instance, that there was a mass murderer named Gen. Jacob Hurd Smith who ordered the Balangiga Massacre in Samar, who made sure his army had a “take no prisoners” approach, killing everyone, even children old enough to carry a weapon.  Insurgency was a natural result of Smith’s actions and orders.

I did not know, also, that American colonial troops massacred a thousand Muslims in the volcanic crater at Bud Dajo, Jolo, Mindanao.

I wanted to weep, as our narrator’s gentle voice became somewhat stern, matter-of-fact and condemning as she described it.  But this is what happens in war.  People get drunk with power.  People die.  Does it make me angry?  Only for the moment, because this happened over a hundred years ago.  Why do we not know these things?  I know there was a movie made of the Balangiga massacre, but I did not watch it.  Maybe I should.  I want to know why the Balangiga bells are still being kept as war booty in the US and not returned to the Philippines.  They are part of OUR history. There is an interesting book out, by Rolando Borrinaga, The Balangiga Conflict Revisited.

History is written by the victors (and the powerful).  All this unpleasantness of war has led to attempts to rewrite history.  Despite overwhelming evidence, some people still claim that the Holocaust never existed.  Or that the world is flat.  So what is real?  What is true?  One needs to see other points of view in history, to best appreciate it.

Sari Dalena’s film is so apt for the Deleted Scenes exhibit.  After watching it, you will be forced to ask  yourself:  “Who am I?”, “What do I know?”  and “Why do I want to know?”

Deleted Scenes runs at the Lopez Museum from November 12, 2009 to January 9, 2010.  The Lopez Memorial Museum is at G/F Benpres Building, Exchange Road corner Meralco Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City.  For more information, you may call them at (632) 631-2417, or email them at The Lopez Museum is also on Facebook.  Become a fan today!



A few days ago I had the good fortune to be invited by my friend, museum worker Ricky Francisco, to join a group of bloggers on their tour of the Lopez Museum.  For those who have heard of it but have no idea where it is, it’s at the ground floor of Benpres Building in Ortigas Center, opposite BPI.  The Lopez Museum has an excellent research library, as well as a premium collection of Filipino artworks and historical artifacts.  Visitors would be surprised to realize how intimate its exhibit space is, and for exhibits like Deleted Scenes this intimacy works.

Deleted Scenes (which runs from Nov. 12, 2009 to Jan. 9, 2010) is the Lopez Museum’s participation in Zero In, an alliance of Metro Manila museums that share a common exhibit theme running simultaneously.  The current theme, “Periphery”, deals with information on the fringes of one’s consciousness, everything on the edges of what is common knowledge that is often disregarded.  In her notes curator Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez says, “This exhibition quite simply began with a question:  what do I not know?  Or what do I stumble upon just on the perchance that I have the time (and certainly the interest) to spare to look up what has been intentionally left out from what will get to me?…  Deleted Scenes modestly explores such omissions both in pictorial and literary accounts of national history as well as in purported narratives hinged on representation that a museum such as the Lopez hesitatingly but inordinately lays out.”  Co-curator, artist Claro Ramirez, designed the spaces to best reflect this concept.

Featured artists include Lyle Buencamino, Dada Docot, Sari Dalena and Al Manrique.  However, also on display are works currently in the museum collection, such as those by Danilo Dalena and BenCab.  But mostly what were displayed had never before been exhibited, as intellectual significance and logistical concerns usually determine what goes into the final cut.  In our guided tour, Ricky Francisco explained that for years only museum workers had ever viewed the late Social Realist Al Manrique’s sketchbooks which contained his powerfully raw art because exhibiting them would have created political repression, both for the artist and the museum.  They languished in storage until exhibiting them had become relevant and eye-opening.

Charcoal pencil sketch of striking workers. untitled, by Al Manrique.

It was a unique experience to be allowed to handle and photograph the sketchbooks.  This is part of the intimacy that the Lopez Museum allows the visitors to experience, as viewing the work promotes a visceral reaction.  Beside the two sketchbooks (one had editorial cartoons/sketches in pen and ink) was a box of latex medical gloves, so visitors could turn the pages without damaging the artwork.  We were also instructed not to use flash photography for the same reason.

Ricky Francisco explains the book installation, as Digital Filipino’s Janette Toral takes a closer look.  Also with us were bloggers Azrael Coladilla and Arvin Ello.
These books had always been part of the Lopez Museum Library, but because the subject matters were foreign and quite diverse, they had never previously fit into any conceivable theme, until now.  One interesting set contained the documented proceedings of the Nuremberg War Trials!lylebuencaminoThe exhibit not only covers visual art, but leads one from paintings to cinema. This bridging triptych, “No Fighting In The Museum”, “Removing Subject Matter From Painting” and “Scene from Garrison 13” depicting 3 cut scenes from various LVN productions, is by Lyle Buencamino.  One commonly asked question for works of this type is, “If you painted it from a photo, does that count as art?”  If an artist selected the scene that had the impact and portrayed the details in his chosen style, I’d say yes.  If Buencamino hadn’t chosen these scenes to paint, would we have seen them?  I think not.bencabrickyazrael“Soldiers (Heroes of the Past)” by BenCab.  A familiar painting, but the subject matter anchors together some forgotten or little-known details in Philippine history.
alibata-02Ricky points out a very interesting book, a kind of Rosetta Stone translation of various Philippine scripts / syllabaries.  Did you know, for instance, that the alibata or baybayin script as we know it today is only ONE of the many modes of Indo-Sanskrit-derived Philippine handwriting?  As we can see, the Lopez Museum not only has artworks, but valuable research aids available to visitors, whether students or professionals.One last image I’d like you to consider is this piece of imperialistic propaganda, “Uncle Sam:  I Didn’t Know I Liked Melon So Well” (Judge, July 16, 1898).  It depicts the very sort of thing Mark Twain was debating against (yes, Mark Twain was a great friend to the Philippines):propagandaI’m going back – to view Dada Docot’s documentary, and to write about it.  I did say the Lopez Museum is an intimate viewing space, but there is so much in this exhibit that is worth looking at more closely.

I’m also writing another blog entry on Sari Dalena’s film, “Memories of a Forgotten War” next.  (Which war, you ask?  Why, the Philippine-American War.  There was a tragic time at the turn of the old century, when the Filipinos resisted a change in colonial rulers, and suffered greatly.  Given our lifestyles today, this is something that many no longer remember, nor choose to remember.)

The Lopez Museum gives us that rare gift, of opening our eyes not only to what is before us, but also to what is around us that is easily taken for granted.

Deleted Scenes runs at the Lopez Museum from November 12, 2009 to January 9, 2010.  The Lopez Memorial Museum is at G/F Benpres Building, Exchange Road corner Meralco Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City.  For more information, you may call them at (632) 631-2417, or email them at