UP exhibit offers a deeper understanding of Rizal monuments

By KC Santos

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA – An exhibit at the UP Vargas Museum depicts the social and political value of the national hero's numerous statues and monuments here and abroad.

Called “Over Rizal: Monuments to a Hero”, the exhibit features numerous photographs, collections, and contemporary works profiling the ubiquity of Dr. Jose Rizal’s presence through monuments seen and documented all over the world.

For someone who does not appreciate history, a monument is nothing more than what it seems- a structure or pedestal made of stone and above it, a person who has done something “monumental” enough to deserve a concrete marker.

If you’re that kind of person, I strongly recommend you see this exhibit. The photos allow guests to dig deeper, and see meaning even in the smallest architectural details found in his monuments.

Here are some insights highlighted at the exhibit.

1. The design of the Rizal Monument in Luneta Park in Manila was inspired by the Beau-Arts style that was popularly used in the 20th century. If you look at it closely, it shows other indistinguishable figures apart from Rizal. These allegorical figures are told to represent abstract ideals he has epitomized like education and freedom.

2. Based on the intricacies applied in most of his monuments like the use of pedestals, obelisks, staircases, balustrades, it shows how Rizal as a hero is elevated and given value to for his contributions to the past and present time.

3. While there were more similar than varying compositions of his monuments, the exhibit also highlighted a few designers who deviated from the normative overcoat-clad and standing figure. Some designs show the hero, sitting, writing or pointing to a direction, which shows varying perceptions of people about Rizal.

4. Collections of Rizal’s photos overseas depict his monument as a marker for diplomatic relations. Wherever his monuments are erected marked the scattering of Filipinos abroad.

5. Rizal’s influence to film was highlighted in the exhibit as well. It shows how the unveiling of his monument resulted to two competing film outfits in the 1950s that made movies that hinted messages about the national hero.

One of the peculiar highlights of the exhibit was an experimental film by Madrid-based artist Kristoffer Ardeña, which shows the “de-integration” of native soy sauce and Spanish olive oil as a representation of the two races defying each other toward protecting their “universal integrity”.

A collective look at the different monuments defies the concept behind holism, wherein parts of the structure are deemed more significant and would later determine how a person sees the monument as a whole.

The varying structural positions hinting differences in viewpoints reflected the peculiarities of each locality in terms of understanding history and as a testament to the diverse characteristics of local cultures in the country.

More importantly, Rizal’s towering monuments reminds as not just to look up to him and his achievements, but to look down on ourselves and ask if we are worthy of such heroism.

The next time you see a Rizal monument, look at it closely to find out its story. You’ll be surprised just how much lessons can be had just by observing and analyzing why it's even there in the first place.

“Over Rizal: Monuments to a Hero” is on view until August 2011 at the Lobby, Landing, and 3rd Floor Galleries at the UP Vargas Museum.

***

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