Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The 19th Century Image of Baao by J. Rizal's Bodyguard

Ten years ago, on my occasional visits to the Ayala museum, I came upon the exhibit entitled "The Two Joses". A show celebrating the works and the friendship of Jose Rizal and his one time companion and bodyguard, the Spanish Lieutenant of the Civil Guard, Jose Taviel de Andrade. At a time when photography was impractical, Andrade, a talented artist, recorded his travels through graphite sketches and gave us the only extant image of Baao (so far) in the 19th century. During his visit to the town on May 30, 1887, he made the above sketch.

A major pictorial zone of the sketch appears to be the town center showing at the background a roofed structure surrounded by a high fence. Houses appear to be scattered around this structure. Could this be the town marketplace? On the foreground appears to be a mound decorated with plants and a Cross planted at the center. Could this be a town memorial/monument to a Christian town or to the town founder St. Peter Baptist?

The sketch make the village appear fortified against some danger, could the above sketch of a timber and grass bell tower be also an alarm system? The age of the Moro raids on the region was at its end, is this Baao--still fortified and prepared for a Moro raid?

Could this poignant scene of a bony man and child reflective of the prevailing condition of the village at that time, depressed and impoverished or is this a random scene picked by Andrade of the people of the town?


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