For students of history and cultural heritage, the Ateneo de Manila University Press, led by its director Maria Karina Bolasco, is a treasure trove of worthy works on topics spanning the gamut of Philippine studies.
A few of their latest offerings provide valuable and thought-provoking information and discussion on two interesting topics: Christianity, especially Catholicism, in the Philippines, and the architectural heritage of Manila from the early Spanish colonial era until 1960.
* * *
Between Celebration and Critique: Snapshots from 500 Years of Filipino Christianity by José Mario C. Francisco, SJ, is a collection of essays written over the past 30 years on various topics organized into three sections that discuss the nature of religion in the Filipino context, the role of Catholicism in society, and from the place of the Catholic Church. Philippines in world Christianity.
The collection was built up in time for last year’s celebration of 500 years of Christianity in the country, as part of the Philippine government’s larger 2021 15th anniversary commemoration of the victory at Mactan and the milestone Philippine of the first circumnavigation of the globe, among other related events.
The Philippines is the third largest Catholic country in the world after Brazil and Mexico, and Francisco helps us understand how this happened. In his essays he shows, with honesty, how the past shapes the present, for example in how the rise of religion in this country is linked to Spanish colonization.
In his preface, Francisco says he wants this book to be a “snapshot reference book of Filipino Christianity” that “adds nuance and texture” to the text and themes, and provides a “picture of Filipino Christianity. that emerges through a multidirectional and multifaceted approach”. encounter between Spanish Catholic practice and local ways of life, mainly mediated by language.
Its epilogue is an analysis and critique of Dutertismo and Rodrigo Duterte’s attacks on “Catholic belief and leadership while cultivating support from other Christian groups”. In order to take up the challenge and renew “Christianity’s evangelizing mission”, he proposes a return to the story of Christ to engage those who are on the margins.
This collection is a significant contribution to Asian and world theology and cultural studies, written in an engaging yet scholarly voice that also lays bare a heart that beats with deep love for Christ and fellow countrymen.
* * *
Threatened Splendorby Fernando N. Zialcita and Erik Akpedonu with Victor S. Venida, provides a wealth of information on Manila’s architectural heritage from 1571 to 1960.
The book, a beautifully bound tome profusely filled with photographs and illustrations, is volume one of three, the others focusing on locations in South and North Manila. This one focuses on the center, in particular the areas of Intramuros, Binondo, San Nicolas and Tondo.
It is a collection of essays based on extensive fieldwork and archival research by the authors and a team of young scholars from many different universities in the Philippines and from a wide variety of disciplines. The result of their efforts is a meticulous and highly detailed mapping of architecturally and culturally significant buildings in Manila that shows the evolution of architectural styles, from Spanish Colonial to Art Deco to Bauhaus.
Even non-architects will derive great pleasure from this book, as the essays are written with a layman’s understanding in mind, and any reader will learn a lot from this book. Not only do the authors identify notable buildings, but they also contextualize the infrastructure with in-depth historical background and narrative. They also provide information on cultural heritage conservation issues in the country.
Among the threats contributing to the disappearance of Manila’s heritage, Akpedonu writes, are threats of “total loss by demolition (for various reasons) and fire (usually followed by site redevelopment)”, partial loss, displacement, decay and invisibility (when structures are concealed behind “high walls and sealed fences”, as in the case of mansions.
“However,” he adds, “Manila seems destined to continue losing its heritage. Without authentic, tangible and intangible witnesses to its history and past artistic and cultural achievements, the city will continue to lose its identity, its uniqueness, its “sense of place”.
This book is a wake-up call for society to take better care of its architectural heritage, or lose it entirely. It’s a must-visit for art lovers, history buffs, and culture buffs, as well as anyone interested in Filipino studies.
Both books are published by Ateneo de Manila University Press (unipress.ateneo.edu).
Between Celebration and Critique: Snapshots from 500 Years of Filipino Christianity
by Jose Mario C. Francisco, SJ
2021 / 494 pages, bp / P575.00
Splendor in Danger: The Architectural Heritage of Manila 1571-1960 (Volume 1: The Centre)
By Fernando Zialcita and Erik Akpendonu with Victor S. Venida
2021 / 401 pages, hb / P1,800.00
For comments and feedback, you can contact the author on Facebook and Twitter: @DrJennyO