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Looking Back

‘Anales Ecclesiasticos de Philipinas’

/ 09:53 PM October 20, 2011

UNTIL I was invited to address their National Congress, I didn’t know that the Association of Special Libraries of the Philippines (ASLP) existed. For general membership there are: the more generic Philippine Librarians Association Inc. (PLAI) and the Philippine Association of Academic and Research Librarians or (PAARL). Not content with the above, there are also the Philippine Association of School Librarians (PASL), Medical and Health Librarians Association of the Philippines (MAHLAP), Philippine Group of Law Librarians (PGLL), and there is a Court Librarians Association of the Philippines (CLAPHIL). I guess aside from areas of specialization there are also geographic or ethno-linguistic subsets of librarians, like the Central Luzon Librarians Association (CLLA).

All this made me wonder why librarians don’t have a representative in Congress under the party-list system that has accepted representatives for security guards.

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Filipinos are fond of associations which, like an amoeba, split and multiply instead of uniting, thus telling us something about the Filipino character.

The acronyms of Filipino organizations can be a source of merriment. For example, we have a Society of Filipino Archivists (SOFA). Not all archivists work with paper documents, thus we have a Society of Film Archivists (SOFIA). What about the Philippine Consortium for Latin American Studies, whose acronym PACLAS sounds like the plural of pacla or bacla? That of the Consortium of Latin American Studies (CLASP) is much better. Obviously, none of the founding members of these organizations was an expert in crossword puzzles or Scrabble. It’s hard to beat the Cultural Research Association of the Philippines (CRAP).

Doctors have the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) as an umbrella organization, with subsets or smaller groupings by specialization: Philippine College of Surgeons, Philippine College of Physicians, Philippine Urological Society, etc. Lawyers are organized into the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; some excluded fellows have organized themselves into the Philippine Bar Flunkers Association. I’m thinking aloud and hoping Mike Tan will direct his students to undertake research on the names of (and acronyms on) our taxi cabs, as there is enough material for a doctoral dissertation whose conclusions can shed light on how and why we are the way we are.

It is a pleasure to be among librarians because I have known them since grade school. With the exception of a few bad eggs, a disgrace to the profession, librarians and archivists have made my work easier by providing endless material for this column. They are gatekeepers who hold the key that can open or lock doors to knowledge. My favorite Filipiniana libraries in Manila are: Filipinas Heritage Library in Makati; the Lopez Museum and the Ortigas Library in Mandaluyong; the Ateneo de Manila University’s Rizal Library, and the UP Main Library in Quezon City; the National Library, the National Archives, and the National Historical Commission, all on the south side of Rizal Park along T.M. Kalaw. In these libraries I can spend hours of work in pleasure.

One place I should visit again is the archives of the Arzobispado de Manila in Intramuros that has, among other things, a two-volume illuminated manuscript, titled the “Anales Ecclesiasticos de Philipinas,” on the history of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines from 1574-1682. Drawn from drafts or an earlier work, it was copied by an anonymous scribe in the late 18th century or early 19th century. An example of Kidlat Tahimik’s “Indio Genius” or indigenization, this work illustrates how an art form like “illumination,” which was popular in Europe in the Middle Ages, was transplanted to the Philippines and executed by a Filipino artist to produce a work of art that may be Western in form but Filipino in flavor or sensibility.

“Anales Ecclesiasticos de Philipinas” are actually just the first words in a kilometric title that, translated from the original Spanish, reads:

“Ecclesiastical annals of the Philippines and the prerogatives which the archbishops enjoy as metropolitans of these islands. Events of their prelacy and those of their suffragans. A sincere and authentic history of the more notable events of their term, their virtues and the reversals they suffered for the glory of Our Lord and in defending the ecclesiastical impunity.”

The above title says it all and, aside from a chronology, the manuscript contains transcriptions of papal bulls, decrees of bishops and other church documents. It also contains royal cedulas, decrees of governors-general, and even orders of the Royal Audiencia, making the “Anales” a mine of information even for secular matters. Like medieval manuscripts, many of the major “illuminations” that jump out of the pages are capital letters that begin a section ornamented with human figures that, in turn, reflect the theme of the text. The artist also left unfinished outlines in black or pale red ink, suggesting that the work was unfinished but providing clues into the working methods of the artists of that time.

Unlike today, paint could not be bought from a store and squeezed from a tube; rather, a crude water-based pigment had to be sourced and mixed from scratch. The “Anales” is a precursor of the “Letras y figuras” (letters and figures) made popular by the 19th-century Filipino master Jose Honorato Lozano. It remains  a work better appreciated today for its art rather than its text.

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TAGS: association of special libraries of the Philippines, featured columns, Filipino associations, librarians, opinion
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