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Antonio Luna’s curling irons

The movie “Heneral Luna” forced me to open my long-neglected files to uncover primary-source material I had dug up over the years and completely forgotten. The Luna brothers Antonio and Juan are worth dedicated research because their lives are the stuff of legend, and their stories worth setting into novel or film.

In my files I found unpublished correspondence and diaries from the cache of materials once owned by the noted architect Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of the ill-fated painter Juan Luna. All these papers, much of which I was not able to photocopy, were unfortunately destroyed in a fire that gutted the Heritage Art Gallery on Lantana Street in Cubao, Quezon City, three decades ago. I cannot get over the fact that the Luna papers survived the Philippine-American War and the Battle of Manila in 1945, only to fall prey to faulty wiring and a gallery that was a firetrap in all senses of the word. Only Juan Luna’s paintings now in the National Museum and the Bank of the Philippine Islands were saved from destruction.

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Other materials on Antonio Luna I dug up in the Rare Book Room of the National Library, gathered from what were previously known as the “Philippine Insurgent Records.” These were renamed the “Philippine Revolutionary Records” (or “PRR”), the originals of which were turned over to the Philippines by the US National Archives and Records Administration in 1958, during the state visit of President Carlos P. Garcia. But in Manila in the past half-century, the PRR has been subjected to theft, high humidity, rodents, neglect, and other enemies of books and documents.

While I was doing my research, I often asked about a missing document in a box or found a misfiled document in another. The explanation was that certain papers and record groups had been moved around from their original boxes and folders because someone initiated an ill-advised attempt at refiling by name. Another explanation or excuse for the difficulty of tracing certain documents using the US catalogue was that an earthquake knocked the document boxes off the shelves and the papers were haphazardly returned to boxes by untrained staff. Fortunately for scholars, the US National Archives donated along with the original manuscripts a microfilm in 636 rolls that will take more than a lifetime to mine. If you want to locate a document using the US National Archives catalogue, you may use the microfilm, not the originals. To date, only my former student Amiel Palma Angeles has gone through most of the records for his PhD.

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For the curious, I am reproducing my translation of the inventory of Antonio Luna’s property, conducted after his assassination. Luna’s weapons were entrusted to his friend, Gen. Jose Alejandrino, and these consisted of: one rifle, one Mauser, one espadin (either a rapier or a dress sword), ammunition, and a pair of binoculars. The weapons on him at the time of his assassination have not been accounted for.

When I went over Antonio Luna’s papers at the Heritage Art Gallery, I was shown a box with a bloodied uniform that I presume was not the one he was wearing when he was murdered, because it bore no bullet or dagger holes. In his will, he asked to be buried draped in a Philippine flag. We do not know where that flag went because nobody knows today where his body was buried.

What follows may seem like a trivial list of personal effects, but they give us an insight into the kind of man Antonio Luna was. For example, curling irons. For hair or moustache? We cannot be certain, and we will never know if we do not look at the record and ask questions

“One leather travelling bag with toiletry case, one elastic sash, one alcohol lamp, curling irons, one packet Boric acid, one packet rice powder, two small boxes shoe polish, one shoe brush, one soap dish with soap, one pair spurs.

“A canvas traveling bag containing one pair charol half boots, one pair hazelnut-colored leather buskins, one pair leather boots, one pair high canvas buskins, one astrolabe, a compact instrument to observe the positions of the celestial bodies before the invention of the sextant.

“A baul with one black frock coat, one mirror de tres lunas, two white tunics, white pants, one blue wool band, one Ilocano bedspread, two bath towels, one pair unused slippers, one empty leather portfolio, one metal box with coat buttons, 32 small boxes of cartridges, five cane fans, one general’s cap, one English straw hat, one Baliuag hat.

“One baul containing one thick raincoat, one pair guingon pants with sashes, three striped Cuban pants, five calzoncillos, two khaki pants, five shirt collars, two cotton shirts, two pillow cases, one big towel, three colored handkerchiefs, six books, and shoulder pads.

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“One box with six books, four canes, one saber, two American bayonets, one pair hazel-colored buskins, one Japanese bathrobe, two boxes with 20 handkerchiefs, six khaki mambisas (does this refer to the uniforms or attire of Cuban independence soldiers or “mambises”?), two khaki pants, one pair pantalon de montar (jodphurs) one wool suit, one wool americana, wool pants, eight white pants, seven white americanas, 17 shirt collars, 12 shirts, five pillow cases, two camisas de chino, two wool socks, and a Kalasiao hat.”

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Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu.

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