Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The hypocrisy of the edifices

The hypocrisy of the edifices

Regarding Marcos-era policies 
involving art and architecture as propaganda

"The intersection of power and architecture along the grids of Philippine architectural history finds form at the CCP complex."

These are the opening words of an article entitled "Imelda Marcos and the Romantic Nationalist Architecture" made by Gerard Rey Lico (vol.6, Bluprint magazine, 2000) that features how the Marcos regime used the showcase of architecture, literature, and art as part of its cultural policy, that is, a means to hod the dubious problems like poverty and repression.

Obviously, such showcase reflects the means not just to involve cultural awakening, but to invoke fear as it fearures grand and monumental edifices as a hallmark of greatness made by a regime, and somehow the edifices, such as the Cultural Centre and the Manila Film Centre corresponds with the Arrest and Siezure Orders and Enforced Disappearances of those hard times.

This writer didn't made this study to undermine entirely the edifices made during those decades, but rather to analyze the Marcoses' "Social Art" as a tool of state-sponsored escapism, escapism that somehow to others tend to be called "optimistic" enough reflecting the dreams and aspirations of a "New Society" envisioned.

As the Marcos regime made those edifices, especially situated in a reclaimed land in Manila bay, the policy of creating, of fixation with modern, monumental imagery and traditional designs made the means of "modernizing" the society, if not a showcase of setting up an "industrialized" society or mimics those from developed countries to cover up issues especially widespread poverty.

Yes, this meant a chance for a "National Rebirth", a cultural renaissance the way how Imelda Marcos tend to call such ideals as "the True, Good and Beautiful". In the same way of building modern-syle architecture, it also includes ideas that seemingly "backward looking" yet a means to recover "lost ideas" such as reviving folkloric iconography such as the Salakot, Nipa hut, Kalasag, Kris, Kampilan, Sarimanok and the use of Baybayin. The somehow were "Revived" as part of the "New Society" the Marcoses envisioned. However, some are earlier used by the militant movement, especially the use of Baybayin such as the letter "K" used by the left-wing group Kabataang Makabayan, only to be countered by the Marcoses's own Kabataang Barangay whose logo also includes Baybayin.

Well, the edifices and symbols related to the dictatorship rather means not entirely to cover the obvious socio-economic crisis: like setting, invoking utopianism, but also to substantiate Nationalist fantasies whilst trying to accomodate foreign investment and suppressing radical sentiment including those of National minorities.

Of spending loans for different stones

Sorry for the title, but obviously,  as noticed, having bigger monumental edifices meant spending millions to the extent of beinging controversy unto it; as part of assertinh a policy of cultural renaissance and to prove that the Philippines as a "progressive" amongst the third world countries.

From the inital reclamation of 28 hectares from the sea in 1966 paving way to the creation of the Cultural Centre and other related buildings made during the early days of the regime, most of it were loans coming from the International Monetary Fund-World Bank that supposdly used for mass housinh and rural development projects, such priorites that somehow helpful to avert the growing socio-economic crisis.

The newly-created complex created prestiege as one of the features of the "New Society", however the debt behind those edifices were not been fully Aid, especially from the IMF-WB as well as the United States, that also received enormous financial aid to the Philippines over extended periods. It somehow became controversial when the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. called the edifices a mockery of progress in midst of growing poverty hidden with Imelda's aloof and disgust over mass housing and prioritizing rather the creation of edifices and other related buildings using foreign credit.

And in midst of the controversies involving the edifices built in CCP complex, the regime also include desperate "urban cosmetology" for the envisioned "City of Man" such as Metropolitan Manila. According to Lico, it includes planting of banana trees, spraying dried grass and brown coconut leaves green, as well as tying coconut fruit around the fruitless ones and setting up high walls in pursuit of keeping "squatters" at bay from the eyes of the "tourists" as well as "investors" and "dignitaries". Such "makeover"  showed the desparacy and hypocrisy made by a regime trying to keep in power in midst of the growing tension between them and the people.
The Cultural Centre, Film Centre, Folk Arts Theatre, being an examples of landmarks of art in pursuit of a "Modern Filipino Identity" was intended much to act as an "Icing" trying to cover what was different from what was seen such as shantytowns and "squatters".

Otherwise, projects being "funded" by loans rather fuel ridicule than prestiege as critics think of those funds from IMF-WB or from the US ought tobbe allocated before to mass housing and rural development. In fact, Imelda's aloof with mass housinh with the alibi of creating mendicants didn't help further in alleviating despite the creation of BLISS, Lungsod Silangan, Kapitbahayan and Dagat-Dagatan housing projects built with the reason of "curbing" the "Squatter" issue. It somehow also became a part of so-called "Development" especially those coinceded with major festivities and events such as the IMF conference, UNCTAD, Miss Universe, and even the visit of Pope John Paul II that made the Marcoses compel to build more edifices, spending loans all for the sake of completing, even commission murals to suppliment grandiose project that "supports" the need for advancing the identity of the "New Filipino" and the "New Society."

Well, as noticed, comes with a simple quote related:

"What mrs. Marcos wants, mrs. Marcos gets."

This summared reason behind the edifices and related projects that brough both prestiege and ridicule, involving Architects and Design professionals trying to work in numerous, time critical projects coinceded with international events and festivities employing Filipino creativity and perhaps, greatness regardless of the spending and indebtedness that hath created.

 Building "Identities" and "Pseudo-mythologies"

"To assert this obsession with identity andnto promote the image of a nation as the progressive economy in the third world, mrs. Marcos built the Cultural Centre, and was the first effort of the Marcos regime to create a physical and cultural setting that bespoke of state authority."

As expected,the building of those edifices, especially situated in the CCP complex were rather simply showed an arduous effort to create an "identity" of the "New Filipino." That somehow also meant a desparacy trying to hid ugliness with beauty, regardless of such controversial means like those of foreign loans, spending, and even cronyism.

Thinking that those buildings invoking utopianism, of palingenesis and stressinh reconnection with the past, this writer thinking that despite the use of native materials, of inspired by native symbols and beliefs, it simply tries to create a 'pseudo'-mythos that perhapsmtries to revive, renew the Filipino spirit.

Also to think how Hitler and his followers tend to create a myth at deserved to be fulfilled, as to their ideal that emphasises blood over soil, so were their edifices that carries the soul of the Aryan race that according to theirs as strong and youthful. From the wall, pillar, statues, and paintings shown, all invoking pride, fear, and glory as well as an idealized future of a nation
-that somehow the Marcoses and other similar rulers tend to invoke upon to.

In an instance, building a new identity requires a mythology. As Hitler, through Goering, Goebbels and Rosenberg tend to 'Mythologize' events such as the Beer hall putsch and the brawls, individuals such as Horst Wessel, even relievinh the 'magic' of Norse myths immortalized in Wagner's music, so was the Marcoses.

As Imelda Marcos said in creating a new "Filipino identity":

"When history and circumstances cause a blurring of the past, the result is confusion of tradition and values. A people with National amnesia suffer a lack of balance and sense of direction. Rootless and purposeless, they must find firm traditions or ideals,mand grasp the solid sedimenaion of ancestral aspirations or they will wither and die..."

It was even furthered by Ferdinand Marcos, as asserted:

"Faceless for centuries, the Filipino has worn a succession of masks imposed on him by alien intruders. No one really knows the dephts of his confusion and bewilderment; no one can truly measure the intensity of his hurt and shame. A moving shadow, he drifts aimlessly, feeling unworthy of his own true self, he embres other people's values and claims it to be his own.
To be a dynamic instrument of nation building and social reconstruction, he therefore seeks to recuperate his identity. He must get back to his roots, his culture. Necessarily, he must, for the culture of a people is their covenant. It is the distinguishing mark, the source of identity that sets them apart from other peoples. It provides them inner strength that shales he collective will of their body politic and the structure of their national society."

Such sentiment the Marcoses said tend to insist that was, carrying contradictions in the supposed idea of forging a "New Filipino" that leans to a dynamic future instead of an antiquated past. Marcos once said that "Juan Tamad is dead" and urging everyone to contribute with sheer creativity and artistry in developing the "New Filipino" to replace an old one, a futur-utopian so to speak, but why and seek to the past entirely despite looking new creative means in building a new identity? Which is which as others may ought to think of?

Well, to others, its more about using culture for a convenience such as tourism; using the pretext of creating or unearthing the Filipino identity, lies currying favour with other countries for tourists rather than seriously stressing the need of cultivating a cultural climate for flourishing a patriotic, progressive, value in the "New Society." the promotion of myths and legends like the creation myth of "Malakas" and "Maganda" during the regime tends to support the "Cult of personality" Marcos ought to set regarless of rampant  poverty, insufficient distribution of social services, corruption, debt servicinh and reliance on American aid that undermines patriotic appeals the way edifieces and works of art tend to show; that once Benigno Aquino Jr. directly criticize the Cultural Centre due to 50 million spending in building without passing to the legislature for questioning and assessment.

But, to those symoathetic to the idea, or perhaps to the dictatorship, it rather emohasises National rebirth as it creates an identity despite using modern means and having costly consequences, in other words: synthesis of indigenous and cosmopolitan aspirations of modernity.

According to Juico, as elaborated:

1.) Identity as a derivative of primal ancestry
2.) Identity as evidence of human progress, made possible through art.

Such contradictions made during the regime as evidenced by:

1.) Cult of personality (the first couple as Malakas and Maganda, as father and mother of the nation of Barangays)
2.) Use of force (Militarism and state sponsored terrorism)
3.) Invocation of the past (mythologies, ethnic ideas, traditions, arts and literature)

And reinforced by using modern media and technology through:

1.) Modern 'ethnic inspired' architecture and art
2.) Utilization of places for tourism purposes
3.) State-owned and controlled media institutions

Such actions taken in oursuit of reinforcing the regime were developmental, envelopmental, as well as destructive as 'superficial' national development coexists (sorry for the term) with financial supports (legal and illegal), personal-political connections supporting present and future projects that can be detrimental to the environment such as the Chico dam in Kalinga-Apayao that foster Cordilleran identity and consciousness being victims of state-sponsored terrorism guised as "development".

Again, the projects as well as the edifices obviously tend to consolidate Martial rule as to hid rather than alleviate social problems like poverty. Despite the creation of "Mass housing" projects using IMF-WB funds as support, rather served as primarily to appease, if not to control once-illegal settlers trying to adjust their lives in the urban landscape.

This writer, been a resident of a predominantly lower-class municipality for years, simply assess that most "squatters" were originally once farmers or fisherfolk trying to earn living by agriculture or fishery. In fact, that town tends to be a marina one emohasising on fishing, small-scale shipbuilding and food industry, yet due to the commercialization and influx of once-squatters from Tondo and other surrounding areas, laid problems that includes housing and distribution of social services.

And as noticed, programs rather primarily acted as "Propaganda" simply negates its essecne of reducing poverty all on favor of a "cosmetic" one, to think that Imelda Marcos had a disdain for mass housing that perhaps resulted to those projects with little successes and more backlogs comparing to the grandiose ones showcasing greatness over priorities such as addressing major issues.

As Paulo Alcazaren said:

"While these programs served innovative enough, the performance of these agencies (NHA) reflected a government that was more concerned with appearances than with truly addressing the issue of housing (as well as social services, employment) for the poor."

To think that these actions taken primarily made in response to building identites and 'seasoned' with pseudo-mythological sentiment, rath catersnto the privileged than the masses and to some extent, the petit-bourgeoisie. How wonder the late senator Aquino directly criticize the Cultural Centre for its spending of 50 million without undergoing Senate hearing related to the matter. For sure during those decades that million would had been used for housing, employment, rural development instead of greatness.

Furthermore, in oursuit of countering subversion as everyone looked uoon, the use of patriotic sentiment, whether purely indigenous (like the Baybayin) or neo-indigenous (like the CCP complex and Batasang Pambansa) as well as reformism captures people's "heart and mind" the way it tries to preesent the Philippines as a progressive society. To sum it all, a propaganda in its existence and essence.

Its legacy and near-infallibility

Again, sorry for the title, but in fact the legacy of the Marcos-era projects, as well as the edifices in particular, left a legacy that is making leaders as if "infallible" to the eyes and minds of everyone.

Like Spain's Franco or Paraguay's Stroessner, Marcos tend to continue the legacy of strssing an orderly society using Presidential decrees as its thrusts, and most of it remained used regardless of  its insignificance to the present situation,  that somehow some constituents trying to replace Martial law era ones with another.
So are the edifices as succeeding leaders tend to showcase one by one of their works as its legacies, oftentimes trying to exceed as what former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tried to instil upon.

And somehow it showedj most leaders of the post-Marcos era as trying to be "Infallible" the way the once-strongman and his wife had. How wonder Ferdinand and Imelda be described as a "Father and mother of a nation of Barangays" that somehow reminding of leaders trying to call themselves as "State" and "Infallible". Louis XIV of France tend to be so, as evidenced by his actions and of course the culture being shown such those of him: self presenting as Apollo or the Sun King; while Imelda Marcos, with her contributions such as the Cultural Centre, Heart and Lung Centre, tend to be described as "mother country", "Nefertiti", a descendant of the"Mayors of Rome" using her maiden surname as its evidence, and even presented as "Maganda", the first woman in Philippine mythology.

This writer somewhat thinks that since succeeding leaders tried to act "infallible" regardless of their controversial acts, including those  of projects using overpriced materials, and using old and new laws and decrees, its real objective is not entirely to push social chanhe, but to keep social order intect by hook or by crook, carrot and stick. CCP complex, BLISS, Windbmiss in Ilocos, Expo Filipino, Megadike to lowly farm-to-market roads and relocation sites in Molntalban aren't just simply made to justify countering homelessness, need for greatness, electrification, and modernization of communities but also in "keeping everyone at bay" especially in midst of the growing crisis that was and is, difficult to resolve and further worsen by current procedures such as foreign loans, and dependence on illusions such as the need for foreign investment as emphasised over domestic ones, a dilapidated system trying to survive so to speak as it showed.

After all, to the government, it's all about the economy that matter nowadays to deal it yet in actial it is more of political matters being discussed upon. So are the edifices, all invoking modernity, order, fear, presenting patriotic sentiment or hiding the stench that is, continue polluting all over like controversies behind every wall, steel, step, garden, and floor that comprises the so-called showcases of the society being presented off to the world.


*Bluprint; vol.8, 2000
*Lico, Gerard Rey A; Edifice Complex: Power, myth and Marcos state architecture, Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2003
*Jose Maria Sison & Julieta de Lima; Philippine economy and Politics, Aklatang Bayan
*Alcazaren, Ferrer, Icamina; Lungsod Iskwater, Anvil Publishing inc. 2010
*Guerrero; Philippine Society and Revolution, Pulang Tala
*Manapat, Ricado; Some are better than others: The history of Marcos crony capitalism, New York; Aletheia Publications. 1991