Silang Series

Written as part of the course requirements for AS 270, Philippine Arts and Society, First Semester 2010-2011 by Phillip N.A.L.Medina, MA Art Studies Major in Museum Studies.
In our broad study of the Philippine Arts and Society, where topics can be interestingly diverse and boundless uncovering wonders about our national identity, I choose to present my paper on a micro-level to gain insights on local identity. I aim to come up with a series that shall serve as my preliminary studies for my MA thesis in uncovering the possibilities of coming up a community museum for my hometown which can be an effective learning institution of history and heritage. As a course requirement, these papers shall focus on issues and concerns regarding three periods in our cultural history: the indigenous or pre-colonial period, the Spanish or colonial period and the American or neo-colonial period.  On each, I have chosen topics related to arts and society which can be a useful material as I further explore the chronological narratives of my thesis or discuss the ways and processes of material collection for the proposed community museum.

TWO. Colonial Heritage: The Town’s Bastion of Faith

All over the country, the plaza complex as a colonial town center system is the most vivid contribution of the period. Space has become a colonial tool as it defines the level of economic access, prestige and social security while architecture is a symbol of colonial power. Note that the bell tower is always the highest structure in any rural town. According to Gerard Lico, bell towers were panoptical devices for surveillance, gazing into the affairs of the native population arranged conveniently along the cuadricula (plaza grid system) for easy identification of the colonized body (22).

The church was the largest and most grandiose structure of a town. Its area and volume are correlated to the extent of jurisdiction. Its decoration, motifs and treasures are reflections of affluence. Overall, it was definitive of the values and aspirations of the colonial institution —that is to impress and control. Even until now, It is the center of rural social activity: mass, feasts, processions. For town folks: to be near the center is most prestigious, closer to heavenly aspirations and earthly desires.

The town was the center of the Society of Jesus’ Mission in Cavite from the beginning of the 1600s until their expulsion in late 1700s. Most of upland Cavite’s towns having Silang as their center of faith seceded eventually as they rise with prominence and grew in population. Read more…