For John Silva
Precis for the documentary
The documentary will be in “you are there” style, following events from the perspective of three photographers. Background will be supplied to fill in any gaps that may occur, although for the sake of the naarative a selective process should be undertaken to concentrate on following the story of the photographers themselves.
It may be best to trace the story of Manila starting with the opening of the Suez Canal, which opened up commercial possibilities previously unthinkable, and which saw the rise of the ilustrados. Using a photographer commissioned by a large commercial firm also helps link the past to the present in an appreciable way: we still have large trading houses, although they are called multinationals. Also, later on, it would be worthwhile to point Andres Bonifacio’s career as a clerk working for one such firm.
The idea is to show sleepy Filipinas joining the modern age, shaking it out of the insularity that characterized it for centuries. 1870’S photographs used here.
Introducing our second photographer, and his purely artistic phase. We see how far Manila has developed in the two decades that have passed since our previous photographer. A mixture of decadent modernity (the over-ripe plushiness of Victorian decor, the signs of the times in fairly modern conveniences, and yet the continued social dominance of the Church) and enduring colonial habits.
We see the zenith of Castilian culture, of an order confident that it is entering a new era of progress and achievement. Manila holds an exposition (which will link us to the St. Louis Exposition later on, and hopefully remind viewers of the ongoing Centennial Exposition).
A languid, luxurious five minutes devoted to immersing ourselves into the last hurrah of Eurocentric civilization in the Philippines.
Revolution. Flag-waving. Spanish regulars arrive. Our second photographer feels the call of duty, to commemorate Spain’s reconquista of the Philippines.
We trace the revolution as seen through his eyes.
Torn by internecine struggles and faced with a rejuvenated Spanish army, the Revolution grinds to a halt. Our photographer goes to Biak-na-Bato. We derive insights from analyzing the photographs he has taken of the famous -and infamous.
V. The lull
Spain tries to reimpose its authority. The dying days of empire. At this point, it would be useful to describe the goings-on in Cuba and the United States, Teddy Roosevelt’s orders for Dewey to steam to Hong Kong, the pretext for the Spanish-American War and why the United States, at first eager only to secure Manila, would inevitably decide to keep the entire archipelago. Useful to inform viewers of the position of the Philippines vis-a-vis neighboring colonies.
VI. The return
Aguinaldo’s controversial dealings with Pratt et al. Given short shrift. Our second photographer chronicles the war, this time from a more pro-Filipino perspective.
War breaks out between Filipinos and Americans, we trace the war as seen through the eyes of Photographer two, and we introduce photographer three.
War, dirty horrible, poignant war, seen from two views: the Spaniard and the American; the war placed in context: the anti-imperialist league, Kipling. The Filipinos embark on establishing the pomp and trappings of an independent state. Focus is on the boy-General, del Pilar.
With del Pilar’s death the romance of the Filipino-American war is no more. This is a war of attrition. The yearning for peace, for an end to the enormous cost in lives and goods, should be stressed. We can make an objective and compassionate examination of the motivations that moved Filipinos to sue for peace and the Americans to embark on a program of government that would eventually erase much of the bitterness arising from the war.
At this point, our material from the two photographers will probably run out. We focus on the binding of the wounds of the nation. America, to salve its democratic conscience, embarks on “tutelage”: why did they succeed?
The Thomasites arrive; the St. Louis Exposition takes place. We have come full circle. Fin-de-Siecle has given way to the dawning of the modern century for us; the collapse of the old order makes way for the new, which faces a new Fin-de-Siecle.