Guillermo Tolentino is known for his sculptures. Among his prized works are the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan City, the Oblation at the University of the Philippines, and the Statue of Lualhati at the University of the East. So it is quite surprising when I saw this artwork depicting the 'Filipino Ilustres'. I never knew he could draw so well too.
At first thought, I supposed 'ilustre' referred to the 'illustrados' - the educated ones. They are the indios (native Filipinos) who got to study abroad, particularly Spain. In the history of the Philippines, there were several known 'illustrados', among whom is the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. They had contributed greatly in the 19th century revolution by using their pens and paper, canvases and paints to keep patriotism burning in the hearts of the Katipuneros (term for the revolutionaries).
In the years I've spent learning history at school, it is easy to say that the 'illustrados' are those young men who came from well-off to rich families. If not, they wouldn't have been able to go out of the Philippines for education.
Yes, I thought the ilustres are the illustrados. But when I saw this artwork of Guillermo Tolentino, I realized that one doesn't have to be rich and educated abroad to be dignified - the real translation of ilustre. If the artist thought of that, he wouldn't have included Apolinario Mabini and Andres Bonifacio - the father and brain of the Katipunan respectively - here.
You see, Andres Bonifacio educated himself. Apolinario Mabini was a paralytic. History accounts tell that they were both from poor families. But they were included in the artwork.
There has to be some meaning to this.
According to Resil Mojares, a professor emeritus at the University of San Carlos in Cebu, "Tolentino's Filipino Ilustres may be the first attempt at constructing a single, framed gallery of the nation's heroes." The reason may be as simple as that; hence, the approval of the artist for local publications to use this artwork in history textbooks and whatnots without his permission/royalty. But Morales also stated - delighting me that we share the same thought - that "In Tolentino's drawing, however, one finds an earnest attempt to create a pantheon of heroes as part of the symbolic armature of a new nation."
Frankly speaking, I do not know the stories of some people in the portrait. But as soon as I see it, I can't help but wonder...
Where is Emilio Aguinaldo in this?
Reference: Mojares, Resil (2010). Guillermo Tolentino's Grupo de Filipinos Ilustres and the Making of a National Pantheon. Retrieved from http://www.philippinestudies.net/files/journals/1/articles/3020/public/3020-3455-1-PB.pdf