USA: Conversation with Pearlie Rose S. Baluyut

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Words and photos by Dionesio C. Grava
First posted in

Pearlie Rose S. Baluyut is the author of Institutions and Icons of Patronage: Arts and Culture in the Philippines during the Marcos Years, 1965-1986.

This writer tried to make sense of the actual conversation occurring in a heavy traffic area where disruptions and noise made comprehension a bit challenging. Voices necessarily subdued on our part, not from other sources. Salabang Song in Pasadena. So, okay, comparing what I was able to catch up with the descriptive paragraph Ms. Nietes kindly provided beforehand, they appear not to be dissimilar.

It said that based on primary documents and interviews, Pearlie Baluyut’s book seeks to understand the politics and aesthetics of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos’ rule through the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine High School for the Arts, and the National Museum of the Philippines. Rather than interpret the Marcoses’ support only as political propaganda, Baluyut construes their rhetoric and gestures as a spectacular performance as patrons and icons, engendering both defiance and reverence among their constituents.

Or a subtle way of engendering sympathies for the despots? Ms. Baluyot pointed out that Mr. Marcos had a keen understanding about election and reciprocity; about the dynamics of elections and the transforming of relationship with people as the cornerstone of politics. At least whatever they did they were not doing it during the election but after they won. Then there was a mention of negative reciprocity, an outcrop of the “may araw ka rin” concept in our culture. And did she really mention that Corazon Aquino looked vengeful?

Imelda as the patroness of art has been influenced by spectacular displays in the places she visited. Our country’s cultural center, for example, is seemingly a reincarnation of New York’s Lincoln Center. Personally I cannot vouch for that having not been to either. It’s good that Ms. Baluyot didn’t neglect to mention her extravagance to the point of impoverishing the masses and making their regime an excuse for their own aggrandizement.

Then there was something about the creation of posters featuring singer-artist Nora Aunor and Pinay-African American Elizabeth Ramsey, the comedienne. Was it to exploit their being dark-skinned, their being heroines of the masa, Nora’s short height or whatever? Not too clear about that.

She also touched on Renaissance art and the biases of showing only those from Florence, Italy, when the fact was that the Renaissance was happening all over. In the case of the Philippines, however, we’re still into that phase of defining art. What do we mean by art?

Finally, she had to be very careful, she said, about fictionalizing or romanticizing the you know who. “I am,” she said, “not redeeming them but I’m also not putting them down.” But of course. Just tell what it is. After all it was mentioned earlier that funding for visual art has been going on since antiquity.

The other attendees were Todd Hanson, Akira Boch, Azusa Oda, Ashlea Gross, David Paraiso, Robert Little, Linda Nietes Little, Agnes Bertiz, Joseph Bernardo, Girlie Collado, Rhachel Parrenas, Ben Rosenberg and Dr. Conrad Ulpindo.

Pearlie Rose Baluyot received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Art History at UCLA. She has taught art history, theory, and criticism at the Institute of American Universities in Aix-en-Provence, France, and other colleges and universities in the United States, including the California State University-San Bernardino, from 2006 to 2011 as Assistant Professor of Art.

In June, she will be teaching at the University of Santo Tomas’ Cultural Heritage Studies Program and conducting research on the oldest cabinet of curiosities-turned-museum in the Philippines as a Fulbright Scholar.

The event was part of the ongoing community outreach program organized by Philippine Expressions Bookshop. For more details, visit Literally Yours, the bookshop’s blog : http://?philippineexpressionsbooksh?

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