Ideas and historical possibilities according to non-historians

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THE STAGE before the start of the multimedia performance of A History of Ideas.

TO understand history and its relationship with the present, one must go beyond knowing the names, dates, places, and the chronology of events. One has to look deeper, into the forces and ideas of each period and study their consequences — intended or not.

In A History of Ideas, a multimedia presentation at College of Saint Benilde-School of Design and Arts (CSB-SDA) on Aug. 4, broadcaster/journalist/musician Lourd De Veyra and writer/composer/sound producer Erwin Romulo presented a collection of ideas reflecting events in Philippine history using art and religion as the common threads.

The presentation (which ran for almost three hours) tackled the arts role history — works inspired by and/or that led to revolutions, and experiences of oppression — such as the Basi Revolt painting series of Esteban Pichay Villanueva, an avant-garde composition by National Artist for Music Jose Maceda, and the poetry of siblings Emmanuel and Jose Lacaba.

They suggested that the Basi Revolt paintings — a series of 14 paintings (which reflects the stations of the cross according to the show’s presenters) chronicling the events in September 1807 when a revolt by makers and consumers of basi wine in Ilocos was brutally put down by the Spanish colonial government — had two narratives that could be seen depending on whether you were a government supporter or on the side of the Indios.

Meanwhile, Mssrs. Romulo and De Veyra posit that Mr. Maceda’s exceedingly avant-garde 1974 piece called Ugnayan, which featured sounds of regular life simultaneously aired over 20 radio stations and which was championed by then First Lady and Metro Manila Governor Imelda Marcos, was the inadvertent spark for the April 6, 1978 noise barrage in protest of the Batasang Pambansa elections the following day — the first widespread protest against the Marcos’ Martial Law.

And it was this Martial Law that the Lacaba siblings protested against with their words (in Emman’s case, his protest included the rifle he took up when he joined the NPA) — and, according to the evening’s presentation, they were not the only poets who had much to do with the various revolts and revolutions throughout Philippine history.

The evening’s somewhat disjointed but fascinating performance featured Mr. De Veyra lecturing onstage, interacting with his sidekick Jun Sabayton for a bit of comic relief, and showing extensive video clips, and sound clips.

History of Ideas will be a new subject in De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB)’s revised curriculum for its Arts Management Program.

“Because of K-12, we had to revise it (curriculum). I thought about creating some contextual subjects so that the students would have a better background of art and society which is more focused on contemporary culture,” De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde Arts Management Program Chairperson Geraldine “Din Din” Araneta told BusinessWorld about gathering content for the subject, shortly after the presentation.

Ms. Araneta invited Mssrs Romulo and De Veyra to participate as they are people who “can present knowledge in new ways.” The collection of ideas and concepts were finalized for the presentation within two weeks.

According to Mr. Romulo, some of the materials they used, such as the audio file of the April 6, 1978 noise barrage were recreated for the show.

“I think one of the joys of the presentation is that we laid out so much that the hope is that the audience would be able to discern their own narratives from what we have presented,” Mr. De Veyra told BusinessWorld.

“We’re not claiming it to be a historical record of facts. We’re just using history to make you think of the possibilities, the what ifs,” Mr. Romulo told BusinessWorld.

According to Ms. Araneta, the new subject will be equivalent to three units and taken prior to the students’ thesis course. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman