A look back at the American era of Iloilo – Manila Bulletin
A photographic return to the Western Visayas region during American colonization
Over the past few years, there has been a growing enthusiasm for learning about the history of Iloilo. This is in large part thanks to the booming online communities. But in an online world, facts and figures can be seen as boring. It is the pictures, the photographs, that can inspire others to learn more about Iloilo’s past.
The recently released Casanave: an American photographer in Iloilo by Nereo Cajilig Lujan is a rich source of additional information about Iloilo. The book published by the National Historic Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) focuses primarily on the works and life of Pedro Andres Casanave, an American photographer and painter who lived in Iloilo for 37 years.
Nereo was able to recover the 136 photographs of Casanave in libraries, museums, private collectors and various digital collections. The photographs are visual documentation of Iloilo, with snippets of Ilonggo’s life from the start of the American colonial period through to the start of World War II.
“His works and his life are said to be closely linked to the story of Iloilo,” explains Nereo. Nereo tries to piece together the stories behind the photographs to bring connectivity to what Iloilo and the people were like at that time. Casanave has been able to document abundantly the monuments of Iloilo which still exist, although from a different era. Arroyo Fountain, the former Provincial Capitol of Iloilo, Iloilo Prison (now a branch of the National Museum of the Philippines), Saint Paul’s Hospital, Iloilo Mission Hospital, Muelle Loney, the Iloilo Customs House, Jaro Cathedral, Jaro Belfry, Jaro Square with the statue of Graciano Lopez Jaena and the old municipal hall of Jaro in the background, the Ynchausti y Compañia building ( today the Museum of Economic History of the Philippines), Miag -ao Church, Nelly Garden, Lizares Manor, or the campuses of the Central University of the Philippines or the University of San Agustin.
Casanave was also able to photograph the landmarks that Iloilo lost – the church of Oton destroyed in the 1948 earthquake known as “Lady Caycay” or the hangar of the company Iloilo-Negros Air Express ( INAEC) which was bombed by the Japanese during World War II. Second World War. Casanave also had portraits of key government officials, business leaders, clergy, and the who’s who, all of whom could afford to obtain his photographic services.
But more than Iloilo’s landmarks or key figures, Casanave also photographed the ordinary people of Iloilo and their livelihoods, weaving piña fabric, farming, salt making, or shipping. The book is also a biographical sketch of the American photographer and painter, who first arrived in the country in 1899 as a soldier at the start of the US-Philippine War and left the country after World War II.
The book is also a biographical sketch of the American photographer and painter, who first arrived in the country in 1899 as a soldier at the start of the US-Philippine War and left the country after World War II.
Nereo, a former journalist, admits that the book is not a complete picture of Iloilo’s story at this time. But in a way, the book highlights the role of photography in Iloilo’s historiography. Casanave’s works are an additional body of photographic images of Iloilo during the colonial period.
Felix Laureano, believed to be the first Filipino photographer, also opened a photography studio in Iloilo City in the mid-1880s. Laureano, who was born in the city of Patnongon in the ancient province, would later move to Spain. . The work of researcher Frank Villanueva also highlighted the importance of Laureano’s work in terms of documenting life in Iloilo and the rest of Panay Island.
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