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Recently, we had a meeting with the Mayor of the Town of Oton, His Honour Vincente B. Flores Jr. and when we mentioned to him our work with the old historic churches of the region he told about his great, great grandfather who had been a very early photographer who had photographed several of the historic churches in the area.
He showed us the book titled: “Recuerdos de Filipinas, Album Libro” authored and photographed by D. Felix Laureano. A work that was originally published in 1895 in Barcelona, Spain, where Mr. Laureano had lived for many years. The book, because of it historical significance was translated from the original Spanish to English by Felice Noelle Rodriguez, with Renan Prado assisting in the translation and Ramon C. Sunico in editing the English text; it was republished in 2001 by Cacho Publishing House of Manila with a grant from the Spanish Program for Cultural Cooperation of Spain´s Ministry of Culture
The Book was re-published and translated in Manila in 2001 by Cacho Publishing House. The cover of that volume is shown below.
Laureano is significant because he was one of the first of what we would consider a professional photographer, not only that, the man was a true artist. He was the first photographer to publish a book of photographs about the Philippines (Recuerdos de Filipinas, or Memories of the Philippines). And he was reputed to be “the first Filipino artist to consciously use photography as a medium for art”.
The book is a treasure and one of the major surprises for me was to find in it three of four photographs that support our work of reporting on the historic churches of Panay. The best known of his photos of the Philippines come from Iloilo and they provide a more provincial outlook than the photographers who worked and lived in the capital region.
Here are a few of the photos from the book. the first two are original photos of the massive church in Oton that was completely destroyed by the Lady CayCay earthquake of 1948…now we know without a doubt who the photographer was, it was Laureano.
And finally, the biggest surprise for me was this photo of the Jaro Cathedral which was actually taken in 1893 or 1894.
Magnificent! But what is the Eiffel Tower doing there? The tower was apparently built bamboo to mark the festival of Our Lady of the Candles, the patron saint of the parish. The tower was ‘demolished’ shortly after the photo was taken.
If you can find a copy of this magnificent book, make sure to buy it. It is a gem that belongs in every library.
And thank you Mayor Flores for lending it to me – it was an eye opener and I am diligently trying to locate a copy for my own library. Best Regards!
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