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MEMOIRS OF A GARDEN

by KRISTOFER PURNELL
Photo by NOEL PABALETE

Decades of history surround and fill the walled city of Intramuros. What few remains that lasted since the Spanish occupation have been carefully preserved and opened for viewing to anyone who wants a glimpse of what old Manila was like two centuries ago. While many places are often visited like Fort Santiago and the Manila Cathedral, there are some smaller landmarks that, if you go around enough, you may find yourself bathed in history, and good light.

Just a few days ago, celebrity couple Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla went on a nighttime stroll around Intramuros, and came across a garden filled with murals of the Philippine Presidents under trees filled with lanterns.

The said garden is the Galeria de los Presidentes de la Republica Pilipina or the Philippine Presidents’ Gallery. It is located along Sta. Lucia Street behind the historic San Agustin Church. The fiberglass murals were created by the late artist Juan Sajid Imao during Richard Gordon’s time as Department of Tourism secretary, and nearly 20 years later they still stand—the murals of former President Noynoy Aquino and current President Rodrigo Duterte were by and donated by the Philippine Film Studios to the Intramuros Administration (IA) which oversees the gallery, hence their comparative difference to the other 14.

Each of the murals bears the likeness of the Presidents, all of them surrounded by differently styled frames. Around the figures are titles, words, and events that occurred during their time in office, a history lesson through art.

Emilio Aguinaldo is surrounded by people cheering a figure waving the Philippine flag, while Manuel L. Quezon’s and Sergio Osmeña’s murals are filled with titles such as “Architect of Philippine Independence,” and “Restored the Executive Departments,” respectively. Below Jose P. Laurel is a banner indicating he was an “advocate of women’s suffrage,” though above him are Japanese World War II bombers.

ILLUMINATED HISTORY Tree lanterns shine on the presidential murals standing in the Galeria de los Presidentes de la Republica Pilipina

ILLUMINATED HISTORY Tree lanterns shine on the presidential murals standing in the Galeria de los Presidentes de la Republica Pilipina

Historical events return in Manuel Roxas’ mural as a crowd witnesses the lowering of the American flag and the raising of the Philippine flag, signifying our independence from the US on July 4, 1946. Elpidio Quirino has “economic aid” on his mural with images of a factory and an irrigation system flanking him,  while Ramon Magsaysay’s mural has him facing a crowd outside Malacañang and a pile of shotguns. Carlos Garcia’s has a big banner saying “Filipino First,” and is joined by people dancing the Tinikling and Pandanggo sa Ilaw.

Diosdado Macapagal’s mural has “land reform” as indicated by rice fields on his left, and the celebration of Philippine independence on June 12. Below Ferdinand Marcos is a flag signifying his “balikbayan program” and “kilusan kabuhayan at kaunlaran program,” but in the corner is the iconic image of him at his office declaring martial law on national TV.

Cory Aquino’s mural is surrounded by the multiple efforts done during the People Power movement, while Fidel Ramos’ is filled with banners celebrating APEC, foreign investments, and 100 years of Philippine independence. Under Joseph Estrada is a film reel, while Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s mural mirrors Aquino’s only it shows EDSA II and her inauguration.

The younger Aquino and Duterte’s murals are expected to be updated as it contains minimal references to their administrations, though the former has the yellow ribbon of the Liberal Party while the current president has the outlined logo of the Philippine National Police.

The Philippine Presidents’ Gallery is better visited at night, when the lanterns on nearby trees are lit, giving the garden an illuminated feel while the murals themselves give off a hint of historicity. The IA has announced plans to improve the landscaping and pavements so that more people will be encouraged to visit.

So if you ever find yourself looking for more bits of history while inside Intramuros, be sure to drop by the Galeria de los Presidentes de la Republica Pilipina and marvel at the past staring right at you.



Source: Manila Bulletin

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