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UPV holds symposium, exhibit on the legacy of Felix Laureano

UP Visayas held the first symposium and exhibit on the life and works of the first Filipino photographer Felix Laureano not only in the country but anywhere in the world. 


Through the Center for West Visayan Studies (CWVS), College of Arts and Sciences, in partnership with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the Symposium on the Legacy of Felix Laureano: the First Filipino Photographer was held at the UPV Auditorium, Iloilo City campus on June 15, 2015. An exhibit known as “Bugasong to Barcelona,” on the life and works of Laureano was opened for public viewing on June 10, 2015 at the UPV Art Gallery. 

A native of Bugasong, Antique, Laureano was quite unknown to most Filipinos until Instituto Cervantes launched an English version of his 1895 Recuerdos de Filipinas in 2008. He rose to become the first Filipino photographer with this album-book originally published in Barcelona, Spain. The photography book contained collection of photos taken in Iloilo, Panay Island, Manila, and other parts of Luzon during the last decade of Spanish colonial period. About 37 photographs of Visayan countryscapes and lifestyles with short essays giving a rare glimpse of 19th century Philippines were included in the book.   

“The symposium and exhibit were conducted to give insights and provide new knowledge on Felix Laureano for nobody knows much anything about his life,”said Mr. Francisco G. Villanueva, the main organizer of the two events.  An alumnus and former lecturer of UPV, Villanueva said the events were aimed to raise criticism on new information as well as to stimulate research on Early Philippine Photography and Photographers. He said though Felix Laureano is considered the pioneer photographer, no biography of him exists and very little is known of his photographic legacy. 

Several speakers graced the symposium.  Dr. Ma. Luisa E. Mabunay, former faculty member of UPV and dean of CAS, read the paper of Dr. Maria de los Santos Garcia Felquera on “El Fotografo Filipino Felix Laureano en Barcelona” (The Filipino Photographer Felix Laureano in Barcelona). Dr. Felguera is a professor of the Department of Humanities, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona). Prof. Guillermo Gomez Rivera, head of the Spanish Department, Adamson University, presented “Felix Laureano Reminds Us of the Spanish Heritage and Legacy We Have Now Forgotten.”  Mr. Villanueva disclosed Felix Laureano as a press photographer while Dr. Alicia P. Magos, UPV Prof. Emeritus in Anthropology, looked into the “Cultural Anthropology Notes on Laureano’s Recuerdos de Filipinas.” 

The symposium was free to all interested faculty members and students of various schools, universities, and colleges (SUCs), local government units, government agencies, cultural workers, and photographic societies in the Western Visayas region. 

Meanwhile, the “Barcelona to Bugasong” exhibit brought the findings of Villanueva after three years of embarking on a personal project doing research on the life of Felix Laureano in Spain and in the Philippines. Villanueva was introduced to the works of Laureano during his visit to Valladolid, Spain in 2010. He believes that Laureano is a source of pride not only for the Antiqueños and Ilonggos but also for every Filipinos involved in photography. 

UPV has been supportive of the project since 2012 and provided inspiration in mounting the exhibition.  

About 60 modern copies of the original photographs including Laureano’s portrait were showcased at the Art Gallery until June 26, 2015. The following information in the exhibit were arranged in chronological order:  biographical highlights of Felix Laureano (1866-1952); introduction to the beginnings of Laureano in the Philippines; the beginnings of photography, the expositions that Felix Laureano participated in and the first photography studio that he opened in Barcelona; the photographs of Recuerdos de Filipinas; and his works as a press photographer. Photography materials in the 19th century were also on display. 

Guests that included the Laureano family descendants from Oton, Iloilo got a glimpse of the original 1895 Recuerdos de Filipinas lent by Iloilo City Lone District Representative Jerry P. Treñas who owned the book at the opening of the exhibit. 

The exhibit was also presented by the UPV Chancellor’s Committee for Culture and the Arts.    

The inaugural run in Iloilo will be followed by exhibits in Manila and Barcelona.

By: Lenilyn B. Gallos

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