Metro Manila :
25 million inhabitants, 17 municipalities, 6 days.
Quickly immersed in this intense atmosphere. The challenge is how to understand the memorial mechanisms of this megalopolis.
My photographic work focuses on the transformation of places of memory, those Historical spots. How do their transformation occur? Towards which spheres do they evolve? Do they become part of a new political landscape, by entering into the country’s economic
system for instance?
The Philippines is a young nation. During talks that fueled this new photography project, I got to learn how complex it was to build this "identity", in a society governed by a clannish and oligarchic system, mingled with the traumatic intrusion of Christianity and the
antagonism between Nature, peaceableness (Christian Merer uses the term "Eden") and violence in the cities.
I haven’t had a frontal view of this violence. But I can imagine it through this prevailing gap between the different segments of the population. I haven’t experienced it but there was always this nagging feeling from the time I arrived, which I couldn’t identify. And this went on till the last day, when it revealed its head during a conversation: MALAISE
Addressing this issue of memory is at the top of my concerns. Specifically around the Second World War, in which Manila was one of the cities affected the most by the conflict. It therefore called for a retracing of steps and trying to find the places concerned.
First stop were the clearly identified spaces : Intramuros. The journey back in time was initiated. The markings are present, the records kept by the site administration. But the question of historical accuracy remains unanswered: "Here was (...)." Here? Where? Where is the exact area in question? Are there any written evidence of the location of these places? What do we see today? Destroyed churches are sometimes re-erected miles from the original location. Why? Are there political and economic strategies involved in these decisions? Who is responsible? How do they justify the choice of location for the new buildings?
"Nobody cares." That’s reality exposed right there, coldly, in a conversation with a Filipino archaeologist I met during a visit to Quezon City. "Our history is not taught in school." A lack of conveyance? In Quezon City for instance, memorial spots are "manufactured" (a monument here, a pillar there ...) Confined and protected spaces. Closed to the public. There is a paradoxical position in wanting a living memory of history and at the same time denying its access to Filipinos.
No teaching, thus no direct access to the premises. Coupled with this attitude of looking at life on a day to day basis, without projecting into the future. Or to the past ...
Being in the present moment and enjoying it. Entertainment. Memories of the now.
Another paradox: the mass tourism in historical Corregidor Island. An island-museum where history is consumed in record time (landing – photo – lunch break – photo – return to boat). Everything is staged for the visitor, and can get crude. A show that rubs off on
behavior. Consumption at its frightening self.
Different ways of handling memory seem to be at play in this country with the feeling that the whole process has yet to be engaged. Don’t abstractions exist in political decisions?
Will one embodied memory be enough for the act of conveying it? There lies the challenge in the reflection required here : never before in our societies has the desire for conservation of heritage asserted itself more intensely. But “nothing of what we will be able
to conserve be of value for our descendants if we do not also pass on to them, what this very precious heritage ‘means’ to us”. (Maxime Rovere).