In a first for the Filipino art world, a lawyer-historian and a painter-curator have teamed up to produce a series of paintings on historical themes that bring to life our colonial past and our ways of coming to terms with it.
In Juico Final (Final Judgment): HOCUS III, a beautifully produced art book, the vision and creative authorship of Saul Hofileña, Jr. and the artistic skills of Guy Custodio come together in a serendipitous collaboration that manifests a decolonized view of the historical events in the history of the country. two colonial periods.
The partnership between Hofileña and Custodio as HOCUS (from the first syllables of their surnames) has produced a rich wealth of historically themed artwork – HOCUS I: Patronato Real, HOCUS II: Quadricula, and finally, HOCUS III: Juicio Final.
The first two collections, curated by Gemma Cruz Araneta, were exhibited at the National Art Gallery of the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP), to great acclaim. These were, to date, the oldest non-permanent exhibitions. Hopefully HOCUS III will also be presented there, to bring a satisfying conclusion to this artistic trilogy.
Juicio Final, a history book disguised as a catalog raisonné, is a large-format book on thick coated paper, the better to bring to life the images it contains that make up what Hofileña says is the last set of paintings he wants. TO DO. I hope he changes his mind about this one of these days, because there are only 87 fully completed HOCUS paintings in all.
Of Juicio’s 19 works of art, 17 resolve the details of the historical narrative that Araneta spotted in the first two collections and expand it to encompass incidents of American occupation, completing the colonial cycle of Juicio’s vision. ‘Hofilena.
Each painting is accompanied by a short essay that explains the imagery and symbolism drawn from historical events and incidents, but seen through a postcolonial lens.
The choice of themes testifies to the generational resonance of the influence of Jose Rizal, which HOCUS shows in two tables. In “Binaril Nila si Doktor”, a mass of people dressed in late 19th century clothing are depicted huddled together under a leaden sky. Hofileña writes that Rizal was killed by the Spaniards probably because Rizal, according to historian Rafael Palma, “was the first to dare to write about the evils of colonial society”.
In “Santo ng Bayan”, Rizal is depicted standing in Bagumbayan, with a rope tied around his arms and elbows. Behind him are fallen Spanish soldiers, while above the arches a ruined and frescoed church ceiling. “Immortal, he stands alone where they executed him, at dawn,” Hofileña writes. “He survived those who demanded his death as well as the unfortunate soldiers who were ordered to shoot him. The Filipinos themselves have chosen to honor Jose Rizal, irrevocably.
It’s a thrilling, heart-pounding declaration of love and respect for the national hero, who also happens to be one of my personal heroes.
Another important theme of this book is the recognition of women’s power as opposed to their socially constructed “frailty”.
Among the paintings thus thematized is “Luminous”, which shows an angel in baro’t saya reading a page of baybayin. The accompanying text refers to the young women of Malolos who wanted to continue their education, the strong and industrious German women Rizal met abroad, and the former priestesses of pre-colonial times. “In the beginning there was the babaylan,” writes Hofileña.
Another shiver runs up my spine. For these paintings and essays alone, this book is worth its price.
Besides their inherent artistic value, HOCUS paintings are an invaluable aid in teaching history. A large number of students and teachers, as well as the general public, visited the HOCUS I exhibition at the NMP from April 16 to October 29, 2017 and HOCUS II from September 15, 2019 to March 15, 2020.
Hofileña, as the creative author of the HOCUS paintings, donated 11 of them to the NMP. Six gigantic HOCUS paintings are now on permanent display at the National Museum of Fine Arts, and five will hang next month in the foyer of the National Museum of Anthropology as a permanent exhibit.
A recurring symbol in many paintings is the ‘anghel de cuyacuy’, the HOCUS signature. “It’s a Filipino angel sitting on a bench reading a book with one leg swinging nonchalantly,” Hofileña writes. “He is an angel destined to fight ignorance and superstition and not the murderous horde of Satan.” HOCUS has done its best to sweep away the cobwebs of our collective ignorance about our history, and this book helps us remember that.
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Juicio Final: Final Judgment (HOCUS III)
By Saul Hofilena Jr.
2022, 82 pages, pb, Baybayin Publishing