Thursday, July 21, 2011

Virtual Ethnography 101: May Rizal sa Amin

As part of the weekly exercises of my graduate students in Anthropology 225: Philippine Society and Culture, I wanted my students to explore places and write ethnography using the method of participation-observation.

In celebration of the sesquicentennial (150th) birth anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippine's national hero, I asked my graduate students to visit museums that exhibit memorabilia for our dear renaissance Filipino man Jose Rizal, attend local and international academic symposium on The First World-Class Filipino Jose Rizal, travel to his ancestral house in Laguna, or pay respect to one of Asia's great intellectuals enshrined at Luneta Park, and so on...

I am posting in my blog with the writer's consent selected ethnography penned creatively by my students to contribute to the emerging sub-discipline of anthropology called 'Virtual Ethnography'.

Basically, virtually ethnography is also referred to as Webnography. We cannot deny the fact that with increasing use of technology and the Internet, there is now a demand for online spaces on various ethnographic accounts.

Ethnography by Bernadette Senado

Different poses, gestures like presenting him with a point and writing, oftentimes standing straight with his eyes on one direction, sometimes his hand carries a book on top of his chest or if not a hat place on one side however it is usual to see his hands bare. This sight could be seen on statues, pedestals, obelisks and staircases which vary in height but definitely taller than the others all the time and in shape which is trapezoidal, columnar and spherical with cartouches, plaques and transcriptions. These symbolic memoirs are observed not just all throughout the country but in some parts of the globe. On the contrary, more than these depictions, we have to decide on what does it really mean to create such? What impact does it generate in such creation and for failing to construct one among peoples?

I visited Vargas Museum in the University of the Philippines Diliman on July 13, 2011 and it was a lucky day for me because UPians are free to enter every Wednesday. The place seemed so quiet because no one was there to view the collections except for the security and other staff. I don’t know if nobody cares to visit the museum on that day, no one knows that a privilege awaits them when they come in or nobody is interested to witness how the museum joins the commemoration of Rizal’s 150th celebration (that I think is irrational) or it’s just that I am the only left and the rest has gone there already. So much of that, I started viewing the exhibition. The museum allotted the first and third floor for Rizal’s collections which started since May 17 up until July 17.

While I was on the first floor, something really captured my attention “May Rizal sa Amin”
and I really wonder why that set of photographs of Rizal’s monuments and later I found out that that those were scattered all over the country. In fact, there are around 430 monuments in the country. Photographs were taken, submitted and collated following the call of Vargas museums for images and recollections of Rizal monuments here and abroad.. Some were put forwarded via email, and facebook while others were collected by the University of the Philippines professors Nilo Ocampo of the Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature and Eloisa Mary Hernandez of the Department of Art Studies. For the former, this is to see how Rizal is commemorated in the locality and fin other sites that recognize Rizal like in the streets, parks etc. while the latter is to respond to the suggestion of a colleague to document Rizal’s monuments.

It’s really interesting to note that Rizal’s monuments are all over the country and we are accustomed to see them on public setting like plaza complex, municipal offices, churches, schools, markets, malls streets, parks and other government and non-government institutions. And it is intriguing to know all the more that Rizal’s monuments extend in some parts of the globe like in America and Spain. This prompted me to discover on how Rizal’s fame is represented among Asian countries if they really do. And since I cannot afford to visit countries in Asia due to lack of time and budget, I just decided to enter a chat room from which I had a culture shock. I think the last I entered a chat room was 2004.

Moving on, the experience taught me to go straight to my intention because almost all chatters intend to make friends, marry you right away and have sex (ouch!). My goal was to know if they know Rizal and if he has monument on their place. Fortunately, I met people with different intention (I’m not sure) but I was able to fish information and relevant opinion to validate my claim. I met sandeep (codename) from India who was quite intellectual and equated Jose Rizal to Mahatma Gandhi but he said that no Rizal monument is erected on their place and they don’t study Philippine history that’s why subscribed on Wikipedia first to search on Jose Rizal. I was able to speak with an OFW in Saudi Arabia, his codename is mangubat primo and he said that Arabs are interested to Philippine culture and they get to know Jose Rizal once marry a Filipina or visit the Philippines but he didn’t see any image of Rizal in public because it’s a Muslim country. Another is hussain_hussain (codemame), a Syrian lady who is quiet interested with history and have seen pyramids of Egypt and Garden of Eden in Iraw but she said that she has never heard Jose Rizal yet.

I was able to talk with people from Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh who don’t have any idea about Rizal and OFWs from China, Japan and South Korea who haven’t seen public depictions of Jose Rizal. Let me clarify, my goal was not to check entirely Rizal’s popularity among Asians but unintentionally, this has been shown so as to attain how Asians are affected by public representations of our National Hero in their place.

Going back to the title, May Rizal sa Amin, is a form of declaration. Yes Rizal is with us! It sounds like edification, venerating Rizal as Christ. His presence conveys significance which vary among peoples. For the commons who are used to see his image in public places enlighten them that Jose Rizal is not way different from them. He is an ordinary guy just like any other who is fully committed to public service. His monuments that extend in the northernmost and southernmost and northernmost part of the country remind us that we are all Filipinos despite our multi-ethnicity. And Rizal’s image abroad will help the homesick identify themselves to Rizal and this is a symbol of a good diplomatic relation with others.

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