ITL #575   Luna's legacy: shaping the Philippine brand with art and unity

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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The Philippines has strategically leveraged its cultural heritage and artistic expression to enhance its global image. By Teodoro “Junie” S. Del Mundo, Jr.



In the Ayala Museum, where echoes of history blend seamlessly with the present, the unveiling of Juan Luna's “Hymen, oh Hyménée!” transcends mere artistic display. Hidden for a century, this work not only showcases Luna's brilliance but also marks a significant chapter in the narrative of Philippine cultural heritage, illustrating the evolution of Filipino art to international acclaim.

 

Luna's sojourn in Paris during the late 19th century exemplified the boundless reach of Filipino talent. Following the celebrated success of "Spoliarium" in Madrid, "Hymen, oh Hyménée!", birthed during his honeymoon travels across Rome and Venice, became a piece Luna held dear, signifying his artistic zenith. At that time, Paris reigned as the art world’s nexus, where Luna's accolades, particularly his recognition at the 1899 Exposition Universelle, firmly established his stature among the global artistic vanguard, defying the era's pervasive racial prejudices.

 

The narrative of "Hymen, oh Hyménée!" from Luna’s private collection to its status as a symbol of national pride weaves a tale rich with mystery and speculation. Termed the "Holy Grail of Philippine Art," its path from disappearance post-Luna’s demise to its rediscovery encapsulates a quest for a lost fragment of our national identity. The meticulous pursuit by Jaime Ponce de Leon across Europe, culminating in the artwork's repatriation, underscores a seminal moment in reclaiming our cultural patrimony.

 

Cultural renaissance

This collaborative endeavor with the Ayala Museum to publicly showcase "Hymen, oh Hyménée!" on a long-term loan is emblematic of more than an artistic feat; it signifies a cultural renaissance. Timed with the 125th Anniversary of Philippine Independence, this exhibition not only honors Luna's artistic legacy but also reflects our collective journey as a nation—marked by resilience, pride, and an enduring vibrancy.

 

The return of "Hymen, oh Hyménée!" to Philippine soil exemplifies the strategic utilization of cultural assets for national branding, highlighting art's capability to transcend mere aesthetic enjoyment to embody national identity and foster global connections. My tenure as a Trustee of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) has deepened my conviction in the transformative role of cultural institutions in narrating our national saga through art, collaborations, and cultural exchanges, thereby showcasing the rich tapestry of Filipino culture to the international community.

 

The concept of soft power, as delineated in the realm of international relations, emphasizes the capacity of a country to co-opt rather than coerce, shaping global perceptions and preferences through cultural and ideological appeal. The Philippines’ strategic leverage of its cultural heritage and artistic expression as instruments of soft power has significantly enhanced its global image, positioning the nation as a vibrant and compelling player on the world stage. This approach underscores the nuanced interplay between cultural diplomacy and national branding, where the arts serve not merely as a showcase of national talent but as pivotal channels for international engagement and dialogue.

 

Recent milestones in the tourism sector vividly illustrate the Philippines' ascent as a premier global destination, thereby elevating our national brand. The landmark achievement in 2023, which saw international tourism receipts soar to $9.1 billion, marks a significant contribution to the country's economy and underscores the potent impact of our strategic efforts in tourism and public relations. This not only amplifies our cultural and economic footprint but also forecasts a promising future for the Philippines as a cornerstone of economic and cultural dynamism, bolstered by the synergy between public and private sector initiatives.

 

In fostering our national brand, the responsibility extends beyond cultural institutions and public relations experts to encompass every Filipino. Each individual, as a bearer of our cultural legacy, plays a crucial role in illuminating the Philippine narrative on the global stage. Through collective efforts in sharing our stories and heritage—be it through traditional arts or digital platforms—we not only showcase the multifaceted beauty of the Philippines but also bridge cultures, fostering global understanding and connections. This unified endeavor is instrumental in our continuous journey to elevate the Philippines in the international arena, highlighting the significance of collaboration and solidarity.

 

Furthermore, the government's role in championing the arts and cultural heritage is indispensable. Strategic investments in cultural infrastructure, education, and international cultural diplomacy are foundational in amplifying our global presence. As we navigate towards the future, the harmonious interplay between government initiatives, private sector engagement, and individual contributions is vital in harnessing the full spectrum of our cultural assets, crafting a narrative that resonates with pride and unity both domestically and on the world stage.

 

From Luna’s historic masterpieces to contemporary digital expressions, the Philippines' journey is a testament to our enduring spirit of creativity, heritage, and innovation. This narrative, enriched by our collective achievements and the challenges we’ve surmounted, positions the nation as a beacon of artistic brilliance and global engagement. As we forge ahead, we celebrate the legacy that unites us, ensuring the Philippines continues to shine brightly on the world stage for generations to come.

 



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The Author

Teodoro “Junie” S. Del Mundo, Jr

Teodoro “Junie” S. Del Mundo, Jr., Chair and Chief Executive, EON The Stakeholder Relations Group, Manila

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