1904 St. Louis Fair and the ‘Bontoc Eulogy’
A Film by Marlon Fuentes
Ruth S. Batani
The film by Marlon Fuentes titled ‘Bontoc Eulogy’ is quite compelling as it was able to creatively craft the story to show the historicity as well as contextualize the lines, performances and photographs that followed. The context within which the colonial project was undertaken was very much in place in the film: Americans who were confronted with a people who just gained their independence and therefore was willing to defend it in the face of another colonizer. Abroad, public criticisms both from the American citizens and from the League of Nations – were to be avoided and these required the US resorting to a dual strategy: the use of force and diplomacy. The St. Louis Fair was illustrative of the latter strategy, carefully engineered to provide ‘legitimacy’ for the US taking ‘custody’ of the Filipinos. A running theme throughout the fair is the presentation of ‘degrees of civilization’ as represented in the neatly dressed and orderly Philippine Constabulary band who, according to Talusan (2004) were intentionally juxtaposed with the ‘half naked’ Igorot tribesmen. This ‘narratives of display’ would bring communicative power to the fair goers.
As a whole, the film was able to take a ‘fresh’ look at an old discourse ie., narratives of display and a subaltern talking back. The use of the same photographs by Worcester who took fun in taking pictures of ‘naked’ women and ‘bare buttocks of so-called ‘wild tribes of the North’ was a parody, this time putting his voice on to these photographs.
The first person ‘voice’ impresses the viewer of the ‘personal’ quest for the search of a lost ancestor- which could also be the ‘fiction’ part, yet is the voice that was more ‘convincing’ for a viewer like myself. By personalizing, the author was also able to let the viewer go back to collective...
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