Faith and reason are really sworn enemies in the modern world, where even with the separation of church and state, religion and common sense often times meet in opposition?
I have already written about how religious rituals permeate the day-to-day life of most Filipinos through the celebration of an entire calendar of fiestas. But that is just the outer core of how deeply-set beliefs influence our lifestyles, where many of our habits have been formed consciously and unconsciously through what priests and teachers have handed down.
If any of you have watched the fights of Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, you would have noticed the rosaries that he wears or how he makes the sign of the cross before games, just for luck. Instinctively, we turn for guidance and deliverance even during less crucial moments-whereas many in the west only find themselves turning to their makers when they fear for their mortality.
A short trip to the Quiapo district of Manila, to the various stalls with tables laid in front of the church, reveals strings and strings of rosaries sold, together with icons in all sizes, talismans, oils with alleged healing powers, and mystic roots and crystals.
Some of the imagery from Quiapo is recognizable in several of the Southeast Asian works on exhibit at the Faith + Reason & Catching the Spirit of a Heritage show at the Manila Contemporary gallery, which I recently visited. They are most apparent in the colorfully decorated crosses by Valeria Cavestany and the hand-painted wooden panels by Guy Custodio, who has drawn from the heritage of local artists.
When modernity, disbelief, “reason”, and disillusion plays with and distorts these images, we get the sort of fashionable iconoclasm present in the works of Patricia Eustaquio, Gerardo Tan, Sri Astari, and Leeroy New (who has appended the heads of monsters on plastic icons).
(For those interested, the Manila Contemporary gallery is located at Whitespace, 2314 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City. The exhibit is open until June 13, 2010.)