Colonial Imaginings of Manila: An Architectural Talk by Edson Cabalfin

23 February 2008, 3-5 PM
Silverlens Gallery, Makati City

Colonial Imaginings of Manila: Architectural Photographs of Dean C. Worcester, 1898-1914
by Edson Cabalfin, Cornell University

Architectural photography is never neutral and innocent but, rather, is embedded within discourses of power, politics and ideology. The presentation will show how photographs of Manila and its environs by Dean C. Worcester, a member of the First Philippine Commission formed by U.S. President William McKinley in 1899, articulated the pervading American colonial narrative during the early part of the twentieth century.

The presentation focuses on the published photographs of Philippine architectures in Worcester's books "The Philippine Islands and their People" (published in 1898) and "The Philippines Past and Present" (published in 1914 and subsequently in 1930), which became popular readings in the United States at the onset of the twentieth century.

Using "before" and "after" photographs as a technique in depicting the architectures, Worcester placed in opposition the state of the Philippines before and after American colonial intervention.
Highlighting architectural categories, such as materiality, permanence, order, cleanliness and style, the presentation thus attempts to analyze the photographs as instruments of propagating the colonial program of the American government in the Philippines.

Edson Cabalfin is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the History of Architecture and Urbanism Program in the Department of Architecture at Cornell University under a Sage Graduate Fellowship. He was formerly a Fulbright Fellow from 2001-2003 under which he received his Master of Science degree in Architecture (Major in History, Theory and Criticism) from the University of Cincinnati in 2003. Before coming to the U.S., he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture (cum laude) in 1996 and Masters of Architecture degree (Major in Architectural Design) in 2001 from the University of the Philippines. His current dissertation research revolves around the relationship of the discourse of nationalism and the architecture culture in postcolonial Philippines (1946-1998). He has taught at the University of the Philippines, Far Eastern University and De La Salle – College of St. Benilde in Manila. A licensed architect in the Philippines, he actively experiments in architecture, interior, graphic, costume/fashion, and set/scenography design having done projects in New York, Philadelphia, Istanbul and Manila.
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