Tuesday, June 2, 2015


El Indio
(late 19th century)

A Project Description by Angelo Suarez
Philippine literary history is not w/o its share of telling silences. Literary historian Resil Mojares writes of the Augustinian botanist Manuel Blanco, a Spanish friar credited w/ having penned Flora de Filipinas, segun el sistema sexual de Linneo (“Flowers of the Philippines, according to thesexual system of Linnaeus”) in 1837, who “was tasked by his order to write atreatise on the character of the Philippine native (indio). The friar secluded himself in a monastery and admonished his confreres that the book he was working on should be opened only after his death. When he died years later, the friars eagerly opened the magnum opus on which their brother had long labored, only to find that the book contained nothing but blank pages.” The book is said to be thick, held together by a cover made of vellum that bore its title, El Indio. Its blankness—reinforced no less by author’s surname, Blanco—cld be read as a testament to either the unknowability of a people or their lack of merit to be even known, or even aseither the diligent friar’s refusal to reduce a people into an object of theimperial gaze or the outcome of anthropological incompetence borne of eccentricity. This interpretive indeterminacy, however, veils the possibility of reading the substrate that is the paper itself—such that an equivalency between the indio & the aggregate of sheets is posited, & that conquest is presented not so much as inscription onto the ‘native’ page but the very framing of the sheets as native: the indio is itself an imperial fantasy, a discursive composition.

A Paper in Kritika (Ateneo University, Philippines)
"Manuel Blanco's El Indio and the History of a Rumor"
By Resil B. Mojares

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