Philippine Church Facades, I sent Fr. Pedro Galende, OSA, the author*, a few questions about his recent publication. Below are his answers to my queries.The week after the launching of the book
Estan (EC): Father, can you tell me about your new book?
Fr. Pedro Galende, OSA (PG): In the first place, I am very thankful to you for your prompt reply to help me in the photographing of the facades (EC: I am the primary photographer) I know that the book would be very interesting and useful to the Filipino readers and that the book has quality and will impact favorably the readers who see it.
EC: What is the idea behind this book and how did that idea came to be?
PG: My first objective was to let the people know about the artistic and architectural value of the baroque churches and to give them an easy way to appreciate their beauty through photos. It is easy to see than to read.
EC: Why just facades instead of including the whole exterior, interior and other important parts of the church?
PG: Because the facade of a church is, like that of a house, the soul of the church, the building. Besides, I had prepared the text long time ago and when I found it I thought to give it a try to make good use of it.
EC: There are 161 churches included, how did you come up with the list?
PG: I wanted to select several from among all the regions of the archipelago based on their artistic quality, their actual condition and their beauty.
EC: How was the preparation? Were there difficulties encountered?
PG: First I reviewed the old manuscript. Then I met two photographers and we made the plan for the three of us to visit the towns around the country and take the photos. There was some difficulty in finding archival photos, which was for me very essential, so that people could see the difference between now and years ago.
EC: Considering that there are still many colonial churches out there that weren’t covered, is there a possibility of treating these in a follow up volume?
PG: Definitely, there is a plan for Vol. II. With that we may have completed the study of 70% of the colonial churches.
EC: Culture and Heritage awareness now is better than in previous years.
PG: When I came to the Philippines there were not many Filipinos with a real and clear awareness about the architectural wealth of these baroque monuments. A few people had done studies. In 1988 one could notice a great desire for research and study of old colonial landmarks as a consequence of the programs and celebrations of the centennial of that year. People woke up and everybody wanted to do something to discover our cultural richness.
In my case, the moment I visited the towns of Pampanga with one of the old Augustinian priests, I was so impressed that I made a promise to come up with new plans. I traveled around the whole Archipelago taking photos of churches and did research here and abroad for ten years. I came up with the first book (EC: this is the Angels in Stone) which is a guide for researchers about architecture of the Philippines. I was the first one to call this style a Filipino style, not Spanish or Mexican. I think I succeeded.
EC: What are your plans after Philippine Church Facades?
PG: There may be an opportunity, after Vol. II of Facades is published, to work on the research, study and photographing of the Retablos. Who knows. Let us dream big. I am sure that something good will come out.
*Fr. Pedro Galende, OSA is the author and Director of the San Agustin Museum. He has authored other books including the landmark Angels in Stone: Augustinian Churches in the Philippines.