A “vignette” is a short account or episode that seeks to capture a brief moment in time. They can stand on their own, or also be a part of a larger story.

In this show, some of the country’s best contemporary artists interpret a few of former history professor Roberto Galang’s vignettes on selected episodes from 1521 to the present. On their own, the art and words present facts, observations, trivia and reflections. But, they are also part of a more consequential narrative that is a major chapter not only in our country’s story, but of world history itself.

Ferdinand Magellan’s arrival in the Philippines marked the first circumnavigation of the world, a monumental achievement that greatly expanded Europe’s geographic knowledge by confirming the size of the globe’s circumference and conclusively validating the fact of the earth’s roundness. It deepened linkages between different cultures and civilizations, ultimately leading to accomplishments and expansions in commerce, science, the arts and religion that would not have been possible otherwise. For these reasons, Magellan’s landing in the Philippines has been described by some historians as marking the first globalization of the planet.

And, for the Philippines, it changed and redefined the trajectory of our development and place in the world. As a country and as a people – from our faiths to language to education to politics and to our very culture – we were and are forever changed.

The vignettes also hint at other broader issues: the roles of ideas, words and language; the dual-edged nature and clash of religion and ambitions; the importance of memory; the underappreciated role of women; nature and human progress; the influences of image and perception; creation, destruction and evolution; and the power of dreams, stories and imagination, among other themes.

500 years is an undeniably significant milestone calling not so much for celebration, but for sincere reflection. It is not an easy task. The diversity and breadth of events and subjects are obviously impossible to comprehensively cover, so “Vignettes” is simply CANVAS’ modest contribution to the discourse.

We see this as an opportunity to appreciate our triumphs and achievements, as well as to acknowledge and learn from past failures and missteps. If there is but one lesson to take, for us it is this: the Quincentenniale should be a reminder to all of us that, even in these difficult times, we need to find the discipline to stop and look back, to appreciate and learn, continuously and deliberately.

500 years is far too long a period to wait to do these things.

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Time & Location

March 16, 2021