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THE SOUVENIR SONGBOOK: TOOL OR "PROPS"

Updated: Feb 28


In a recent Facebook post on the Bayanihan Collector's Club page, I talked about this "unexpected purchase" of a souvenir songbook that looked very old. I was curious about the eagle's image on top of the flags of the United States and the Philippines. But what even piqued my curiosity was the image of the Katipunan Sun on top of a mountain on the coat-of-arms located at the bottom of the front page; the date August 13, 1898, situated in the center of the image right below the two intertwined flags; the 8th Army corps who happen to be the authors of the songs and poems inside the songbook; and the footnote or the little scribbled words at the bottom that read ".....Carmelo Y Bauermann Manila."


This souvenir songbook was issued on November 1, 1898, six months after the Battle of Cavite, where the US Asiatic squadron under Commodore George Dewey had sunk the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. A little over two months after the fall of Manila occurred on August 13, 1898, the subject date was mentioned in the middle of the songbook cover. In a book entitled "Apples & Ampalaya: Bittersweet Glimpses of the American Period in the Philippines (1898-1946)" the author, Augusto De Viana, insinuated that the fall of Manila was "contrived" by both the Spaniards and the Americans without allowing the Filipinos to participate in the event. This songbook could have been some "props" to convince the Filipinos to accept and welcome the Americans because, according to the preface of the songbook, the "artistic and typographical work in the pamphlet" was done by Filipinos. It begs the question, why would an American Souvenir, where the contributors of the songs and poems are all members of the 8th Army Corps and where the cover explicitly states that the price of the songbook is "25 cents American Money" allow the artwork to be done by Filipinos?


Regardless, the Filipino artists who handled the cover page design went to town and started putting all kinds of symbolism around. It is best to take a snapshot of the exact words the author or publisher used to describe the cover page. This would capture the essence of what the Filipino artists were trying to impart to their audience:



They wanted to convey so many messages on the cover. For one, they wanted to tell the story of their bloody fight for independence by illustrating the Philippine flag side-by-side with the American flag and describing what the colors of red, white, and blue symbolized; and then, given that they knew the audience would be the American soldiers, as this souvenir songbook was explicitly addressed to an American market they took advantage of the situation. They described the three stars representing the "rebellious islands of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao." A short geography lesson for the Americans to attempt to teach them this new land where they have recently co-located. Little did the Americans know that the Philippine Flag represented their nation and their struggle for independence. A decade later, the American-led Philippine Commission would ban its use and display through an act that would silently suppress this call for Philippine patriotism. This act would be called Act No. 1696, also known as "An Act to Prohibit the Display of Flags, Banners, Emblems, or Devices Used in the Philippine Islands for Rebellion or Insurrection Against the Authority of the United States."


However, these artists needed to emphasize the sun's rays more as they described it as simply the "eight provinces from this island." I guess the fact that the eight rays represented the first eight provinces of the Philippines, which was declared under Martial Law during the Philippine Revolution of 1896, was not as popular at the time when this cover was being drawn as


compared to what is known these days. Finally, the mountain is where the symbolism gets interesting. I wondered what this mountain found inside the coat of arms under the Katipunan sun symbolized. It reminded me of the mountain from that 70's Steven Spielberg movie Close Encounter of the Third Kind movie. The whole representation of the coat of arms may have inspired Spielberg to do the cover poster of his movie some 80 years later, with the Katipunan sun representing the Alien's ship. The other comments I got were that it was the Mayon Volcano in all its


splendor. But the preface described it as a "representation of Biak-na-bato," or the location where the truce or agreement between the Spaniards and the Filipinos was signed. It was then eventually violated by both parties because of trust issues. A very fresh memory for these Filipino artists as they put the cover design together less than a year after the truce was signed by both the Spaniards and the Filipinos -- again, another history lesson for the American recipients of this songbook. The pamphlet was printed by the famous publishing and printing house established in Manila, "Carmelo and Bauerman", founded by Don Eulalio Carmel y Lakandula, an artist engraver, and William Bauermann, a German lithographer and cartographer.


There are so many symbolisms and hidden meanings, all in a straightforward souvenir songbook published and distributed as soon as the Americans arrived in the Philippines. From the side of the Filipinos, they welcomed the souvenir as a tool to convey the messages of their independence and liberty by educating the Americans on the Philippines. On the side of the Americans, it was their way of conveying a message of peace or maybe even a gift to the Filipinos to accept their arrival, not knowing that in 3 months, the ensuing Philippine-American War would start and last three years, resulting in the death of over 4,200 American and over 20,000 Filipino combatants, not to mention the more than 200,000 Filipinos that would die of violence, famine, and disease. Either way, this simple souvenir songbook with 25 songs/poems, which has survived more than 100 years, has found its home in a simple collector's portfolio here in the Philippines, where it belongs.



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