Thursday, August 5, 2010

What the Philippine Taipans Could Do: The Florentine Renaissance Model

Florence, Italy
5 August 2010

It's amazing how the Florence Renaissance was driven by trade. The trade was driven by guilds. The guilds were driven by competition. The competition was driven by patronizing public buildings. The restoration of public buildings was driven by creative individuals who decorated them. The creative individuals started a blossoming of innovation. And the whole city opened up to a whole new way of thinking.

The primary guilds were the lawyers and judges, wool merchants, silk merchants, bankers, doctors & apothecaries, leather makers, tint makers including artists. Soon lesser guilds were recognised: tanners, butchers, tailors, weavers, chandlers (candlestick makers). These were very important occupations. They were a sort of lobby for monies, grants, tax exemptions and other benefices. In return, these organizations poured their gold money into beauty and culture.

The guilds formed tightly as organizations and collected fees. Each selected a specific church, a public square, a state building, a bridge, an old palace, an antique forum, a unique edifice designed by a celebrated architect, etc. They went overboard to commmission artists, sculptore, woodcarvers, architects, carpenters, tapestry weavers, masons and the like.

One can see the effect of the competition. Statues, fountains, grottoes, pedestals, roof pediments, entry doors, any space...all are given a decorative touch.

Imagine how the drab Philippine Post Office building designed by Juan Arellano, overlooking Pasig River would look like if it was adopted by, let's say, the Divisoria Organization of silk importers and retailers? How about the Barosaoin Church being patronized and restored by the Piña embroidery Organization of Bulacan? Each national organization of professionals and alumni groups could decorate a university. A local Brunelleschi could go bananas with his domes and baptistry doors of San Agustin Church in Intramuros commissioned by the candlemakers organization of Santa Cruz. The merchants under the tulay, (Under the Tulles) could clean up and decorate the facade and side doors of the historic Quiapo church. Over at the corner of
San Sebastian church, an old Spanish-Filipino residence is slowly deteriorating before our very eyes. It needs a patron to get it restored.

The ultra rich in the Philippines stash their money in unnumbered Swiss accounts. The ultra rich in the Florence of old stashed their money where their paintings, buildings and statues could be admired.

Old historical churches abound in the Philippines, many in disrepair and neglect. Gemma Cruz Araneta gave me a copy of her book on churches "Stones of Faith." The churches in the Philippines are ready for a renaissance moment.

This is a plea to the organizations of merchants, professionals, the unions, labor, corporate institutions. What if you followed the Florentine model of pouring your money back to restore and decorate our old cultural patrimony?