Writer shares memorable sites in Intramuros

Award-winning fiction writer Peter Mayshle explained that the idealization of Intramuros’ Spanish past distorts its real image after the colonization in his “Wall of Memory” lecture last Aug. 3 at the Science Complex room 110.

Mayshle’s project, entitled “Walled Memoria: Presencing Memory Sites in Intramuros, Manila,” showed how the memory of Intramuros as “the real, concrete symbol of Spanish imperial Philippines” does not include other memories within the Walls of Intramuros.

“Presencing,” from the word “presence,” means giving emphasis. Mayshle said that presencing helps in memorability. For him, the opposite of presencing is “absencing.”

“Absencing is happening in tandem with presencing,” said Mayshle.

In certain parts of Intramuros, Mayshle said that “we see decolonization become an active presence.”

One of his examples that inspired him to start the project was the Memorare Manila Monument for the victims of the bombing in Intramuros during WWII.

But Mayshle showed a photo where the monument cannot easily be seen because of where it was placed, which suggests that there is also the “absencing” of the monument’s memory.

The state agency Intramuros Administration (IA) manages the restoration and promotion of Intramuros. As IA continues to promote the idealization of Spanish colonial rule in Intramuros, this presencing overlaps with the absence of other memories about Intramuros after Spain.

“I understand the necessity of a unified national memory, commodified as attractively as possible to benefit economic goals of tourism, but this idealized representation represents a troubling distortion,” said Mayshle.

The distortion cuts out other important stories part of the national history.

Mayshle added that the idealization of the Spanish past without full representation also desensitizes the trauma that Filipino and Chinese communities faced under Spanish rule.

“The IA’s emphasis on an idealized Spanish past represents a notion of a metaphorical wall of memory that originates from the Spanish colonial imagination,” said Mayshle.

Public memory is the public’s unified idea of what Intramuros represents. It is instilled using overdetermination, which Mayshle defined as an “invisible web of meaning formed by state institutions.”

Mayshle quoted author Michael Geisler about overdetermination being effective because “each of these institutions echoes what each of the others say.”

Peter Mayshle won a Philippine Free Press Literary award, a Farrar Award in playwriting, and two Hopwood awards. His works were published in the Philippines, the U.S., Canada, and England. Mayshle is working as an assistant professor of Writing and Rhetoric at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

By Jameela Antoniette I. Mendoza

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