Entry 098

Sculpture 11: La Madre Filipina Sculptures

In prewar Jones Bridge, a pair of ornate pillars guarded its ends. Atop them perched literally motherly figures. After the Pacific War, the sculptures were relocated to different places. Unfortunately or fortunately, only three of these sculptures are extant.

Arguably the most popular and conspicuous is the one in Rizal Park. When I learned that there used to be four figures of the La Madre Filipina, I became interested in looking for the other three.

The one in Rizal Park is whitewashed and is located at the right side corridor if you stand in front of the Rizal Monument. The other two proudly greet anyone on the steps of the Court of Appeals in Ma. Orosa Street in Ermita district of Manila, and are painted bronze.

The last one, unfortunately, is feared destroyed or maybe lying at the Pasig riverbed.

La Madre at the Luneta

In this blog post, I fondly call this “La Madre 1”. The statue shows a seated mother holding a girl by her shoulder and allaying a weeping man on his knees.






Las Madres at the Court of Appeals

The “La Madre 2” is at the right side (to the left of an observer) of the Court of Appeals. Here, the seated mother holds a torch. To her right is a boy holding an orb or something like a sphere; to her left is a man seated on the floor, holding a hammer, and looks languished.







The “La Madre 3” is at the left side (to the right of an observer). Here, the seated mother is flanked by two half-kneeling youths. To her right is a boy holding a plummet and a partially cloaked fasces (a Roman ceremonial symbol held by a lictor), while to her left is a boy holding somewhat a large key and stone tablets of the Decalogue.




Missing La Madre

The missing one I call “La Madre 4”. The only ideas we have of it are from news reels and photographs taken before the war. It could be described as a seated mother holding a torch and a bouquet of flowers, while two youths are at her feet jointly holding a wreath.

Screenshot from YouTube video “Manila, Queen of the Pacific 1938”, at about 8:08

Another photo shows the statue during the Japanese occupation of the country.

On another note, La Madre 1 has a plaque which credits the monument to Ramon Martinez with a retouch done by F. Caedo (probably Florentino Caedo). I am uneasy with this information. Martinez is known to have sculpted the Grito de Balintawak (Alaala ng Bayang Filipino sa mga Bayani ng 96), now standing outside Vinzons Hall in UP Diliman.

Other sources mention German artist Otto Fischer-Credo to be the creator the La Madre Filipina series.

Blogger Lou Gopal published rare photos of the early stages of the construction of Jones Bridge, including one La Madre Filipina while in the studio of Fischer-Credo. He obtained the photos from the family of Fischer-Credo.

According to Gopal, while architect Juan Arellano was commissioned for the construction of Jones Bridge, the embellishment went to Fischer-Credo. However, Gopal disclaimed that this information still needs corroboration.

In my view, I believe that the La Madre Filipina statues were by Fischer-Credo.

There is a variation in the statue in Luneta today: the girl is not holding a pigeon anymore, as seen in the photo taken in Fischer-Credo’s studio. Could it be because F. Caedo had retouched the statue? Looking at another old photo of the approach of Jones Bridge, I can make out the girl to be holding something, unlike the present version wherein her hands rest on the mother’s right knee.

Based from prewar and postwar photos of Jones Bridge, the La Madre Filipina statues were arranged in this fashion:

  • If you were standing at the Muelle de Magallanes (the area of the Manila Post Office) approach, to your right would be La Madre 1 and to your left would be La Madre 4.
  • If you were standing at the Plaza Moraga approach, to your right would be La Madre 2 and to your left would be La Madre 3.

On last note, although the centrepiece figures of the Las Madres are clothed in traditional (rather colonial) Filipino garbs, the features of the mothers look foreign. It could be that the art movement of those times preferred the foreign over the native and local. It could be their idealised portrayal of the inang bayan.



7 thoughts on “Entry 098

  1. For sure all iconographic meanings have been lost in the Battle, Rape, & Liberation.

    Of course they’d look foreign because they’re all mestizas (mixed race). And it has been proven that mixed-race products are mostly beautiful.

    La Madre 2 might be Education being greater than mindless manual Labour. Or Genius and Industry…Madre is Muse
    -orb/sphere usually means the world. See also: Santo Niño

    La Madre 3 might be Truth, Justice, and Law. Madre might be Justitia.
    -tablets (2) usually Decalogue/Mosaic Law
    -the “key” might be the handle of the Scales of Truth. Unlikely to be a cross…
    -the thing on the (viewer’s) left is a denuded depiction of a fasces (bound budle of wooden rods with an axe in the center), symbol of power & authority.

    • I saw South Bike’s post, and s/he has a picture of a model of a La Madre with schematics & iconography similar to La Madre 3.
      Thinking about it, the boy holding the fasces must be holding a plumb line in conjunction with the other holding scales; symbols of the un-erring of Justice and Truth.

      La Madre 4 might be Agriculture.

      • My guess was right! Fasces-boy is indeed holding a plumb line.
        Focus carefully and look closely at Justitia (La Madre 3)’s knee (by fasces-boy)
        There’s the plumb bob (of course it would be impossible to “sculpt” a string…)

      • Actually, I mentioned the following at Lou Gopal’s site.

        In the “Manila, Queen of the Pacific” video, La Madre 1 also has a different configuration (similar to the Fischer-Credo photos).
        Besides the girl holding the bird in her hand (the bird is visible as something poking out of Madre’s knee), Madre’s outstretched left hand (over the huddled man; @8:03) is holding something resembling a long rod; perhaps a scepter, since the parts are equal (see Virgin Mary images).
        (it’s understandable that the one shooting the video only showed the La Madres of Muelle de Magallanes/Plaza Lawton since there’s not much traffic and there’s more space, as compared to Plaza Moraga)

        Now for my analysis…
        So for me La Madre 1 might be related to ruling or governance, since Peace (bird) and Power (rod, scepter?) configures and Madre (with a foot on a cushion, a royal touch)’s co-subjects are a girl and a kneeling man (the “humbled”).
        Madre then might be Independence or Democracy, or even Liberty (*comes into mind Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “The New Colossus”*). AKA the spirit of the struggle for Philippine independence.

        (So La Madre 4 might even be Commonwealth.
        John Tewell of Flickr has a photo of the 1945 Battle of Manila showing Manila City Hall being besieged/bombarded, and in the lower left corner of that photo is La Madre 4)

        Also, there aren’t many snaps shots of the details at La Madre 1’s back:
        -her chair has a cloth draped to it (that looks like her train (saya de cola))
        -a vase with a Chinese dragon by the back of the girl
        -Madre’s coiffured hair and the peineta

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