BOOKS and prints are windows of knowledge which serve as ways to look at the world from a wider perspective. When preserved, books from the past serve as time capsules and allow us to travel in time and marvel at the way of life of the generations before us.
With this in mind, Manila Art Frames and Gallery collaborated with Concepcion Luspo Constantino, also known as Chuchi Constantino, for an exhibit of rare prints collected over her lifetime to provide a different kind of art show for Cebuanos to appreciate. The exhibit featured late 18th and early 19th century Philippine Prints and was launched last Sept. 25 with Ninette Garcia and Philip Rodriguez as guests of honor. The exhibit ran until Sept. 30.
The prints exhibited were personal choices of the collector featuring birds and costume prints of the 18th and 19th centuries from steel and wood engravings and lithographs. The late 18th Century bird prints were drawings by explorer Philip Sonnerat who was enchanted with Philippine birds as he passed by the Philippine Islands on a voyage to New Guinea. Sonnerat drew and compiled them into a travel book in The Netherlands which has now become a classic. Jean Charles Baquay engraved these drawings which have become known and available as rare prints.
The costume prints of 19th Century Philippines depict Filipino civility and polite social manners. The prints provide a look into the old fashionable ways of Filipinos who wore clothing made from native material showing a confluence of Western and Philippine styles exhibiting elegance and manners.
The collection began with Chuchi’s fascination for antique items. She began her collection of antique prints in the early ‘70s when she stumbled upon an antique 19th century postcard of Colon Street, Cebu City in a New York flea market. After that, she began painstakingly treading and sifting through paper shows, flea markets and internet auction sites for antiquarian engravings of Philippine prints despite living in the USA.
The affinity was developed, according to Chuchi. Despite having an established career in international banking and asset management in New York and Philadelphia, inside her was a nostalgia for the simplicity and wholesomeness of her Camiguin roots, where she claims she can smell the papaya and rice blossoms and swim in the hot and cold springs chanting “tabi apo.”
Excellently preserving such a wonderful part of Philippine history in printed format, Chuchi continues to collect these treasures which turn out to be quite valuable considering their rarity. However, the collector refuses to part with her treasures as most of the pieces exhibited were, as the author continues to insist, not for sale.
To share these treasures, Chuchi comes to Cebu from time to time allowing Cebuanos to see the fruits of her passion for Filipiniana and Philippine genealogy.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on October 24, 2017.
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