By Daniel Infante Tuaño
BARCELONA – Great painters like Rembrandt, Picasso, Caravaggio and Kahlo have their own self-portraits, while nowadays, in the social media age, one doesn’t have to be a grand master or an Oscar nominee to have great selfies.
Surprisingly, the very first Filipino photographer Felix Laureano, also considered one of the best of his time hasn’t left a single picture of himself.
His works, which depicted the lives of Filipinos mostly set in Iloilo in the final years of Spanish colonization of the Philippines, were compiled in “Recuerdos de Filipinas”, a book published in Barcelona, Spain in 1895.
A quick Google search will display some of these pictures–from cockfights, the Sinulog festival to old cathedrals in Iloilo.
However, until now no solo picture of him or even a shot with his family or friends has ever been found.
This aroused the curiosity of former UP History Professor Frank Villanueva to search for Laureano’s picture, among other interesting historical facts about the photographer.
Villanueva, who is based in Canada, travelled all the way to Barcelona to visit antique shops, libraries, museums, archives and even flea markets hoping to find Laureano’s picture.
Laureano used to have two photo studios in the Catalan capital, one in Ronda Sant Pere and the other in Rambla dels Caputxins both located in the city center.
After a month of research, Villanueva proudly showed to ABS-CBNnews.com his prized discovery—a 19th century daguerreotype picture of a lady with Laureano’s autograph on it.
But still no photograph of Felix Laureano.
Villanueva also travelled to the Philippines as the photographer was born in Patnogon, Antique in 1860 to find more information about him.
He was able to interview the descendants of Santiago Laureano, Felix’s eldest brother, who have recollections of the photographer but don’t possess any picture either.
Rizal, Jaena, Del Pilar and Laureano?
Recently, Villanueva presented a lecture on the photographer entitled “Felix Laureano: First Filipino photographer and the last propagandist” in the Iloilo Provincial Capitol.
“I would like to position him in relation to other Filipino ilustrados. He was quiet and I have not come across his name mentioned in historical accounts relating to this group of young Pinoys in Spain in the 19th century,” Villanueva said.
Neverthelesss, Laureano was said to be in Barcelona at the time when the first Filipino migrants Jose Rizal, Graciano Lopez Jaena and Marcelo H. del Pilar were also there to advocate for reforms.
He also became friends with another artist–the great painter Juan Luna.
Like his friend Luna, he also participated and won in numerous Universal and Artistic Expositions in Madrid (1887) and in Barcelona (1888).
Laureano also competed with Barcelona’s top three photographers–Napoleon, Pau Audouard and Antoni Esplugas and became part of the history of Spanish photography for being one of the city’s pioneer studio photographers.
“It is important to get to know more about Felix Laureano because he is one of the first early Filipinos who immigrated to Spain. We should look into those early immigrants and learn something from their experience. We could look up to them as models of the contemporary Filipino immigrants.”
Villanueva also encouraged everyone to be more interested in history, especially Filipinos in Spain, rummage through antiquities, old books and photographs.
Who knows when one might finally come across the picture of the first Filipino photographer Felix Laureano?
Originally published on ABS-CBNnews.com
Watch the related TV report in Filipino language aired on Balitang Europe, The Filipino Channel: