Geraldine Limpo

The Manila-Acapulco Galleons: Possibly the World’s First Global Trade

by Geraldine Limpo


Like all of our Southeast Asian neighbours (with the exception of Thailand), the Philippines experienced colonization. For 333 years, the Spanish viceroyalty of Mexico governed, and the landing of the Spanish ship at Cebu in 1521 was a result of Spain’s efforts to expand the Hapsburg empire, enrich her coffers, and evangelize. Spain was successful in achieving all three objectives, thanks to outstanding navigational skills, maritime trade (the regional maritime trade across Southeast Asia, Japan, China and India was already robust then) and the zeal of its missionaries. The special exhibition entitled Manila-Acapulco Galleon: From Asia to the Americas ongoing November 16, 2023 to March 17, 2024 at the Asian Civilizations Museum (ACM) in Singapore celebrates the life-changing global exchange of goods, ideas and traditions resulting from trade.

Mantones de Manila

Doing art history research for this exhibition offered me opportunities to regard things in a different manner. First, I appreciated how the mantones de Manila was named after the route through which this item of trade reached Spain and Mexico from China. As many of us know, China produced amazing silks. During the late-Ming (1368-1644), China suffered hyperinflation and thus shifted from paper money to silver currency. Silver was supplied by mines in Mexico, Peru and Bolivia via big trading cum battle-ready ships called the galleons that plied between Manila and Acapulco from 1565 to 1815.  Initially, these silks were embroidered in China with Chinese motifs such as clouds and dragons; however, through time, the motifs evolved to flowers. In addition, fringes were added to two sides of the triangular silk scarves to accentuate the movements of ladies, especially the flamenco dancers in Spain and Mexico. We can see how the manton de Manila (object list/internet) is worn by a lady in this oil painting composed by the Madrid-trained Filipino artist Juan Luna around the 1880s.

Liturgical vestment, Santo Niño 

Second, the Santo Niño recalls how Christianity was introduced to us (Filipinos) by the Spanish missionaries who rode these galleons. Jesuit accounts state that Magellan gifted with wife of Rajah Humabon a Santo Niño icon upon her baptism. The icon’s dress and the liturgical vestment mounted beside it, both displayed at the San Agustin museum in Intramuros, were made of embroidered and beaded silk which, during the 16th-18th centuries, originated overseas. Religious images besides the Santo Niño were crafted by local and Chinese artesans to help the missionaries spread Christianity across our archipelago. No wonder some of our santos have Asian features, as can be gleaned from images below. In pre-colonial times, Filipinos had folk traditions and many practiced Islam. Presently, the predominant religion in the Philippines is Christianity that combines some folk traditions.

Virgin of the Immaculate Conception 

Third, I learned that the pineapple is not indigenous to the Philippines but was only introduced into our country possibly by the Americas. (Americas refer to the lands named after the Italian explorer cum navigator Amerigo Vespucci who voyaged on behalf of Spain and Portugal 1499- 1502 to territories previously unknown to Europeans. These lands include countries and US states that we now know as Mexico, Panama, California, Texas.) Interestingly however, it is the Filipino who discovered that fibres could be harvested from leaves of the red Spanish pineapple (scientific name: Ananas Comosus), prepared and later woven into piña. (The Filipino already had the tradition of weaving clothing from hemp pre-colonization). Images in the Boxer Codex record baro made for the early mestizas. Not only fashionable, wearing piña was and is practical given the Philippines’ tropical climate. Throughout time, the piña found its way as a preferred textile for our lovely national costumes such as the terno and baro’t saya, together with jusi and similar weaves.

Piña baro (blouse)

Fourth, it was a pleasure to be reminded that the timbers used to construct the mighty galleon ships came from Philippine forests. Technicians and manufacturers sent from Spain supervised the cutting down of molave, yakal and many other local hardwoods to build the hulls and other parts of the galleons in shipyards in Cavite, Marinduque, Camarines, Albay and Sorsogon. Records state that molave planks were so tough that it repelled cannonballs fired into the sides of these treasure ships that were under constant threat from pirates and trade competitors such as the British. The Spaniards considered building the galleons on Seville or Cadiz; however, the long and impressive tradition of shipbuilding across the Philippine archipelago and a couple of other factors including cheaper indigenous labour favoured ship construction in the Philippines.

Fall-front Cabinet

Naturally, secular wooden items of superb craftsmanship were made by Philippine artesans too. A highlight piece in the special exhibition is a cabinet with tortoiseshell, bone inlay and silver hinges. Constructed in the early 17th century, the interior of its fall-front depicts Mexico’s coat-of-arms. Inlaying is a special technique. Minute pieces are carefully cut from thin plates of bone and assembled like pieces of a puzzle in very shallow grooves carved out of the wood.

Folding screen (biombo)

Lacquered objects, painted compositions on wood such as the biombo, sacred ivories, clay and porcelain, gold jewellery, vegetables such as maize, fresh fruits including oranges, hams and meats, live fowl, animals including the horse, bed ornaments, precious stones, copper and metals, nutmeg and other spices, Japanese ceramics, tin, wheat flour and many others were traded often with silver, in fairs in Manila and Acapulco when the galleons landed on these ports once a year. This rich exchange enabled skills to be transferred and developed; and significantly changed consumption patterns and dress.

The 250-year Manila-Acapulco galleons enabled in the world’s first global cultural and artistic trade that connected Asia (Southeast Asia, China, Japan, India) and the Americas and Europe. Also known as the silk-for-silver trade, it ushered in global currency. I felt immense pride researching about this historical episode.


To know more about how this trade changed our lives on many levels, please visit the special exhibition at the ACM Singapore and attend the free twice-daily docent-led tours.

Model of a galleon 


by Geraldine Limpo


A documentary movie I watched recently featured the evolving practice of Neuroaesthetics which refers to the study of how the brain responds to visual stimuli. It argues that what we see affects how we feel and how we think. Looking at the Filipino paintings at the Southeast Asian galleries of the National Gallery Singapore, I experienced how looking at art influences my thoughts and feelings.

ESPAÑA Y FILIPINA, Juan Luna, Oil on Canvas, 1884

Juan Luna employs the allegorical depiction of light to effectively convey the notion that Spain, symbolized by the lady on the left who points towards a brilliantly illuminated section of the artwork, serves as a guiding force for the advancement of the Philippines, embodied by the darker-skinned lady on the right.

This lovely composition reveals how art may be used for propaganda. Did the intimate stance of the ladies in the painting, completed in 1884, reflect the harmonious relationship between Spain and the Philippines at that time?

Our history books write about numerous (Filipino) revolts against the abuses of the Spanish colonizers. Thus, I was reminded to look at paintings with a critical eye, and to spend time investigating them, so I can peel off layers of meaning.

LA BANCA, Felix Resureccion Hidalgo, Oil on Canvas, 1876

This foreground shows Filipinos of different social classes, identified by their clothing, crossing a body of water on a boat on a sunny day; there are dense trees on the background.

Many things instantly popped into my mind upon gazing at this artwork. I thought of the panuelo that covered the shoulders of my late grandmother as she moved around in her old house in Pila.  I also remembered of how we, Southeast Asians, regard natural bodies of water as scenic transport avenues and not barriers that keep us apart. I recalled my cousins and I and friends, in our teens, carefree on my uncle’s boat on the Ohio river one summer day. Memories of drive-bys through rural streets lined with trees also resurfaced. As well, song-and-dance scenes from old Filipino movies that I watched as a child came to mind. These chunks of memory emerged in no particular order; nevertheless, each left me with a warm fuzzy feeling. I like this painting for its power to evoke nostalgia.

MARKETPLACE DURING THE OCCUPATION, Fernando Cueto Amorsolo, Oil on Canvas, 1942

Amorsolo depicted a busy marketplace operating during war time. Known for his illuminated landscapes, he lets the brightest light fall on the smiling brown-skinned Filipina who is wearing a terno, and whose head is covered by a bandanna. Around her are abundant produce. It is written that Amorsolo created this composition to advocate national pride during the war years.

While my parents spoke of difficult times during Japanese occupation, they also shared positive recollections. My father recounted a kind Japanese soldier who enjoyed listening to his sister play the piano so he passed their street quite regularly and, while doing so, offered sweets to children. My mother told us how every house in their neighborhood looked after one another’s children before curfew time. I like this painting for reminding me that there is goodness and kindness even in difficult times.

DANCING MUTANTS, Hernando R Ocampo, Oil on Canvas

Communicating to us his reaction to the horrors of atomic warfare, H R Ocampo composed stylized standing human figures with their arms extended upwards, looking as if they are in a dance. He used geometric shapes to compose these human figures instead of portraying them in a naturalistic manner.

As we may all know, modern art expressions arose with new philosophies (example: Cubism which celebrates different ways of seeing the world), technological progress (example: Discovery of chemical pigments ushered Impressionism and painting en plein air.) and post-war (example: Minimalism). I commend HR Ocampo’s ingenuity in communicating his fears (of atomic destruction) in an aesthetically pleasing manner that draws audiences such as myself in, so we could as well reflect on the tragic consequences of violence.

CHRIST, Ang Kiukok, Oil on Canvas, 1958

Christ is depicted with his agonies, but not crucified as he is usually represented by artists. Deep lines define his facial structure and neck; dabs of red are placed where the crown of thorns draws blood that drips on his neck, on lips where we remember vinegar being dabbed by his tormentors when He asked for water, and on his hands and feet that were nailed to the cross.

A Catholic, Ang was asked why anger is palpable in his paintings, he replied, "Why not? Open your eyes. Look around you. So much anger, sorrow, ugliness. And also madness."

How effective is this artwork is in stirring my conscience? Have I not done a disservice to a friend by speaking unkindly of her? How many times have I made my late mother worry when her calls on my handphone were unanswered? Have I always done something when I saw injustice?

TEA DRINKERS, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Oil on Canvas, 1957

Bandanna-wearing women, depicted with slim faces, long necks, slant eyes and flat noses, are taking a break from their daily chores and sipping tea.

Magsaysay-Ho, probably the first Filipina artist to gain national and international recognition, depicted women who are strong and industrious.

As a housewife and a mother and a daughter, I identify with these women. Running households means a frenetic lifestyle with a seemingly endless list of to-dos. It is easy to get lost in the busyness and work myself to the bone, forgetting that the people who love me prefer to see me enjoying myself. This painting reminds me that taking a break, like the women in this composition do while sipping tea, is just as important as demonstrating my love for family through acts of service.

LUPA SA AMING ALTAR, Imelda Cajipe Endaya, Sawali sheets, cloth, doilies, oil paint, 1987-8.

Materials used in the everyday life were employed to create Christian imagery. Rural folks with their hands clasped or with open arms in prayer cling to their faiths in the face of militarization (represented by blood-soaked cloth), hunger and unjust land policies.

Imelda Cajipe-Endaya listens to stories of the sub-altern, which include mothers, domestic workers, farmers, diasporic individuals, and weaves these into her collages. I appreciate how effectively Cajipe-Endaya presents the Filipino’s deep faith in the face of great tragedy and difficulty. It reaffirms the adage “men survive when they have reason to”.

I was self-absorbed looking at these paintings. I observed the memories it brought to my mind and the feelings it stirred. No big wonder that art therapy is now being used more and more to calm one’s mind, build memory, tune in to oneself, and even to heal traumas.

Perhaps the power of any artwork resides in the truth that there is no right or wrong in its interpretation. While the artist communicates a message or two through his artwork, the audience is given a chance to comprehend the composition in any and every way. As such, art liberates.

While beautiful art around us abounds in many places in Japan, I enjoin everyone to visit the NGS which is currently the world’s biggest collector of Southeast Asian art. Viewing the works of Filipino masters makes every Filipino proud.

The Old And New in Imaicho

by Geraldine Limpo


Nara prefecture has many interesting sights; for me, one of the most worthwhile to visit is Imaicho. Located in Kashihara beside the Yagi-Nishiguchi station, Imaicho blends old world with 21st century leisure dining and entertainment.


Built in the first half of the 16th century with a Buddhist temple at its nucleus, about 500 traditionally built edifices still stand in various levels of conservation. Dark-stained wooden edifices with tiled roofs, sliding doors and low ceilings line narrow roads that run parallel and perpendicular to each other. The period architecture is dignified so much so that various movie films have been shot on its streets; professional photographers and painters are seen doing their craft around its environs too. Perhaps they know that besides being pleasing to the eye, Imaicho was once a bustling commercial town on par with Osaka; rice and soya were traded and sake breweries operated here. Imaicho’s historical significance derives from how it evidences the rise of the merchant class during Edo period (1603-1867), a well-educated elite who appreciated order and beauty, a complicated government bureaucracy, productive agriculture (rice paddies during the Tokugawa era grew nearly twice from 1.6 million cho from 1600 to 1720), sophisticated marketing and financial systems (Imaicho received permission from the shogunate to distribute its own currency. In addition, merchants invented credit instruments to transfer money.), a national infrastructure of roads and bridges, innovations in craftsmanship (guilds were formed) and the efflorescence of various art forms (as can be observed from architectural details).


One only need to visit the Kometani residence to glean how payments for agricultural produce were made in a similar manner we transact in present-day banks. In the Imai Machiya Centre, one observes how the lay-out of living areas departed from much simpler interiors wherein the bedroom served also as the dining room, and furniture appeared in new forms. The oldest edifice, dated 1650, is owned by the Imanishi family; its white plaster walls bring to mind a small castle. The second oldest residence belonged to the Ueda family who, like the Imanishis, were successful brewers. The photogenic Kawai residence still functions as a sake brewery, its origins dating to the mid-18th century. Fortunately, there are guided tours given for these structures in Nihongo.


Imaicho’s grand architecture is celebrated in special ways twice a year. The Tea Procession takes place on the third Sunday of May; participants of this parade dress in traditional costume and attendees enjoy a flea market. In August, paper and floating lanterns illuminate this historical city, rendering a romantic glow that inspires nostalgia.


Presently, Imaicho is a destination for those who seek gustatory pleasures and social interaction. I share with you my regular haunts: Kifu (4 chome 2-14) serves delicious kaiseki dishes on Arita plates within modest interiors. Café Hackberry (1 chome 3-3; opens 11am-10pm Wed-Mon, 11am- 6pm Tue) is popular; its black curry is savoury and its desserts are creative. Komorebi (Farmer’s Auberge, 4 chome 10-6) serves set meals that are farm-to-table (read: freshly delivered from farms nearby).


Many buildings within Imaicho are still empty. I am told that the local government presently houses immigrants (non-Nara natives who find employment in Kashihara city) here temporarily. They hope that Imaicho generates greater interest for entrepreneurs - local and international - to build tourism in this grand old district. When I get the chance, I plan to visit Momoya (1 chome 5-1), Café Tamon (2 chome 1-14) and Inond Café (4 chome 10-12) which serve warm meals including special curry, set meals, desserts and coffee. There is something uniquely special about savouring present-day cuisines in old world surroundings.

©  Geraldine Limpo 2023


According to various studies, consumption of processed food contributes to problems with digestion such as acid reflux, heartburn, food intolerances that have affected skin condition (as what happened to me), and constipation. For a few decades now, medical science is paying closer attention to gut health, and vetted research papers are aplenty. In Europe, special blood tests routinely done every three months are used to prescribe food items that ensure the optimum balance of nutrients and bacteria in the gut. An unhealthy gut is said to influence the human immune system, contribute to disease and affect mental health. A simple explanation is that humans (since earlier centuries) digest fresh vegetables and fruits easier and significantly faster than meat (which takes at least three days). Fish and seafood, unless one has allergies to these food groups, are thought to be easier to digest than pork, beef or chicken. Generally, raw foods (such as salads, fresh fruits or juices) are thought to be kinder on the stomach than processed foods, and fermented foods (such as natto or kimchi) have bacteria beneficial to the human gut. A Chinese acupuncturist identified a balanced meal to be: one half vegetables, one-fourth protein, one-fourth carbohydrates.


Journeying with medical practitioners through skin problems and sleep disruption over the course of three years reopened my eye to the importance of managing stress and to the values of slow food in regaining the health of my gut. Far from being a fancy term, slow food is akin to the simple diet in my parents’ home during childhood. Think: freshly caught tilapia from Sampaloc Lake in my hometown San Pablo (Laguna), ensaladang pako (fern), kamatis (tomatoes), baby okra, inihaw na talong (grilled brinjal), julienned red onions served with a splash of bagoong (fermented fish or krill or shrimps), inihaw na hito (grilled catfish), sinigang na hipon (prawns, kangkong, labanos/white radish, kamatis/tomatoes in tamarind-white yam broth), inihaw na saging na saba (grilled plantain), camote cue (sweet potato coated with brown sugar and then fried).


Fortunately, there are outstanding slow food restaurants near our home in Nara-ken. Lunch sets in Komorebi (Imaicho 4-10-6) and black curry at Café Hackberry (Imaicho 1-3-3) are savoury and filling. Somen at Miwa Yamamoto (878 Hashinaka) or sliced raw prawns and vegetables in rice rolls, agedashi, salad of tofu, avocado, mizuna, coriander and tomatoes in Taraku Unebi (150-1 Nawatecho) leave one pining for more helpings. Various (kaiten) sushi at Daikisuisan (Kawanishicho 53-1) are amazingly fresh! Kaiseki meals plated in lovely Arita dishes in Kifu (Imaicho 4-2-14) are pleasing to both the palate and the eye (read: instagrammable). Crab course dinners which present crab in chawanmushi, sashimi, sushi, in light vinaigrette, tempura, nabe, grilled (yaki)—garnished with various vegetables in Kani Doraku (280-1 Jobonjicho) are flavoursome. Sukiyaki and shabu-shabu at Fukujukan (425-1 Toichicho) are mouth-watering.


Slow food uses locally produced foods, ensuring freshness. Freshness, in turn, means that food holds more nutrients. In addition, fresh produce smells fragrant. As we all know, the digestive process begins with our olfactory experience; in other words, the smell of food generates enzymes that aid digestion. According to various medical journals, chewing each morsel of food 30 times before swallowing makes it easy for the digestive organs to secrete the food nutrients. In contrast, gobbling up food hurts the gut (because the food morsels have not been properly broken down). Finally, since research evidence that it takes 20 minutes for the body to realize that we are full, masticating food thoroughly means that we stop eating sooner than when we eat fast.


The slow food movement is not only beneficial to our human bodies; it also supports local agriculture (local farms and businesses). Recently, we saw a steady rise in the number of people who are aware of protecting biodiversity and supporting local farming which, in turn, gives jobs to local communities. Thus, it can be said that the slow food movement helps societies.


Fortunately, Japanese cuisines such as miso (fermented soybean), sushi and sashimi (thinly sliced raw fish or meat dipped in soya sauce and wasabi), kamameshi (rice casserole), soba and udon (buckwheat and wheat noodles), sukiyaki (vegetable and beef slices cooked in a broth of soya sauce and sugar), kaiseki (multi-course meal using seasonal produce), yakimono (grilled vegetables, fish, seafood and meat), nabemono (vegetables, fish, seafood and meat hot pot), tofu (from soyabeans) and fermented vegetables such as tsukemono that have gut-healing properties-- these are feasts for the human senses and, as well, celebrate local produce. Ingredients are readily available in food shops and supermarkets, and many recipes, downloaded from the internet, are fairly easy to follow at home.


Hippocrates is quoted as saying “Let food be thy medicine; thy medicine shall be thy food”. Come to think of it, proper eating is more effective in safeguarding health than any medication our doctors can prescribe, isn’t it? Luckily (for big eaters such as myself), “proper eating does not mean that we eat less; it means we eat right”, as another popular saying goes. With rising costs of medical care, should we not reconsider our eating habits? I’m working at this really hard.



I am not a professional nutritionist nor a medical practitioner. Please read with caution.

©  Geraldine Limpo 2023

STOP. LOOK. LISTEN. AND LOOK AGAIN. TeamLab’s Multi-Sensory Artistic Spaces

Jeepney Press May - June 2023 Issue

By Geraldine Limpo

One of the first skills that I learned about appreciating works of art is that of (truly) looking. Paying attention to each element that makes a composition and sensing how colours trigger certain emotions, stock knowledge and memories helps significantly in the manner I comprehend art. Recently, my husband and I attended two art exhibitions that not only appealed to our sense of sight, but also required engaging our entire bodies. The experiences are unforgettably awe-inspiring!

TeamLab Planets (1-6-16 Toyosu, Koto Ward, Tokyo) requires one to navigate a labyrinth of dimly-lit narrow hallways that lead visitors to a variety of light-flooded rooms with visual displays often accompanied by synchronized music. The rooms are divided into two clusters; the ones belonging to Water are negotiated barefoot. I recall feeling uncertain about my footing as I walked down an incline that led to a pool of water that reached my calves. “When was the last time I walked barefoot in a puddle of water that felt strangely cool and at the same time enjoyable?”, I asked myself as I smiled at giggling teenagers who splashed each other with water. The room that I struggled most in was called Fall in the Black Hole. Having dried my wet feet, I plunged my legs into a soft bed of beads and quickly lost my balance. Suddenly, I became hyper-aware of my body, thought quickly about my centre of mass and the deliberateness with which I should make each step. There were several of us in the same room, and my balance was influenced not only by the careful placement of each leg into the soft floor, but also by the movement of everyone else. Instinctively, in attempts to stay upright, we all seemed to create some distance with one another. 

In the room called Wade in the Koi Pond, I stood with eyes transfixed to coloured digital carp that appeared beneath the surface of the water as each morphed into flowers. The experience was heightened by instrumental music synchronous to the visual spectacle.

The other set of rooms were classified under Garden; these were also enjoyed barefoot. Top of mind, I instantly remember four. Onto the interior dome of the first room were projected colourful flowers that bloomed as they glided across the surface. Aptly, this room was called Floating in the Falling Universe of Flowers. The beautiful visual imagery resonated with the falling sakura flowers when the wind blew them off the branches of cherry trees, bringing me a sense of melancholy. 

Big plastic spheres were scattered around another room called Expanding 3D Existence. They changed colour when touched. As there were several of us playing with these spheres at the same time, it was fun to see the quick changes in colour. Moreover, the colours and the placement of these spheres quite magically changed my perception of the room’s size and shape. 

About 13000 orchids hang from the ceiling of the room christened Floating Flower Garden. As our group of about fifty people entered the area under the hanging orchids, the flowers reacted by descending into our space. The flowers moved according to our movements underneath them, so that the distance between the blooms and I, having chosen to lie down on the floor, allowed me to encounter the blossom rather intimately; in other words, eye-to-eye. Almost instantly, I began thinking about the rationale behind this concept. I wonder if I had, through this experience, just been encouraged to evaluate how respectfully I regard flowers (and plants generally). After all, aren’t they sentient beings like me?

Thousands of LED lights installed in the room called Infinite Crystal Universe played tricks on my perception of space. They flickered and changed colour and inspired awe. Some visitors used the downloadable app to influence the pattern of this 3D light universe, injecting even more fun into the already enjoyable experience. 

TeamLab Botanical Garden (1-23 Nagaikoen, Osaka) is a complementing exhibition, this time outdoors in an open-air park enjoyed in the nighttime. The big idea is to transform nature into art without harming it. Ovoids of different sizes change colours in the section entitled Resonating Microcosms in the Camellia Garden. Some were allowed to be touched and my friends and I played with them, observing that they change colours when touched.

The same concept (human movement influencing nature) can be seen on Oike pond where motion-sensor floating lamps blink and change colour. When there is no human movement nor wind detected, the blinking of the lamps was slower. 

The relationship between movement and natural elements is celebrated in a light sculpture entitled Dissipative Birds in the Wind. The visual imagery in yellows, greens, blues and reds is influenced by the birds that fly about the area. It reminded me that the flapping of birds’ wings affects the air around it. When no birds fly, there is no light seen on the tall structures that stand above the pond waters. 

These two art exhibitions (Planets in Toyosu and Botanical Garden in Osaka) creatively explore how technology delivers multi-sensorial digital art. They are body-immersive; that is to say, the human body engages with the works of art and influences it in turn. This is markedly different from how we consume the classical forms of art (painting and sculpture) wherein the art affects us but we do not affect art (in other words, the audience can never affect painting or sculpture by looking at it). The principle of being body-immersive seems to suggest the absence of a boundary between art and its audience. In the room Fall in the Black Hole, the boundary between the self and others is also dissolved. It became instantly instinctive to observe the movements of the other persons in the room in figuring out how to navigate the soft floor of beads that sunk with each step.

These digital universes, perfectly instagrammable, were created by a talented collective of international artists and architects, programmers and animators, mathematicians and engineers who call themselves TeamLab. Founded in 2001, this art collective is interested in exploring the relationship between the self and the world, and in new forms of perception by combining art, science, technology, design and nature. Their creative works that call our attention to how light shapes our sense of reality are exhibited in permanent and temporary installations worldwide. Their artform engages not only our eyes, but also our entire bodies.

The TeamLab exhibition entitled Existence in Perception opened at Shoshazan Engyoji in Himeji a few days ago and runs till December 3. Next month, there will be another unveiling at the Himeji City Museum of Art; Existence in an Infinite Continuity is open from June 22 to Jan 21, 2024. With some luck, I may visit these too.

©  Geraldine Limpo 2023


By Geraldine Limpo

Like many of his peers, my son loves watching anime. Thinking no more of them than animated cartoons (previously presented as manga), it never occurred to me to watch anime until my son introduced my family to Assassination Classroom (manga written and illustrated by Yusei Matsui) during the infamous lockdown of pandemic years. Almost magically, we were hooked to the lovable and witty multi-tentacled Koro-sensei who was assigned to mentor a class of “underrated” junior highschool students through unconventional means. Amusing though the episodes were, I thought that the idea of introducing violence to young children is simply bizarre. What relevance does the topic of assassination have with education? It is only while I watch the concluding episode wherein the erstwhile motley crew of youngsters confront identity and learned to work together to achieve the bizarre goal that I find the answer. 

Takagi’s playful teasing of her shy classmate Nishikata in Teasing Master Takagi-san (manga written by Soichiro Yamamoto) transported me to my youth. How many times have I self-selected due to a strange case of inferiority complex so I grew too dense to the idea of a member of the opposite sex actually liking me? Chuckling as Nishikata does 100 push-ups, I think of how many times I punished myself for never being “enough”. Seeing Nishikata’s face turn beet red when he blushes from awkward kilig encounters with Takagi arouses the little girl in me. Takagi’s constant teasing of Nishikata moved me to ask myself how many times I masked infatuation for another person so I am never found out.

A sucker of romcoms, I take a liking too for Komi Can’t Communicate (manga written and illustrated by Tomohito Oda). The protagonist Komi is a charming and intelligent headturner who excels in sports and academics; she also suffers from extreme social anxiety so she cannot utter a single word with ease. Her seatmate Tadano—awkward, average in most respects and shy, is her (unexpected) Knight-in-Shining-Armour. What is the probability that the much-admired high school goddess falls for the average Joe? How can one of the minor characters Najimi keep her gender from her classmates for so long? Is Japan ready for the dialogue about queers?

The adventures of the tall, well-built and handsome lineage of the Joestars in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures (manga written by Hirohiko Araki) sends me swooning and, at the same time, renders me confused. Genteel and kind-hearted Jonathan Joestar has “ripple” to heal. Ingenious Joseph Joestar who can intimate bits of the future discovers his “stand”. Pensive and fearless Jotaro Kujo discovers how to stop time with Star Platinum. Araki also presents the most evil of villains—gruesome Yoshikage Kira, diabolical Kars, heartless Dio, and also the most unforgettable—Wamuu, Hol Horse, Esidisi—simply because they are named after some of the iconic bands of the 80s (Wham, Hall & Oates, ACDC, respectively). The fights are unbelievable, and the level of evil rises exponentially as the plot thickens. I think about how “stands”, though powerful, need to be understood and mastered—pretty much like each of our human “strengths”.  I am reminded that the testosterone-heavy Joestar heroes are vulnerable as real men are; for example, Joseph falls in love and fathers a child with a woman other than his wife.

Presently, my family is hooked on Blue Lock (written by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and illustrated by Yusuke Nomura). Plot and character development evidence deep research and creative writing. The chief protagonist Yoichi Isagi knows he is lacking in many aspects, and is relentless at introspection and self-improvement. His fellow strikers training in Blue Lock are just as inspiring-- Bachira is light-hearted and efficient (and also wrestles with the real reason he plays soccer), and Chigiri overcomes his fear of breaking his injured and rehabilitated knee. Foes become comrades-in-training —Nagi and Isagi learn instinctively to move in synch; Chigiri and Kunigami and Reo develop awesome teamwork; self-centered Barou rises from strength to strength. Episodes cast the spotlight on how individual ego is formed. The games investigate the delicate balance of ego and cooperation when playing a team sport. When does ego rear its ugly head, and when do we rely on it?

It is said that a good story creeps into the minds and hearts of its audience and stirs it. The other night, I was roused from sleep and found myself thinking about how Isagi’s team with Chigiri, Nagi and Barou measures up to Rin’s formidable foursome.  I am simply awed at Ego’s design of Blue Lock even as I suspect that no such training exists. 

Perhaps the unique advantage of anime lies in the limitless potential of plot and production, and the expressive visual images of human emotions that not many real-life actors and sets can convey as effectively.

Didn’t imagine that I will ever say this about an anime but the truth is: I can’t wait for Sunday’s episode 23 of Blue Lock!

©  Geraldine Limpo 2023

Geraldine Limpo


by Geraldine Limpo

Bago mag-bagong taon, kaugalian nating mga Pilipino ang magnilay. Tradisyong Kristiano ang pagmumuni sa mga nangyari sa 2022—unang-una na ang kahirapang idinulot ng COVID virus. Datapwa’t mas marami na ang may bakuna, marami pa rin ang nagkakasakit lalu’t lalo na at mas marami at mas madaling makahawa ang mga bagong variant. Noong simula, Greek letters ang mga covid variant—omicron na ang pinakapopular. Lately, mas mabangis na ang mga variant names, katulad ng kraken. 

Nakatulong ang pagbibigay-ayuda ng gobyerno noong kasagsagan ng COVID spread (tinawag na stimulus bonus sa US) ngunit nakakagambala ang inflation. Marami sa atin dito sa Japan ang nagrereklamo sa pagbaba ng purchasing power ng Japanese yen sa taong 2022; subali’t kapag inihambing natin ang inflation rate ng Japan (3.7%) sa world average (9.8%) o sa US (7.7%), at sa statistic na 43% ng mga bansa sa buong mundo ay may inflation rate na double-digit (halimbawa: UK, 11.1%), nababawasan ng kaunti ang ating pag-aalala. Marahil ay marami sa atin ang hindi nakakaalam na ang foreign exchange reserves (in other words, the financial assets deposited in the Central Bank of a country) ng Japan (1,227 MN USD) ay pumapangalawa lamang sa China in the world rankings for 2022. Ihambing natin ito sa US na higit na mas malaki sa Japan, pero number 13 lamang sa world rankings. Sa madaling sabi, mas manageable (pa rin) ang pamumuhay sa Japan compared to most countries.

Sa pagdami ng foreign workers sa Japan, dumami din ang split family set-ups. Mahirap ang mangibang-bayan para humanap ng trabaho para maitawid ang mga pangangailangan ng pamilya, at marami ang sakripisyo ng napapahiwalay na tatay o nanay o anak o asawa sa kanilang mga pamilya at kaibigan. We recall the many adjustments we made (and continue to make) transitioning life from the Philippines to Japan. Do we remember arriving with feelings of loss and confusion and muster every ounce of courage to make friends? We quickly realized that learning Nihongo becomes necessary for us to get around, buy food and necessities. In addition, we adjusted to the temperate climate which has four seasons (and thus, require different modes of clothing). Sa Pinas, the tee-shirt/denims/ sneakers can be worn all year round; these cannot be worn in Japan where the winters can see snow.

Such are my thoughts and reflections as I slurped the toshikoshi (buckwheat noodles) during omisoka (final day of the year/New Year’s Eve) that symbolize a yearning for a long and healthy life. Everyone excitedly gobbled up the meal, regarding it as a fitting reward after backbreaking oosuji. Japanese houses are cleaned top-to-bottom because the traditional (Shinto) belief is that the gods (kami) visit homes during the New Year. After the meal, we donned our overcoats and wore our mittens and trekked to Kashihara Jingu. The biting cold was somewhat assuaged by the crowds flocking to the temple to hear the bells ring 108 times (joya no kane)-- the number represents the 108 desires that pious Buddhists endeavor to cut attachments to by means of meditating on the teachings/Dharma. We followed the lead of our Japanese counterparts who performed the ritual sequence of clapping their hands and praying for health and good fortune, and thereafter exchanged their old charms (which they left at the temple) with new ones (omamori) which will be hung later on doors to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. 

The walk back home takes about half an hour, and we reward ourselves with cups of hot chocolate (no traditional symbolism here), chat a bit and retire to bed, once again failing to catch the rays of sunrise of the first day of the new year. It is common belief that seeing them is considered auspicious. 

The Japanese new year is celebrated for three days during which the Japanese visit the temples and shrines (hatsumoude) and eat special dishes called osechi ryouri that celebrate the abundance of land and marine produce.

Prayers lifted up and tummies filled, my family members and I somehow forget COVID-19 and inflation. As if by magic, the world looks bright again. After all, hope springs eternal, as they say. 

Happy New Year, everyone!

©  Geraldine Limpo 2023

Building churches supported Christianization. Walking around and inside the San Agustin church and the Manila Cathedral, I observed European elements—baroque motifs, elaborate altars that rival those in Europe, silver and gold chalices, sacras, ciboriums and such. Many of these vessels may have been made from melted silver Spanish reales by excellent Filipino and Chinese silversmiths who also created secular objects for the rich such as toothpick holders palitera and incense burners which are likewise displayed in the exhibition.