The Spoliarium Story

The Spoliarium by Juan Luna
The Spoliarium by Juan Luna

This has become a tradition for me. Every year, at the end of October, I visit the museum. I started it two or three years ago when I discovered that the museum waived its entrance fees on October in celebration of its founding. If I wasn’t out of town, I made it a point to go there one Sunday or during the term break when we have a week long break from work. This year was no different. Since I had no where else to go, I decided to go on a solo tour of the city of Manila and visit the National Museum. As expected the museums (the main building and the annex across the street) were packed with people, most of whom are students.

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El Asasinente by Felix R. Hidalgo

As usual, I paid the “Spoliarium” and the “El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante y su Hijo” a visit. These are the two great artworks both in size, meaning and significance by Juan Luna and Felix R. Hidalgo respectively. Both artworks were placed in the old House of Representatives Hall of the museum (the main museum was once the Legislative Building in the 1900s). There were benches to sit on while looking at paintings. “Spoliarium” gets the most attention as Juan Luna was a more prominent figure in History books. Thus, as I entered the hall, a dozen students and other groups were trooped in front of the archaic painting. Most of them were taking a selfie. I sat on the bench while watching them pose in front. Some were laughing whle taking their pictures on their gadgets.

I observed that most of them would just turn their backs on the painting immediately upon entering. Some would just read the huge lettering bearing the title of the painting or the small square explanation at the side of the painting. None of them looked at the painting for more than 10 seconds. The kids there made me wonder if any of them took the time to really observe the painting and understand something of its significance. Has any of them saw the painting and realized what was being depicted by the brilliant artist? Or were they just more concerned about the size of the painting when compared to the picture in books and magazines?

“Spoliarium” depicts some ragged looking men dragging two dead bodies of what seemed to be soldiers. Upon closer inspection, it is a depiction of slaves who were dragging the carcasses of their gladiator guards – one by the arm, the other by a rope. The painting won first place in Madrid in 1884. Hidalgo won the second place. This painting vividly tells how slaves could over power their masters and win against them. This mirrors the win by Luna wherein both Luna and Hidalgo showed the world at that time that Indios could do it better than the Spanish who colonized the country.

Isn’t it brilliant?

I wonder who else got it?

Shame on us.
Shame on us.

I could not blame the younger generation for ignoring such stories and focusing on their selfies. After all, the painting was done in 1884, several hundred years from today. I am sure the significance has been lost to them in the same way it has with their parents or grand parents. Unless you make it significant and important in their lives, they would just turn their backs on it and just take their obligatory selfies. Let’s face it! That is how the world works right now.

The same thing happens if you teach a two thousand year old belief to a younger generation. You would expect them to turn their backs to it because it does not have any meaning to them. If you keep on preaching and sticking to the old ways of reaching souls, you are only presenting an archaic belief in an ancient style to a modern thinking generation. The meaning would just escape them. Yet if you try to reach them through a common ground – a common siginificant interest, young people would find ease in understanding, appreciating and loving Christ.

So the question now is, how do you present Christ to people who have turned their backs on Him?


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