What are the Odds?
Author's note: Below article is dated and many changes have occurred since then. The piece was written to honor Maximo Viola, and to express deep gratitude to Viola's descendant, Penelope Flores, for coming to the aid of Art in Site Magazine's very bleak situation.
What are the odds of two complete strangers meeting in the year 2009 for the first time, finding themselves in similar circumstances, as did their male ancestors more than 100 years ago? The difference in the similarity of this incredible tale is that the ancestors were friends and colleagues, and the women descendants had never met until recently.
Instead of the usual welcoming message and what to expect in our first online edition, AIS editorial would like to share a mind-boggling experience that occurred in May (2009), and give thanks to those who value and care for our culture and the arts.
Read on . . .
“It revived me,” said Rizal. “It gave me new hope. I went to the station to receive him and spoke to him about my work. He said he might be able to help me. I reflected and then decided to shorten the book, and eliminated whole chapters . . . but these will have a place in the continuation . . . I plan to publish seven volumes about Philippine conditions.”(Translated from Jose Rizal’s notes)
“To my dear friend, Maximo Viola, the first to read and appreciate my work - Jose Rizal, March 29, 1887, Berlin”(Rizal’s dedication to Maximo Viola written on the galley proofs of Noli Me Tangere.)
Email message below was received from:
Penelope V. Flores
Date: 2009-05-10 17:44:46
I want to congratulate the persons behind the idea of the art in site magazine, including the creation of the Manila Center for the Arts. I will be visiting Manila this month (May/June) and would love to get in touch with the organizers. I’m a professor at San Francisco State University where I work with graduate teachers. I’m interested in meeting the young brilliant visual artists, creative writers and musical talents of our country.
I look forward to meeting you all.
The dwindling staff of Art in Site Magazine, waited at the lobby of the Manila Hotel on the day of the appointed meeting with Penelope Flores. They put aside the reality that things were not going well with the magazine to meet with the professor from San Francisco State University.
Indeed, prospects were not bright and cheery for the continuation of Art in Site. The publication was in danger of being known as the one-time, one-hit run culture and the arts magazine - awaiting the inevitable throes of the death rattle.
Enter Penelope, radiating with a lively exuberance that will stay with us naysayers for a long time. Infected with the professor’s happy attitude at meeting the staff and being back home, the stooped-shoulders demeanor of the staff straightened, replaced by equal enthusiasm, but not quite up to par with that of the smiling lady, wearing a barong and decked with pearls around her neck.
Penelope had arranged a tour of the Douglas MacArthur suite, but first invited the staff up to her room to get more acquainted, and to learn more about the magazine. She asked and received an earful of doom and gloom scenario from the business manager.
The flow of conversation moved on to another topic.
Snippets of the conversation between the editor and Penelope went something like this:
Penelope: My husband and I had planned a trip to Germany, in particular Berlin, to research and trace the footsteps of Jose Rizal where Noli Me Tangere was published.
Editor: That’s interesting. Maybe I can be of help there. I lived and worked in Germany, and went to school in Heidelberg. (Editor looked hesitantly at her business manager, unsure of whether to continue.) My great grandmother, Maria, was the sister of Jose Rizal. I can also ask other family members for more information to help you in your research, if you like.
Penelope stared at the editor incredulously.
Penelope: My great grandmother was the sister of Maximo Viola.
Editor: The name is familiar. Wasn’t he a friend of Rizal’s? Oh, wow! This is too incredible! (Editor’s eyes go wide and smacked her forehead as realization sank in.) It’s a good thing I have an idea of the family’s history. That would be embarrassing if I didn’t!
Penelope: My great-great uncle financed the publication of your great-great uncle’s book, Noli Me Tangere. Rizal considered it a loan, but Viola refused payment. It was agreed the money should be used for a worthy cause.
Editor: Naninigil po ba kayo? (Are you collecting on the debt?)
Laughter, the cure-for-all heartaches, took over and an atmosphere of unity and a bond was formed between Penelope and the staff of AIS.
Former Part-time AIS business manager and voice of the Filipino underdog, Jane Inocencio, took it as a cue and stepped up to the plate, not showing any qualms about speaking up. She reiterated the severe lack of funds of Art in Site, the official publication of the future Manila Center for the Arts.
Penelope nodded in understanding and invited the staff to a buffet dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. Well, that was that. Jane tried her best, like she always did.
Resigned once again to the eventuality of the magazine’s demise, the staff sat down to dinner and enjoyed the company of their hostess.
Penelope: I will help you.
The editor excused herself. When she returned, she smacked her forehead again in habit.
Editor: It’s a sign! Our meeting today happened for a reason. Penelope, our ancestors must have had a meeting up in the cosmos. Your great-great uncle reached out to you in your dreams and told you that his friend’s descendant was in need of help.
Penelope, an author and artist, who seldom reads her email, and only opened the one forwarded AIS email invitation blast from PAWA (Philippine American Writers and Artists) to view the site, overwhelmingly agreed.
Is it divine intervention or the musings of an insane, worrywart, overworked imagination of an editor? Call it what you will, but something was at work out there and it was a sign that the work must continue, come hell or high water.
Today, we are still in the red, and the printer continues to bang loudly on the door, demanding payment for the remaining balance of the first publication of the magazine. But one thing remains certain - we have our Penelope cheering us on until we to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. She is the catalyst that gave us the courage and drive to push through. She arrived in the nick time to the rescue of this editor desperately grasping at straws and on the verge of ending this worthwhile project.
The editorial staff of Art in Site Magazine wishes to dedicate the first online edition to our champion in difficult economic times, Penelope Flores, without whose generous support would have sunk us deeper into the depths of oblivion. Our hats off to you, Penelope!
To our artists, writers and art enthusiasts who felt and still feel that what we try to achieve - against all odds - matter. Thank you for hanging in with us.
To the artistic talent of the editorial staff who have come and gone, my heartfelt pagsasalamat in lending your artistic talent to create a fantastic first print issue of Art in Magazine. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again.
Finally, we invite all Filipino artists and writers seeking a venue to expose your creativity and your flair with the written word to check out our e-zine and have a look-see. To web graphic designers looking for a playground to dabble in, overworked John David Jara, our online art director, could do with a bit of your insight and input regarding the look and layout design of the e-zine. Maybe you’ll want to participate or contribute.
The only requirement we impose is that you enter Art in Site wholeheartedly, ready to share your art to the global community. We do not have cash to burn, and sincere gratitude is the only payment we can afford to pay you. AIS exist on a slow-drip trickle budget. Funding and donation are always gratefully accepted.
We are sincerely hoping for better days. Sometimes we feel sorry for ourselves, and wonder why we bother. But hey, we’re still here and we will continue to go out on a limb for the love and sake of our culture and the arts.
Signing out . . .