RP confab held in Russia, Vic Garcia opens art show
SUNDRY STROKES - Rosalinda L. Orosa () - October 3, 2009 - 12:00am

A Philippine studies conference was held last week in St. Petersburg, the former imperial capital now regarded the cultural capital of Russia, a leading country specializing in the field.

The conference titled “Pilipinas Muna!” (The Philippines is a Priority), was organized by the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences with the cooperation of the Philippine Embassy, headed by Ambassador Victor G. Garcia III, and the Consulate General in St. Petersburg.

Garcia praised the organizers, led by chair Dr. Maria V. Stanyukovich, for putting Russia on the map “firmly as one of the poles of research on the Philippines.” Honorary Consul General Sergey Alexeev remarked on St. Petersburg’s links to the Philippines, noting how the trading ships that eventually made their way to the Far East were built and licensed by the Russian Imperial Court in the former capital. Kunstkamera Director Prof. Yury K. Chistov pointed to the new academic milestone achieved by the conference.

Moscow-based historian and political scientist Victor Sumsky emphasized that the conference took in an impressive range of Philippine studies: linguistics, literature, folklore, history, anthropology, sociology, political science, economics, geology, visual and graphic arts, performing arts and engineering.

The two-day conference, attended by UP professors Drs. Crisanta Flores of the Filipino Department, Jina Umali and Wystan de la Peña of the Center of International Studies, drew the early support of President Arroyo during her visit for the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June. She took keen interest in early historical references to the Philippines and Russia, e.g., the Latin translation of Italian chronicler Antonio Pigafetta’s account of Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world in 1522, a copy of which reached Russia and was translated in Russian presumably between 1525 and 1530. A copy of the translated manuscript was believed among the documents in the Saltykov-Shchedrin State Library in St. Petersburg. The collection from that library eventually became part of the Lenin Library, now the Russian State Library.

Other institutions represented in the conference were St. Petersburg State U., Moscow Lomonosov State U., St. Petersburg Institute of History, Institute of World Economics and International Relations, Russian State Humanitarian U., Northwest Academy of Public Administration and State Russian Museum.

The conference, the second ever of its kind in Russia, was dedicated to the 80th birthday of Dr. Gennadiy E. Rachkov, Tagalog linguistics specialist, and founder of St. Petersburg U’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

An exhibit featured the oil paintings of Concepcion G. Garcia — “Tres Marias” and “The Making of the First Philippine Flag” which were highly praised — and of Paco de Asis, and of photos of Philippine daily life taken by Russian lensmen. Ambassador Garcia, Honorary Consul Alexeev, Director Chistov and Dr. Elena Tsaryova, Kunstkamera curator, opened the exhibit.

De la Peña was impressed with the extent and seriousness of the research by the Russian academicians, particularly their papers on the Tagalog language, on Francisco Baltazar, on the Ilocano Lam-ang epic, the Philippine population and the evolution of human groups in the Pacific.

When the conference ended, Dr. Stanyukovich drew up a resolution for a follow-up conference, possibly in Manila, and the publication of the significant proceedings in both English and Russian. Dr. Flores said the papers may interest the UP press.

The Petersburg State U., which offers Philippine studies, leads in advancing the Philippines in Europe, if not the world. Russia’s contribution was acknowledged by President Arroyo who, during her visit to Moscow in June, conferred the Presidential Medal of Merit on Rizalist Dr. Igor Podberezsky for his pioneering work of translating eight volumes of Philippine literature into Russian, and penning eight monographs and more than a hundred articles on the Philippines in a 55-year career.

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