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Arts Culture Adlai Jan Garcia Jawid Colourises Historical Pictures To Inspire Filipino Youth: Why And How

Adlai Jan Garcia Jawid Colourises Historical Pictures To Inspire Filipino Youth: Why And How

Album of 42 leaves, unbound, 38 x 52 cm., containing photographs of the Mission by American photographer Burr McIntosh, with the inscription "To Alice Lee Roosevelt in sincere admiration and appreciation of her generosity to the 'official photographer.' -- Burr McIntosh" The Alice Roosevelt Longworth Collection of Photographs from the 1905 Taft Mission to Asia, 1905, Smithsonian Institution, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, 1050 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20013-7
The long-forgotten masterpiece by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, "Per Pacem et Libertatem", overlooks the assembly of Filipino and American representatives in the Salon de Marmol of the Ayuntamiento de Manila in Intramuros. This 1905 photograph by Burr McIntosh was included in Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s collection, taken during the 1905 William Howard Taft Mission to Asia. Today, the album is in safekeeping at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. The painting depicts Philippine-American partnership towards the country’s development as an independent democratic republic, which would materialise four decades later.
By Franz Sorilla IV
By Franz Sorilla IV
February 17, 2021
Adlai Jan Garcia Jawid breathes new life to old pictures, inspiring younger generations to appreciate Philippine history and those who’ve made their mark

What started as mere curiosity suddenly turned into passion and advocacy for electronics engineer and businessman Adlai Jan Garcia Jawid. His first post on his page, then named as “Blush of the Past”, was a coloured and restored version of John Tewell’s archived 1935 snapshot of the La Paz sand dunes in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. Since then the page gained followers, encouraging the budding digital artist to produce more.

Jawid’s penchant for visual arts started when he was young. He loved to draw and paint as a kid. Until he saw a black and white photograph of his mother and started asking why there were no fully coloured photographs and films decades, or even centuries, ago. He started colouring the photo with whatever paint he could find.  After encountering foreign digital artists who restore and colour vintage photographs, Jawid’s penchant for the visual arts was reignited. Astonished and curious, he studied Corel software and started adding colours on photos he could find from the Internet. From colouring an ad of the ‘80s snack Wonder Boy using Corel, he eventually learnt how to use Adobe Photoshop and posted his coloured photo from Tewell’s archives. And the rest is history.

An old colourised photo of the sand dunes west of Laoag City, Ilocos Norte province, Northwestern Luzon Island, May 25, 1935 / Adlai Jan Garcia Jawid (Kulay Colorization)
An old colourised photo of the sand dunes west of Laoag City, Ilocos Norte province, Northwestern Luzon Island, May 25, 1935 / Adlai Jan Garcia Jawid (Kulay Colorization)

The name of his page was changed to “Kulay Colorization” with the watermark logo carrying the Tagalog word for “colour” both in Roman letters and Baybayin (a pre-colonial era Philippine script). The shift was to emphasise Philippine pride and the artist’s passion for heritage conservation.

Cagsawa Church still stands in this rare photo
Cagsawa Church still stands in this rare photo

For Jawid, colour evokes emotion. “We cannot simply say that “colour” is happy as there are always other emotions that we relate with each hue and shade,” he said. “Having added colour to this black-and-white photo, we then see many layers to the story behind the photograph that affect us as viewers.”

Jawid receives vintage photographs commissioned by private individuals. He also borrows from historical archivists like John Tewell and sources from digital libraries. Recently, Jawid restored and coloured photos in series: the celebrities from the Philippines’ Golden Age of Cinema, Philippine historical figures in our peso banknotes and books, as well as renowned Filipino musicians, singers, and composers through the years.

The painstaking process itself requires not only technical skill but also patience and a keen eye for details when doing intensive research. Jawid shared that for him to determine the correct colours of clothes, medals, even the carpet design of the Nine Sovereigns photo, a personal favourite of his, he had to check the exact antiquated items in online auctions and galleries. Not to mention the varying skintones for every person in the photo that requires research of racial aspects, era, and photography techniques. “The more you know about the photo, the more details you enhance, enabling you to colour them better,” he said.

Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina served as the first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines from 1935 to 1944. In this rare photo by Harris & Ewing, he poses happily after his marriage to Aurora Antonia Aragon. During his presidency, he paved the way for the creation of an independent democratic republican government for the country, revamping the government into how we see it today. He enacted laws to address social justice, agrarian reform, educational reform and women’s suffrage, to name a few. After the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during World War II, he evacuated to Corregidor and eventually to Australia, then to the United States to lead the government in exile. He suffered from tuberculosis in April 1944 while in the US and died on August 1, 1944 in Saranac Lake, New York.
Besides borrowing photos from archivists and libraries, Jawid also gets commissioned works like this photo of an anonymous society lady in red traje de mestiza and two men in white American suits. At the turn-of the-century, men and women dressed grandly every day. When the Americans came, much of Philippine fashion was influenced by Western designs and textiles, until the Commonwealth Period ignited a cultural shift and gave Philippine attire such as the traje de mestiza, the terno, and the barong tagalog a second wind.
Pura Villanueva y Garcia, the first Manila Carnival Queen. She was crowned Queen of the Orient in 1908 in this annual festival that celebrated the harmonious US-Philippine relations. It was more than a beauty pageant as candidates were chosen from affluent and powerful families all over the country. It also showcased the commercial, industrial and agricultural progress of the Philippines during its two week-long festivities held at the old Wallace Field, where the National Library of the Philippines now stands.
General of the US Army Douglas MacArthur was perhaps the most important figure in the Pacific theatre during World War II. In this 1918 photo, MacArthur was just a brigadier general in France, posing after the Germans left St Benoit Chateau. Being a soldier’s son himself, MacArthur lived his whole life in the US Army. He was assigned to the Philippines and became the Chief of Staff in 1930. He is remembered for his famous phrase, “I shall return”, vowing to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese imperial forces as he escaped to Melbourne. In October 1944, the world witnessed his and his troop’s dramatic landing at Palo, Leyte and how this led to the liberation of the country.
National Hero Dr Jose Rizal flashes a rare smile in this photograph archived by Correos Filipinas. In a more complete photo, Rizal was with Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo and Nellie Boustead at a christening party. Rizal was one of the many ilustrados sent to Europe by their families to study and find career opportunities. If not for their religious differences, Rizal and Boustead would have married and Rizal would have led a privileged life in Paris as an ophthalmologist. But he came back to the Philippines in 1892, a year after he published El Filibusterismo. He also formed La Liga Filipina, a civic movement which stood for radical social reforms through legal means. He was declared an enemy of the state by the Spanish authorities and exiled to Dapitan. The historian Leon Ma Guerrero wrote, “It was Rizal as we have seen, who taught his countrymen that they could be something else, Filipinos who were members of a Filipino nation… Rizal is also the first Filipino because he is first in the hearts of the Filipinos.”
Though most of the significant architectures in Escolta, Binondo, Quiapo and Ermita were obliterated during the war, some remain to this day such as the San Agustin Church, the only one left intact after the destruction of Intramuros. With the combined efforts of the local government and private entities, buildings, bridges and monuments have been restored and rebuilt. The devastation of the war forced the relocation of affluent families from Ermita, San Miguel and Intramuros to then developing areas like Makati, San Juan and Quezon cities. The Senate and Congress moved to various temporary locations until they found their homes in Pasay and Quezon cities, respectively, decades later. Commerce and trade remained strong in Manila but eventually, the evolution of the economy sought greater heights in the Ortigas and Makati business districts.
Jack Birns’ 1949 photograph for Time of a lone magazine stand on Rizal corner Claro M Recto Avenues in Quiapo, Manila shows various other titles like Life, Newsweek, Collier’s, and more, as well as a few pocketbooks and digests on sale. Archived by John Tewell, Birns’ photographs of post-WWII Philippines evoke a distant past where urban daily life consists of leisure readings, cinemas in Escolta, rides in colourful jeepneys and rebuilding of ravaged structures in Intramuros.
Blaring horns and blazing heat distinguished Manila from other cities in the Philippines during the late 1940s in this photo by Jack Birns, archived by John Tewell. Post-war, the face of Manila drastically changed and became mired in its desperate economic and socio-political recovery. Still, the country’s capital remained as every Filipino’s dream.
May 1910:  Nine Kings assembled at Buckingham Palace for the funeral of Edward VII, the Father of George V (centre). From left to right, back row: Haakon VII of Norway, Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, Manuel II of Portugal, Wilhelm II of Germany, George I of Greece and Albert I Of Belgium. Front row: Alphonso XIII of Spain, George V and Frederick VIII of Denmark.  (Photo by W. & D. Downey/Getty Images)
Solvay Conference on quantum mechanics at the Institute International de Physique Solvay, Brussels, Belgium, in 1927.
The grand staircase on the RMS Olympic, photographed in 1911 by William H. Rau.

Read Also: The Glory Days Of Philippine Society Before World War II

For Jawid, what makes this passion of his very interesting is the process of unfolding the stories behind the photo as he restores it along the way. Personally, he gets to learn more about history as he researches for every item in the picture. Besides learning more about history, Jawid also comes close to significant photos in history taken before pivotal events have happened.

The digital artist first and foremost wants the young generation to appreciate and familiarise themselves with the stories behind the photos. By appreciating history, the new generation understands the important shifts in humanity’s sensibilities, allowing them to advance their perception of life and the world.

  • Images Adlai Jan Garcia Jawid (Kulay Colorization)


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