Within Our Walls

Within Our Walls: The Museum at Pomona College

The Museum at Pomona College
November 2 - December 19, 1999
Opening Reception:Saturday, November 6, 3-5 PM


Marissa Roth first visited the Philippines in 1987 as a photojournalist on assignment for the Los Angeles Times. Immediately enchanted, Roth returned many times over the next ten years to photograph the stories of this complex country. What began as a photographic project on social issues evolved into an intense visual exploration of the Philippines--the archipelago Roth calls a perpetual study in contrasts, both poetic and pained. Her personal and photographic obsession resulted in an extraordinary book, the recently published Burning Heart: A Portrait of the Philippines.

Roth's photographs illuminate Philippine culture both literally and metaphorically. The images, and the accompanying text by noted Filipina-American author and poet Jessica Hagedorn, represent a journey through the nation of islands. When Roth first visited the Philippines in 1987, she found a country trying to recover its equilibrium following the revolution that ousted President Ferdinand Marcos. Seeing beyond the pressing social and economic problems, Roth traveled throughout the country photographing the physical and ephemeral beauty of the land and people. Roth also found herself fascinated by the country’s unique blend of Catholicism and the animist traditions of the island’s original Malay tribes. Faith, spirituality, and superstition are inextricably linked in the Philippines’ culture, politics, and daily life.

A selection of photographs from the Burning Heart series are presented here. Themes include the land, the people, religion, and politics. Excerpts from Hagedorn’s poems from the book Burning Heart: A Portrait of the Philippines accompany the images.

The Gallery extends its appreciation to Pedro Loureiro, of the Pacific Basin Institute, who brought these luminous photographs to our attention, and who coordinated the book-signing and lecture with Roth and Hagedorn with Claire Bridges of the Scripps Humanities Institute. Sepia International, New York, represents the artist.

Rebecca McGrew

Burning Heart: Poetry Selections by Jessica Hagedorn

in the archipelago
of scorching heat
of 7100 known
and unknown islands
a woman stoops to plant rice
a man hoists his infant son
on weary shoulders
and ponders his fate
an eagle swoops down on a monkey
a boy cleans his gun
a girl memorizes a love song
a rooster
orange and black plumage
preens and struts
in the dusty arena
ready for the kill

Millennium approaches
in the haunted archipelago
crackle and zoom of jet planes
in the searing blue void of sky
pedicabs jeepneys
horse-drawn kalesas
luxury sedans and minivans
trucks and tin buses
spewing noxious black smoke
honk and chaos traffic
honk and chaos
of furious poets
clatter and din
of resistance
clatter and din
of uncertain futures

Somewhere in the archipelago
of 7100 known and unknown islands
the Virgin Mary is seen
once again
this time
by a construction worker
after a fierce typhoon
Her opalescent reflection
on the glass and steel facade
of a vacant new high-rise
on the outskirts of Metro Manila:
30 stories tall!
Office space available
for long-term leases!
Just another test of faith
in a country of constant tests
and constant miracles