Adventures in a miracle art museum in Cordova, Cebu

DinosaurI wrote this for the Philippine Online Chronicles.

The saying that all art aspires toward the condition of music has become a cliché. Originally said by Walter Pater more than a hundred years ago, this saying has more than lost its evocative edge. Today this has been largely replaced by the desire to attain the condition of a spectacle.

It is not enough for us to merely to hear sounds or see images or touch surfaces. The artistic must become a total performance, a showcase, experienced by the audience themselves. The Cebu Happy World Museum in Cordova town, Mactan Island is exemplary of this trend.

Less than hour’s ride away from the heart of Cebu City and little more than half an hour away from the Mactan Island International Airport, the Korean-owned Cebu Happy World Museum prides itself in bringing the “Miracle Art” concept for the locals and tourists of Cebu.

Quite popular in South Korea, this involves the use of optical illusions that lets you do amusing poses in front of painted images in the museum. That’s right. You have more than 80 murals offered as the backdrop with which you can take selfies of yourself and friends.

Just pose for the digital camera and let the murals’ light refraction and reflection techniques to do the trick. You then share the photographs online in Facebook or Instagram. It will all look very real in the photos: more real than the real.


If there’s anything that can provide a perfect illustration of the idea of hyperreality, this is it. To paraphrase Umberto Eco said, we look for the real thing but in order to attain it we fabricate the total imitations, absolute fakes.

You can experience stunts like crossing a dangerously damaged hanging bridge without the danger of falling off into the abyss. You can have yourself almost bitten by a tiger for the camera. You can have your body cut into half through the power of illusion.

You can have the semblance of danger in the safety of a fully-air-conditioned studio. So as Paul Virilio reflected at the turn of the 21st century, “everything arrives without there being any need to depart.”

And yet, as Jean Baudrillard pointed out in relation to Disneyland, “More than the imaginary world conjured by illusions and phantasms what draws the crowds is undoubtedly much more the social microcosm, the miniaturized and religious reveling in real America.”

Where we are taken are in fact very familiar cultural spaces that we have become accustomed to through the corporate mass media.


You can pretend to be part of a famous painting, strolling with dinosaurs, running away from a shark, or being carried in King Kong’s hand, among other three dimensional images of world renowned artistic and pop cultural icons featured in the museum.

You get to act out all of those scenarios not as a voyeur involved from a distance but as a part and parcel of the image itself. You are drawn into the mural, become sucked into a particular representation.

The spectator does not shift into the creator here. There is not much space to participate in the formation of images according to one’s imagination. The visitor is instead captured into a spectacle, the experience of which is structured according to the needs of the facility’s owners, to the needs of profit accumulation.

What you do, how you act in relation to the image, is limited by what is allowed by the given representation. They tell you how things ought to look.

Thus the funny instructions posted beside each mural which directs visitors on how to take a picture of oneself with the painting.


At this point, it becomes instructive to recall John Berger’s account on the origin of the zoo. Before the advent of the industrial revolution, animals used to represent our main connection to nature as a source of food, of clothing, and means of transportation.

The modern zoo emerged the moment when animals became just like any other manufactured commodity alienated from most people and thus less interesting. Domesticated animals are raised for profit. Wild animals are reduced to spectacles, objects to look at, caged in a zoo.

Like the zoo, miracle art museums can only exist in the present age when photographs, like animals, have become less and less sacred to human society.

If in the onset of the past century taking photographs is an expensive luxury reserved for formal occasions, the constant development of photographic technology has made the taking of picture more and more accessible.

With digital camera supplanting film in recent years, photos have become so ordinary for a significant portion of the population. Millions of selfies are posted online every minute.

And it is simply this phenomenon of “the work of art” in the age of unlimited digital reproduction now being cashed on by Cebu Happy World Museum: entrance fee is P400 for adults, P300 for those aged 12-17 years old, and P200 for children 11 years old and below.


  1. hi guys
    PL. GIVE ME YR COMMENTS and suggestions
    THIS IS MY ASSIGNMENT at schopol

    Vladimir Lenin and Benito Mussolini – Kuber Malhotra (History 120) Siobhan Mcgurk

    What was to be Russia’s design of development? Was Russia to become a capitalist state? These were the significant questions of early 20th century Europe, and the answers of which were to greatly influence the future of the world, Europe in particular. I feel, The Lenin Anthology precisely answers the questions. The Lenin Anthology by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Vladimir Lenin) and Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism by Benito Mussolini are controversial, politically charged propaganda texts. I believe, Lenin wanted to popularize his ideologies with a subtle revelation of creating a stable post-revolutionary society (economically and politically) most importantly, after the seizure of power; on the other hand, Mussolini was preserving his power and justifying his ideology. The major difference between The Lenin Anthology and Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism is that the former is mainly concerned with economic issues, whereas the latter is related to nationalism and duties of the citizens towards the state. Both the writers have framed their arguments on the above central ideas. Lenin’s text is highly pragmatic and based on reasoning, whereas Mussolini’s text is more irrational and emotional. Lenin also defends the necessity and legitimacy of the proletariat revolution against the bourgeoisie and the disciplinary actions of the proletariat regime. Similarly, Mussolini also justified the use of violence and terror.
    Mussolini became the Italian Prime Minister in 1922, as Fascism became a mass movement, finding most support in the lower-middle class workers and the youth, as they were most affected by the big businesses, and the economic collapse/depression. Fascism was seen as the new form of faith and religion, against the Church (religion) and anti-clerical. He emphasizes that Fascism does not create its own God or abolish God like the Bolsheviks but Fascism respects the God of the ascetics, the saints, the heroes, and also to the God to whom people simply offer prayers. But, communism (Lenin) also wanted to destroy the roots of Church and religion from the Russian society.
    Mussolini also expresses utter contempt for Socialism as: “After the war, in 1919, Socialism was already dead as a doctrine: it existed only as a hatred.”[8] Fascism also invoked Nationalism. On the other hand, during WWI, there was no strong nationalism in Russia. 6 million Russians were killed by 1916, cause of widespread bitterness. 9 million brutalized came back to Russia to fight another war — a revolutionary war. Scarcity of food caused inflation of food prices and riots, for example women riots in Petrograd. Also, there was widespread mutiny in the army in 1917. Their anger was towards the army and the Tsar because of corruption during his reign. Tsar Nicholas II, Autocrat of All Russia (including The Grand Duchy of Finland, excluding Russian-America i.e. present day Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia), was incompetent and conservative — a reactionary. Fall of the Tsar was the most awaited moment in Russian history as for centuries there had been tyranny — for the first time the Russians had hope. The peasants made up around 80-90% of the Russian population and they were slaves until 1861. Emancipation did not lead to a better situation as the landowners still exploited them. The peasants were grieving, angry and hungry. They wanted to kill the elites to own land. Lenin sustained hope amongst different types of groups and pursued them to believe that only Marxism could end the evils of capitalism.
    Italy and Russia were undergoing transitions. In my view, Mussolini was an opportunist who changed his opinions often i.e. cleverly maneuvered his ideas to take advantage of the situation. He had expansionist dreams. He felt that perpetual peace was not possible and desirable. According to Mussolini, war directed human energies in meaningful directions and people with the strength to face it were noble. In my view, violence and the desire to be feared seem to be significant characters of Mussolini’s personality just as he wanted Italy’s name to be feared abroad. Mussolini considered Italy to be a great power which could be aggressive when national prestige was involved.
    Similarly, the Bolshevik Revolution, in essence Lenin’s Ideology, was successful because Russia was exhausted after WWI, and the structure for maintaining authority was eroded. His ideology particularly appealed to the army (solidarity in working together) and his ideology had more followers than his opponent’s in rural areas. Also, I believe the continuation of intense conflict between western countries of Europe prevented any foreign intervention in the Russian revolution.
    In my view, Mussolini expressed contradictory ideologies in the text. In accordance with the text, Mussolini wanted Italian’s to die for their nation (duty towards the nation), and he was predisposed to this fact (destruction), I feel that Italy and Fascism were not of any importance to him (though he has inflated views in the text). He was a man with an extreme set of ideologies and very important to be judged, understood and handled (cause of chaos in Europe). Mussolini wanted Italian’s to understand their duties towards their nation and he was strictly against individualism. According to me, Mussolini felt that individuals of a Fascist state could relate to the dreams and goals of their nation whereas the same was not true for citizens of democracies.
    In opine, he wanted to fulfill his personal desires (power) and could inflict damage on the lives of ordinary citizens. He believed that Socialism believed in empiricism and utilitarianism, whereas Fascism rested on the ideals of rationalism, idealism, and ideology. He felt that the logical attitude towards the sum total of things produced better results (ironical). Mussolini emphasized on pragmatism (but I feel he had highly irrational ideologies) in dealing with international politics (foreign policy) and morality. Mussolini seems to be opposed to international constructions like the League of Nations, which gave disproportionate representation to the privileged nations (during that time), yet at the same time his tone suggests that he wanted Italy to join the league and capitalize on it and dominate the organization (contradiction). Mussolini stressed on Italy’s foreign policy as he thought that Italy’s greatness depended on the foreign policy but at the same time he does not want it to be an ideology. He placed fascist beliefs above economics to show the entire world that he could be exhibit realism and sense of choice in his foreign policy (contradiction). Whereas, Lenin did not stress on the foreign policy, but I feel his foreign policy was more important for Russia than his domestic policy. I feel Lenin’s main idea of foreign policy (not explicitly mentioned) is to ensure the survival of the communist state and promote a world revolution. Lenin struck a peace deal with the Germans as reconstruction and strengthening of Russia economically and politically would have been impossible with the Germans on Russian soil.
    I argue that Lenin’s doctrine of class struggle assumed most importance because it is essentially the result of the fact that unbiased economic conditions involve the existence of competing groups of men separated from each other by their different positons in the productive process. This is the main argument of Lenin. Lenin, like Marx, is only concerned with economics. But, I feel that Lenin was not a Marxist because Marxism was about creating ideological changes, educating people and then creating a revolution, whereas Lenin’s ideology sometimes said the same, but most of the times, his ideology eluded the pre-requisites (of Marx’s ideology). Though he explicitly says he is a Marxist: “…attributing to us Marxists the idea, and even the plan to “introduce” socialism.” [424] Accordingly, I feel, Lenin was pragmatic (not ideological) in his economic policy because he understood the deteriorating condition of the Russian economy (after WWI and the Civil War) i.e. limited private property and fixed prices to establish a balance between supply and demand. Lenin was brilliant in arguing about macroeconomic framework and strategies, not microeconomics. I believe, references to Marx’s ideologies were to deceive Russians (specifically the proletariat) and most importantly, to gain power — Lenin had a lust for power. And, like Social and Political Doctrine of Fascism, The Lenin Anthology is a propaganda text. Whereas, Mussolini addresses economic issues rarely as: “…revindication of trade-unionism from the economic point of view..” [9] Mussolini was against big businesses and materialism. He was in support of small businesses.
    Further, Mussolini said that Fascism was full of spiritualism and heroism i.e. it excluded economic motives, in opposition to Socialism which was too materialistic. He felt Fascism did not enter into a class war. But, I feel some of his ideas in the book are anti-patriotic as he was more interested in class war (contradiction) than improving Italy’s international standing and so this idea somewhat converges with the socialist belief that patriotism was just another hidden tool of capitalism.
    Mussolini felt that the nation preserved essential liberties of citizens and it is only the state which can intervene in such matters, and simultaneously stated that society required to be unyielding, demanding and have distinctions and differentiations (contradiction). According to Mussolini the Fascist State was the will to power and empire involving effort and sacrifice, and not interested in territorial gains. But simultaneously, he also felt that fascist land reclamation was a duty of the State and Mussolini demanded full cooperation of the citizens in the same way as the spirit of intervention as war (contradiction).
    In my opinion, Mussolini’s situation is most ironical because the book, which is full of Fascist propaganda, projected him as a great war leader and organizer of victory as well as that he would never let any unnecessary damage on the lives of the citizens of Italy. Fascist dreams of future prosperity are highly inflated in the book to brainwash the people with little emphasis on any meaningful contribution by the citizens. The text is sprinkled with dramatic and superlative adjectives (propaganda) to build up the stakes of the Fascist regime because he did not want the people to lose focus of the tense situation. It is clear from the text that Mussolini felt that war was the ultimate test by which a nation and its leader be judged. I feel his doctrines were democratic and dictatorial, radical, anti-chauvinistic, xenophobic, reactionary and not reactionary, socialist and anti-socialist, and anti-Jewish simultaneously.
    But, I feel Lenin’s text is much more important, historically and globally, than Mussolini’s text because Lenin was to take over the reins of a very powerful empire: a global power, whereas Italy was only a small and weak regional power, though the strength of the countries should not be the sole basis for comparing the historical significance of their respective ideologies. I feel Lenin’s ideologies penetrated and changed the world much more deeply than Mussolini’s ideology. Secondly, it was related to the destruction of The House of Romanov, which ruled over the Russian Empire for hundreds of years and the creation (birth) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a future superpower. Also, Lenin’s theory reflected global ambitions whereas Mussolini’s theory centered on the nation (with hints of global ambition).
    Moreover, I feel, Mussolini and Lenin tricked themselves repeatedly about the logic and consistency of their own principles and yet remained sincere to them i.e. there is irony in their statements. For instance, Lenin was aware that proletariats lacked numerical strength but he still obsessed with the idea of a full-fledged revolution. Lenin felt he could combine the war of the peasants with the working class movement to create more pressure on the Russian Autocracy and the provisional government. Simultaneously, he also felt that change will be achieved slowly as necessary social (class conscience, education and training, organization) and economic development had to take place in Russia. He felt that strength of the proletariats’ convictions was not proportional to the coherence and validity of their beliefs, so he found it necessary to persuade them. Hence, it was an important reason for him to write the text, viz. description of the appropriate political, social and economic institutions that emerge when their predecessors exhaust their potential. I opine, Lenin contradicted himself repeatedly. In accordance with text, I feel Lenin was only interested in revolutionary tactics and not about their morality. Similarly, Mussolini through his propaganda wanted to remind the Italian’s that Italy was the greatest nation, whereas he knew in reality Italy had so many problems — signifying a man detached from reality. Also, Mussolini’s views on technology are contradictory he wanted to recreate the pre-industrial revolution world, but at the same time he (Fascists) was in favor of technological advancements.
    Moreover, others might argue that Lenin was strongly against capitalization, but I beg to differ as it is a relative topic (I feel he was not as against capitalization as much as Marx). I feel, he was opposed to it (example, opposed to private property and that people should work to use public property), Also, he was not against capitalism as a transitioning phase between the autocracy and socialism. Lenin was a theorist and political realist and strategist. He subtly says that he is in favor of capitalism, if it is beneficial for the short term i.e. willing to retreat from communist ideology for a short period of time. He saw the communist ideology as the basis of the new social order, basis of utopia with individual aspirations assuming most significance. But, Lenin argued that differences between mental and physical work, state and social classes would disappear, when socialism would be established as: “..display their abilities, develop their capacities, reveal their talents..” [427] Lenin feels that socialism will lead to creativity and development of individuals as a whole whereas capitalism is too narrowly focused on earning money that workers cannot feel satisfied creating items because they never create an item in its entirety but only a part of it. Lenin believed that the majority citizens of a nation could inherit the nation. He felt that political movement be based on social justice and equality. And Mussolini was staunchly pro-capitalization.
    In a similar sense, Vladimir Lenin reveals a very important feature of the socialist government i.e. surveillance on the enemies of the party in power. But, I feel, he meant that his party was to spy on the entire population. He also reveals his favorable attitude harsh punishments as he it was a crime to have enemies in a socialist society when he says “..special surveillance of the whole people;..ruthlessly punished for the slightest violation of the laws and regulations..” I feel Lenin was only interested in revolutionary tactics and not about their morality: “..war…on the rich.., the bourgeoisie intellectuals,..rogues.., idlers,..hooligans” [429] In my opinion, the Bolsheviks were forced to use power and terror (the situation demanded) because a minority group had seized power to fill the power vacuum in the Kremlin, otherwise it would have been difficult for the Bolsheviks to survive against the Mensheviks, Liberals and other enemies as “…sacred war of the oppressed to overthrow the oppressors and liberate the people from all oppression.” [424] Both Lenin and Mussolini wanted to confuse military conceptions with peaceful notions and ideas. Lenin and Mussolini were hostile to democracy, parliament, anti-humanitarian and anti-internationalist (though I feel Lenin was interested in Internationalism).
    Both Lenin and Mussolini were against liberalism. Lenin and Mussolini argued that the citizens had duties towards the nation, specifically the Red Army in case of Lenin. Sometimes Mussolini is utilitarian in his approach, but Lenin is mostly utilitarian and mostly they want to please the population.
    Lenin’s ideology reflected a class less, state less egalitarian socio economic system, but mocked the idea of developing a Russia specific socialism through traditional institutions. He was progressive and wanted the eradication of these institutions. Fascism wanted to suppress Socialism and reduce parliamentary liberties (did not believe in words but action).

    I believe Lenin was against nations and borders, thought he only gave a subtle indication, he was in favor of internationalism. He wanted free trade between countries i.e. concerned with economics. For Mussolini, the Nation was the most important entity — a virile and active collective. Fascism is an ideology that tries to bring together radical and authoritarian nationalism. Mussolini feels that Fascism was the doctrine par excellence of the twentieth century. I feel, their respective ideologies are very different and Socialism influenced the world more than Fascism did.

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