What would it have been like to be at the execution of Jose Rizal — poet, political prisoner and national hero — over 120 years ago? Last year, the Ayala Museum at Makati city in Metro Manila, allowed us to travel back in time, back to the very spot in Bagumbayan (now Luneta Park at Roxas Boulevard in Manila), through a virtual reality (VR) immersion. The project was done in partnership with tech firm I Am Cardboard, makers of the popular Google-certified virtual reality headset.
The live action diorama lets museum goers experience that pivotal moment in Philippine history from three different perspectives: as a spectator among a mixed crowd of supporters and haters, as one of the soldiers in the firing squad and as Rizal himself, moments away from certain death — a death that would then galvanize an entire people to fight for independence.
Two months ago, the museum unveiled four more episodes to the permanent feature called “The Diorama Virtual Reality Experience: Emergence of the Filipino Nation”. Each episode is a 10-minute VR experience using new 360-degree VR technology. “Now the depth of the audio varies as well, depending on where you turn your head and where the sound is meant to be coming from,” explains Ibba Bernardo, CEO of I Am Cardboard Philippines.
The next-level immersion helps the museum’s high-tech dioramas serve as an educational campaign built around powerful storytelling. The whole project drew on top talent, including historian Ambeth Ocampo, the country’s premier scholar on Rizal, who served as a consultant.
“It’s really like being a fly on the wall when all those things were happening,” says Ibba, who adds that a deeper understanding of what went on then feels especially relevant in the age of social-media-driven misinformation. “As Ambeth Ocampo says, history doesn’t repeat itself; people repeat history.”
New episodes of Ayala Museum’s VR history tour
- The Cry of Pugad Lawin: August 23, 1896. Members of the Katipunan, a secret society of freedom fighters, ceremoniously rip their community tax certificates in further defiance of the Spanish.
- The Tejeros Convention: March 22, 1897. Opposing factions within the Katipunan — the Magdiwang, led by Andres Bonifacio, and the Magdalo, headed by Emilio Aguinaldo — attempt to settle the question of governance of the new republic.
- The Trial and Execution of Andres Bonifacio: May 10, 1897. As the division among revolutionaries deepened, the founder and supremo of the Katipunan found himself put on trial by some of the very people who fought alongside him.
- The Declaration of Philippine Independence: June 12, 1898. General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence from the balcony of his home in Kawit, Cavite, waving a flag that had been sewn in Hong Kong — by Marcela Agoncillo, Lorenza Agoncillo and Delfina Herbosa — and smuggled back into the Philippines.
*Photo by Ayala Museum
This article first appeared in the November 2018 issue of Smile magazine.