LAST July, Baguio boy John Silva had his exhibit at the Bencab Museum in Asin.

Being the executive director and curator of Ortigas Foundation Library, Silva showed some of the Cordillera covers of that wonderful “peacetime” magazine called the Philippine Magazine.

While cleaning up the books and periodicals of the library, Silva chanced upon copies of the Philippine Magazine.

This is a rare collection, as most of the stack had been burned by the Japanese forces during the war. The printing press and all back copies of the magazine as well as the 5,000-volume Filipiniana library and paintings of the publisher A.V.H. Hartendorp were seized and destroyed.

“In 1925, an American teacher, A.V.H. Hartendorp took ownership and became the editor of Philippine Education Magazine which he later renamed the Philippine Magazine,” said Silva.

“He set out to invite Filipinos and foreign residents to write essays, short stories, and poems in English,” he added.

“For the covers of the magazine, he enticed artists of all nationalities to illustrate some scenes or subjects, always enchanting and dignified about the country and its people,” Silva said.

“The covers with enchanting mountain views, rounded Benguet faces, majestic Trinidad Valley, and the cliffside trails beyond speak of the summer happiness and memories Filipinos have of the Cordillera region,” he said.

Some of the artists represented were Fernando Amorsolo, Fabian dela Rosa, I.G. Ancheta, Diosdado Lorenzo among others.

But it was what was inside the covers that made Philippine Magazine the biggest influence in the development of Philippine literature.

When Hartendorp took over in 1926 until its rude demise at the start of World War II, Philippine Magazine brought to the fore some of the buddingFilipino writers and brought light to their talents.

Not only Manila writers but also those from Ilocos and Cordillera debuted their works here.

Anthropologist H. Otley Beyer was among the first contributors of Philippine Magazine and some of his articles were about Cordillera material culture.

Amador T. Daguio of Kalinga contributed poetry and essays. The young siblings Sinai and Cecile Hamada sent Igorot legends and folklore. Alberto Crispillo wrote about Ifugao love potions. Manuel Arguilla of La Union, Mariano Manawis of Cagayan and Leonardo Yabes of Ilocos Sur also published their best short stories and essays in the magazine.

They were joined by Jose Garcia Villa, Beato dela Cruz, Estrella Alfon, A.B. Rotor, Ignacio Manlapaz, Francisco Arcellana, N.V.M Gonzales, Edilberto Tiempo and Bienvenido Santos.

Hartendorp also funded the stay of Australian writer T. Inglis Moore in the Cordillera so he could write the story of “Kalatong: A Novel of Bontok and Ifugao ” which was serialized in the magazine in 1931.

It was the life of a real Ifugao hero and Moore stayed in the mountains for six months so he would have a grasp of what he was writing.

The serialized novel was a success for the magazine but it hasn’t been duplicated since.

Fortunately, even if most of the copies were destroyed in the Philippines, some libraries in the United States were able to collect the historic volumes and some have even scanned them for online users.

The discovery of the copies at the Ortigas Library is enough reason to visit the place once things return to normal.