Art of Marrie Saplad

Photo by Ysobel ArtGallery

SAPLAD STILL-LIFES. Architect Mies van der Rohe was talking about building design when he stated that God is in the details. But this profound proverb also applies to the art of Marrie Saplad.

Central in Saplad’s paintings are recognizable everyday objects that are isolated in black and white backgrounds. In 2017, Saplad started her still-life compositions that feature transparent glass bottles on white surfaces and pieces of linen that are casually draping a hairline, or almost invisible clothesline. As still-life subjects, glass and fabrics require technical dexterity and keen eyes to apply the lightness and darkness of a color.

Photo by Ysobel ArtGallery

A WORLD OF BLACKS, WHITES AND GREYS. Color is observed as an object’s immediate property. It has the power to affect the emotion and influence the mood of the viewer. In her world of blacks, whites and greys, Saplad uses realistic colors to capture the glow from glass and the texture from delicate fabric.

Saplad’s rendering of basic colors and simple compositions on canvas are compelling enough to hold the viewer’s attention, but remains vague in the story that it narrates. Looking at Saplad’s latest creations for her solo show at Ysobel ArtGallery in Taguig City, one is confronted with questions about their meaning.

FILL THE EMPTY. WARM THE COLD. As a self-taught artist, Saplad is first to say that her works is not hyper-realism because she excluded certain pictorial elements but her still-life paintings has formal resolution with emphasis on the details and the subjects.

Fittingly, Saplad’s works for the show entitled Sympathy, Fill the empty, Warm the cold, takes us to a quite vista of her own that narrates her simple hopes of extending kindness and generosity to those who are impacted by an ongoing global emergency.

EPILOGUE: GOD IS IN THE DETAILS. Franz Kafka believed that art like prayer is a hand outstretched in the darkness, seeking for some touch of grace which will transform into the a hand that bestows gifts… [Both] are passionate acts of will.

God may be in the details of Saplad’s art, but it also invites the viewers to act with sympathy into the world by filling the empty and providing warmth to the cold.

Published in: on July 31, 2020 at 2:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Objects and Nostalgia: An Introduction to the Assemblage Art of Glenn Martinez

Museum Tour
16 x 16
Glenn Martinez

SERENDIPITOUS TRAVEL FINDS. Collector of colonial antiques and modern arts Dr. Jaime C. Laya, in his introduction in the book Consuming Passion, Philippine Collectibles explained that it is embedded in the human gene to hunt, gather, hoard and keep objects that are meaningful and sentimental. But aside from thrill of the hunt, nothing can be more exhilarating than a serendipitous travel find. That’s why I include in my travel itineraries trips to antiques and segunda mano shops, local handicrafts workshops and artist’s studios.

When I started my travel and culture blog in 2008, I was also beginning to fill my young family’s living space with art and along with it, object traffic also increased in our home. Every trip, I come home with all sorts of heritage memento: A sculpture from Ermita, a painting from an artist’s studio in Laguna, various kinds of anting-anting from Quiapo, disparate body parts of wooden religious statuettes from Bacolor, tribal and folk arts from the cultural communities of the Cordilleras, historic relics and artifacts from a roadside swap meet in Baliuag, Bulacan.

18 x 19
Glenn Martinez
In the collection of Marcel Antonio

RUMINATIONS. I wanted to live with more art as a source of inspiration for my write ups. Also, I wanted to train my eyes and taste for my creative growth so I refused to keep them in the bodega because I believe that people can forget things when they are out of sight. I put them on display in glass shelves, coffee tables and gallery walls to remind me everyday of memorable trips.

While going through therapy from depression in 2019, I discovered healing through making assemblage art as an alternative to blogging and writing social commentaries. Unloading thoughts and expressing through creative ways take away the anxiety and that uncertainty of our purpose on why are we keeping discarded objects in the first place? From my hoard, I put together objects to narrate my ruminations about our society’s mental health. In Insomia, I placed a metronome under a wooden head and a pendulum in the foreground to call out how an apathetic society tried to use all sorts of self-hypnosis to put their troubled mind to rest.

Be Still. All Steel.
Assemblage under glass
11 x 9
Glenn Martinez
In the collection of Dengcoy Miel

TRIP TO QUIAPO. Much like Ricky Lee‘s script writing textbook Trip to Quiapo, I worked on my assemblage pieces with no formula, no set rules but I’m guided by traditions, which I bend to make them timeless. I arranged, categorized, layered, and curated found objects according to the convenience of retelling their old histories and how I can incorporate moments we are living in.

A put together of rusty keys, Commonwealth Era coins, a page torn from antique prayer booklet, anting-anting in a bottle and the Brown Scapular,  Be Still. All Steel alludes to the neo-Gothic San Sebastian Basilica in Plaza del Carmen, Quiapo where since the last century until to this day its all-steel interior turns golden in the afternoon, just perfect for prayer.

Patroness of Daily Commute
8 x 11
Glenn Martinez

HORROR VACUII. A decade of gathering travel finds occupied all available space in the home. It is generally expected for Filipinos to be maximalist in the way we do things. From our fiestas, food, dance, art and everyday objects to the way we decorate every corner of our homes, we leave no empty space.

Horror vacuii applied to most of my assemblage pieces. The Patroness of Daily Commute is a multiple layered shadow box. It is an allusion to the Virgin of Antipolo as the traditional patroness of travelers and the Filipino folk art on wheels as represented by endangered jeepney pasada.

Midnight in my Studio: Inanimate objects that come to life at the strike of midnight
16 x 12
Glenn Martinez

BURAOT INVENTORY. I owe my creations to my collection of buraot.  Buraot is common term in the local antique trade when referring to objects that are not of collectors’ standard. These disparate everyday things from different periods, places, and cultures that I scavenged at about the same time I started blogging find their way into my assemblage.

They rouse my curiosity and creativity on how mixing unrelated objects and unexpected combination of things can coexist in pseudo bas-reliefs, make-shift altars and shadow boxes as works of art. Midnight in my Studio: Inanimate objects that come to life at the strike of midnight describes my restlessness when creativity peaks during ungodly hours.

Antepara ni Tia Paula at mga
Eau de Toilette ni Tia Candida
Assemblage under glass
11 x 7.5
Glenn Martinez

AUDITIONING. Designing an assemblage project is trial and error and adventure. Part of my creative process is to gather from my collection of buraot, travel finds, and storied objects and arrange them as a blocking for a final act in a stage play. The editing process begins when I select the main objects that fit the role for the assemblage project and those that make up the chorus of supporting finishing touches.

In Antepara ni Tia Paula at mga Eau de Toilette ni Tia Candida, I selected objects that reminisce the main characters of Nick Joaquin‘s literary masterpiece, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino.

Gabinete de Fisica
16 x 12
Glenn Martinez

MUSEUM BOXES. A series that I remain interested in working on are museum boxes as they pay homage to nineteenth-century curiosity cabinets, which were then meant to showcase the world as recreated, reinterpreted and reveals by early travelers. Gabinete de Fisica is a casual reference to the first museum in the Philippines established by the Dominican friars in 1871.

My assemblage is borrowed from the traditional Wunderkammers and inspired by those artists who made assemblage and mixed media collage a personal diary as well as a way of showcasing their taste: Joseph Cornell, Alfonso Ossorio, Hannalore Baron, Federico de Vera, Mario de Rivera, Pewee Roldan and Ling Quisumbing.

Assemblage mixed media under glass
18 x 16
Glenn Martinez
In the collection of Sidney Snoeck

EPILOGUE: TOF OBJECTS AND NOSTALGIA. This blog is an introduction to my online gallery: TOF Objects and Nostalgia.

Published in: on June 28, 2020 at 5:51 pm  Comments (4)  
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PAETE IS FOREVER. The ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus once said that a man can never step into the same river twice. It may be the same river but the water that flows into it is eternally changing. The same goes with the traveler who could have been in the same destination countless of times but will not see the place the same as it was before.

This is the case of Paete in the province Laguna. I’ve been to this lakeshore town several times since 2008. But no matter how many times I’ve been there to either buy woodcarvings and native handicrafts, reconnect with friends who I incidentally met in my trips to this town, or simply finding the nearest escape from city life, Paete forever presents itself with new discoveries. This narrative is a weaving of selected memories about my visits to my favorite town in Laguna.

A SCENIC ROUTE. There are two ways to reach Paete from Metro Manila. One can take a bus bound to Santa Cruz, Laguna in a terminal in Cubao and then take a jeepney going to Siniloan. Pass beneath the stone lions of the Pagsanjan Arch and cross the placid Lumban River. Upon reaching the boundary of the sleepy Kalayaan town, ask the driver to make a stop in Paete poblacion. Another way is through the Manila East Road. I personally prefer this longer drive because it offers a more attractive view than taking SLEX. This scenic route passes through the rustic, laid-back towns and the winding mountain roads of Rizal Province with overlooking vistas of the metropolis and Laguna de Bay. When reaching Tanay at lunch time, we would have bulalo at Rambull’s and make a quick stop along the road to see the Pililia wind turbines.

We knew that we reached the boundary of the provinces of Rizal and Laguna when the repetitive views of the forest and slopping mountainside are broken by makeshift stalls along the roadside filled with merchandise that can furnish an entire house with native baskets, mats, hammocks and all kinds of woven furniture made from pandan, rattan and bamboo.

LAGUNA DE BAY. Back at sea level from the sloping road of Mabitac, the drive passes through the rice fields of Siniloan, Pangil, Pakil and reaches Paete in less than an hour. Paete is one the towns in Laguna that sits along the lakeshore. Looking at Paete from the air, it is a narrow piece of land that is sandwiched between the foothills of the Sierra Madre and the vast Laguna de Bay.

Laguna de Bay is the largest lake in the country. Its age and formation can be traced to an ancient volcano that exploded a million years ago leaving a depression in the middle lobe of the heart-shape body of water called the Laguna Caldera. In the olden days, Yangco Steamships ferried passengers and goods from Manila to Laguna via the Pasig River and Laguna de Bay water highways. Silting in the lake made this means of transportation impossible today. Compared to it’s nearby cousin, Taal Lake in Batangas, Laguna de Bay is very shallow that when bottom sediments are agitated, it turns the water muddy. In Paete, the locals refer the lake as dagat that provides livelihood to fisher folks and as source of inspiration to its homegrown craftsmen and artists.

LAND OF THE BUEN EBANISTAS. The founding of Paete as a pueblo dates back in 1580 when Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo explored the communities along the eastern shore of Laguna de Bay. Franciscan friars soon followed Salcedo to establish a Catholic mission. They found the locals to be buen ebanistas or good cabinetmakers and carvers.

Paete Church is the best testimony of the masterful craftsmanship of the ancient buen ebanistas. Founded by Fray Juan de Placencia, the previous stone church was destroyed three times by natural calamities. The present structure was built in 1884.  Sculpted on adobe were flowers, garlands, and curlicues in the church facade. Perched on the church’s topmost triangular pediment is a relief of St. James the Apostle as a warrior mounted on a horse, slaying the enemies. This is familiar image of Saint James as Señor Santiago Matamoros. Old timers claim that this gallant saint was responsible for guarding Paete against the raiders. It is said that he was seen as a Caucasian in a full warrior regalia, striding on a horse while overlooking the town from a hilltop.  During World War II, the saint is said to have driven away the Japanese enemy who attempted to follow the townsfolk who run for safety in the nearby mountains while town was being burned.

HERITAGE TREASURES. Inside the church is a gallery of religious art. These religious artifacts, statues and over-sized paintings were used by the friars as visual aids for teaching catechism to the native converts. Paete’s legendary master carver Bartolome Palatino carved the retablos in 1840. Palatino did not use nails. The main and side altars were held together by wooden dowels.

One of the widely venerated icons in the church is the image of the Santo Entierro. During Holy Week, this ancient image of the dead Christ is bathed. The water used in bathing the image is distributed to the townsfolk who believe in its healing powers. After the bathing the image, it is placed in a tent filled with incense. In the ritual called the Pasuob, the sick and the old take turns entering the tent in the belief that inhaling the fragrant smoke can heal different sorts of illnesses. This Holy Week ritual is one of the traditional activities held before Paete’s Grand Holy Week Procession.

JOSE DANS PAINTINGS. Important heritage treasures are the murals by Jose Dans. This Paete-born artist was known for fashioning his brushes out of cat’s fur and for mixing pulverized volcanic ash with pigments for his paintings. In 1645, he painted two large paintings of scenes that seemingly straight out from Dante’s visions of heaven, hell, and purgatory. Both are displayed in Paete Church.

There are also two murals depicting St. Christopher carrying the Child Jesus on his shoulder while crossing a river. This has an interesting story. The one painted directly on the adobe wall depicts the saint as a native in Moorish clothing. It is said that the friars did not like the painting on the church wall so the artist made another version of St. Christopher as a Caucasian in 16th century European fashion. The newer painting was painted on wood. It was placed directly on top of the older painting. Saint Christopher as a Moro was forgotten for centuries until in the 1980s when the one painted on wood was taken down for cleaning.

BAJO DE LA CAMPANA. Fellow blogger and Paete-raised, Tito Basa of Backpacking Philippines introduced me to the adventure of climbing up the church’s bell tower. When the friars established their mission in the country, they organized villages within the hearing distance of the church bells or bajo de la campana.

At the bellfry we met Dan Marion Roque. He explained that the peeling of the five antique church bells with the oldest and largest dating to 1793 and 1849, respectively have become part of the local’s way of life. Generations of sacristans have been trained to know the assigned ringing pattern to announce a nearby fire, a distinctive funeral toll for a male and a female town member, procession of a patron saint, call to mass, call for the Oracion, and the Sanctus during mass.

CHISEL TOWN. Just like the tolling of the church bells, chisel-tapping is a familiar sound in Paete. As a historian once told me, It’s music to the ears. Everything about Paete has to do with the chisel. From the legend about how the town received its name to its church filled with religious statuary and relief panels at every corner, woodcarving is the lifeblood of this town. Inside a busy workshop, we watched the different stages of sculpting. From carving a rough sketch on a block of wood using the v-shaped chisel called the pikos, landay for detailing, hiwas for surfacing and lukob for shaping the eyes. Smooth sanding and applying coats of color and varnish are done in separate spaces.

The flair for the chisel is passed on by mastercarvers to the next generations through osmosis and imitation. The legendary master carver Jose Caancan was a pupil of Jose Rizal who followed him into exile in Dapitan. When he returned to Paete, he put a workshop where he would gather apprentices to demonstrate different methods of sculpting. One of his pupils is Isaac Cagandahan who won the first prize during the first Art Association of the Philippines national competition.

ART PILGRIMAGE. Descendants of Isaac Cagandahan have been making their name in the contemporary art scene. Glenn Cagandahan is known for his folksy sculptures on epoxy. Odette Cagandahan-Monfero wowed audiences of a national talent show for her speed painting performances. Christine Cagandahan makes relief sculptures of tropical flowers using epoxy and mixed media.

Whenever I would spend overnight in Paete, I stay in the Cagandahan residence. In the morning, I would complete my walking tour itinerary around town, including my art pilgrimage to the different artist’s studios and galleries beginning at Dr. Nilo Valdecantos’ Kape Kesada Gallery and then in Hugis at Buhay Paete of production designer Lino Dalay and Mommy Martha. My next stop is in Luis Ac-ac atelier on the same street. In barangay Quinale, I spent long chats with assemblage artist Ben Dailo who used driftwood and wooden beads in his women figurines. A few walks from Ukit Quinale studio is the home of Bayani Acala who at the time of my visits was commissioned to design the trophy for the annual Dutdutan Tattoo Art Competition. On the main highway, I would drop by the home studios of Otep Banez and Casa Rubio of Dominic Rubio and wife Vivian.

TAKA OF PAETE. Of Paete’s folk art, taka making is my next favorite after woodcarving. Those colorful, warm, and whimsical Taka of Paete have become the epitome of Filipino folk art. They are the embodiment of the Filipino fiesta painted on papier-mâché figures of dolls in Filipiniana, roosters, carabaos, and bright-red horses.

Old folks claim that Mexican friars introduced taka-making to the pueblo centuries ago. This perhaps explains why the taka of Paete is linked with the Mexican piñata. While the piñata is decorated with tear up colored paper, the taka of Paete is individually hand-painted with vibrant colors with floral and fancy Baroque embellishments. Takas are sold side-by-side with woodcarvings in shops in Paete. Ang Hugis at Buhay Paete is a store along Calle Quesada that is filled from floor to ceiling with colorful takas. Here, visitors were greeted by Mommy Martha. She would engage her listener in stories about Paete legends and life during the war.

BIBINGKAS OF PAETE. Back to the main tourist street of Paete, Tito Basa introduced me to popular street foods, first to the bibingkang galapong. This rice cake is traditionally associated with Christmas season. In Paete, the bibingkang galapong that is made of  sticky rice batter with slivers of young coconut meat and topped with salted eggs are baked along a roadside stall using the dos fuegos method all year round.

The bibingkang hipon that Dominic and Vivian Rubio served when they had me over for lunch in their home is like chicken pastel only replace the ingredients with shrimps, tomatoes, kamias and young coconut meat that is baked and served in a terracotta dish. This bibingka is as yummy as how the ingredients sound.

MINANI AT PANCIT ULAM. Another popular street food in Paete is the minani, which is diced cassava fried and salted to taste. There is also sinaludsud that made of grated cassava with strips young coconut meat fried and flavored with vanilla and sugar.

An institution in Paete is Benga’s that serves the pancit ulam, which is pancit canton but heavy in chopped vegetables, meat, wood ear mushrooms, and tofu. As the name of the dish suggests, it can be paired with rice as ulam.

ALAMAT NG LANZONES. Paete’s popular edible pasalubong is the lanzones. Like the rambutan and the chico mame, it’s considered as a wild fruit whose tree grew in backyards or along the roadside. The lanzones tree begins blooming in May and its fruits ready for harvest around October. In the olden days,  the mountains round Paete glowed with amber lights at night during the lanzones season. The lights were bon fires lit to keep bats away from the fruit. The oblong fruit has sweet pulp but bitter when the teeth sunk into its seed.

According to a legend, lanzon sounding like lason or poison in Filipino, the lanzones was considered to be poisonous.  Until Saint Agnes in guise as magical woman plucked a lanzones from the tree, pressed it between thumb and finger, and asked a sickly child to eat it without fear. The child instantly became well. Saint Agnes was locally implored as Sta. Ines, hence the name lanson-Ines. On one visit to Paete a brought home two baskets full of sweet lanzones with its alamat for sharing.

EPILOGUE: LONG LIVE PAETE.  In the past 3 to 2 years, we lamented on the loss of Ben Dailo, Lino and Mommy Martha Dalay and Dr. Nilo Valdecantos. My trip to this chisel town will never be the same again without them but the stories they shared remain alive my heart.

– Heritage Month 2020

San Agustin Museum

MEMORY THEATER. The San Agustin Church Museum is a memory theater containing a treasure trove of what remains of the vast Philippine artifacts and religious art amassed by generations of Augustinian scientists, botanists, architects, artists, scholars, and teachers in their 400 years of missionary work in the Philippines.

Although the collection has suffered immeasurable lost from British looters in 1762, the American souvenir hunters in 1898, and the Battle for Liberation following the Japanese occupation in 1945, priceless antiques and the best specimens of locally-made hardwood furniture, ivory and wooden sculptures, religious paintings, ecclesiastical silverware and gold embroidered vestments are on permanent display in its ancients chambers. There is a wealth of knowledge locked inside each profane and sacred object in this cloistered monastery museum.

SALA DE RECIBIDOR. As it was in the olden days, enter the San Agustin monastery through the porteria. There use to be a desk here for the porter, who attended to visitors and took note of what goes in and out of the monastery. A chapel was erected in the porteria in honor of Our Lady of Consolation, as the patroness of the Agustinian Order in 1877. The massive door at the end of the porteria opened to the ante-chamber of the Sala de Recibidor. This wide door is only opened when processional carrozas leave the cloister to be led around the streets of Intramuros. A smaller door or postigo is cut within the hardwood framework of the larger door for persons on foot. In the middle of postigo is a flaming heart pierced by two arrows and the letters IHS which stands for the first three letters of Jesus in Greek. Over the heart is a hat with six tassels on the sides, symbolic of the a bishop, alluding to Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.

The Sala de Recibidor served, in different occasions as an aula or classroom to teach catechism and sacred music, the procurator’s office, and holding room to receive lady guests. the Augustinian authorities restricted women from entering monasteries. It was a rule at that time that a lady could be met at the beginning of the stairway of a monastery but not beyond the middle. A lady attending for a sick call must be accompanied by two elderly gentlemen but not by more women.

AUGUSTINIAN CORRIDORS. A door in the antesala leads to the corridors of the cloister. At each of the four corners of the corridor is a retablo or an elaborately carved backdrop for the altar table. In the olden day, religious processions are held in the cloister and prayers or rituals were performed in each of the corner retablos. Each corner retablo is dedicated to a major saint. One of which is for San Nicholas de Tolentino, shows the Augustinian supersaint framed in solomonica columns and the celestial light as a star on his chest in act of saving the poor souls in purgatory.

Along the corridor are propped up paintings depicting important episodes in the lives of Augustinian saints. The earliest canvas were painted by Rafael Enriquez, Sr. who became the first dean of the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts in 1909 and Augusto Fuster, who was a Spanish artist and photographer in the 1930s.

FROM COURTYARD TO CONCENTRATION CAMP.  The courtyard resembles certain Augustinian monasteries in Mexico, particularly the one on Yuriria, which dates from the 1550s. Through years of experimentation, the friar-architects from the other side of the Ring of Fire have applied the technology to buildings that can withstand natural calamities. Buttresses, a characteristic of Earthquake Baroque were applied in colonial churches to protect structures against earthquakes. This gives the cloister a fortress feel.

The San Agustin church and monastery was used as concentration camp in 1945. About 700 residents of Intramuros were rounded up and imprisoned within its cloisters. The prisoners drew water from the central fountain in the courtyard until it was contaminated. The slender ornamental palm tress were replacements of the ones cut down by the prisoners as firewood.

ANTIGUA SACRISTIA. The spacious hall called the Antigua Sacristia was once described as the most beautiful in the entire monastery.  It is dominated by a large retablo composed of several tiers of niches. It is said to be the first retablo of the church, carved by local craftman from San Pablo de los Montes in Laguna named Juan de los Santos. This Baroque retablo was installed in 1617, but deemed it too small for the church and relocated it in the old sacristy. The original fine ivory and wood santos did not survive the British looting and World War II. The santos presently displayed in the niches are from the Augustinian monastery in Cebu.

It was in this chamber where participants of religious processions were offered refreshments. Here too were prayed over the shrouded cadavers of members of the friar order before being interred in the church. When the church walls and ceiling were being painted by the Italian painter Albert Albergoni in 1875, the old sacristy served as temporary venue for masses. During the onset of the Liberation of Manila on February 1945, the fiesta of the Our Lady of Lourdes of the Capuchinos was celebrated in this hall.

FURNITURE IN THE OLD SACRISTY. The Antigua Sacristia was the original sacristy of the church. Here the priests prepared for the mass by washing his hands in the lavamanos or the elaborate marble washbasin with three faucets before vesting for the liturgical celebration. Vestments were kept in long chest of drawers called cajonerias. Each drawer was reserved for a different liturgical color; green for ordinary time, purple for Advent and Lent, white for Christmas and Easter, red for important feasts, and black, which was traditionally worn during mass of the dead or feast of the souls. The massive furniture in this room, including the intricately carved mirror frames were commissioned by the Agustinian Prior Fray Dionisio Suarez in years 1653 and 1674.

Flanking the great doorway at the far end of the hall are two huge cabinets which kept vestments and utensils. The doors are embellished with various floral carvings and double-headed eagle keyhole. For fear of being raped by the Japanese empowered two your girls to scale the cabinets and hide there. On the arch above the doorway is a distinct mural in red and black. They are interpretations of local artisan copied from interlacing strap work patterns that decorated prayer books and missals from Mexico and Europe.

ECCLESIASTICAL MUSEUM. The Antigua Sacristia has a display of church vessels, furniture and other mementos connected with San Agustin Church through centuries.

In the collection is a pair of 18th century vinajeras or cruets for holy water and wine in a platillo, a silver portapaz that was ceremoniously kissed during the Peace be with you part of the mass, a 17th century silver cofre or box used to possibly hold a reliquary and a custodia or monstrance, where the Blessed Sacrament is enshrined during high veneration.

ANTESACRISTIA IVORY COLLECTION. Beyond the arch doorway of the Antigua Sacristia is the Antesacristia. In much earlier times, it functioned as a trastera or a store room for the various church utensils and paraphernalia. This hall also witnessed the drafting of the terms of surrender of Manila to the Americans by Governor-General Fermin Juadenes. The antesacristia  also has become to be known as the Sala de la Capitulacion. During the Liberation of Manila in February 1945, the Japanese enemy raped and murdered their captives. It was said that the steps of the spiral staircase, caracol leading to the upper floors of the monastery was stained with blood of the victims.

The Antesacristia holds the ivory collection of the museum. The craft of carving of ivory, known as among Tagalogs as garing has been totally banned today because the illegal of ivory trade endangered wildlife. The slight curve posture of ivory statuettes such as in the corpus of the the crucifix on display was due to the natural curve of elephant’s tusks. During the Spanish times, elephant tusks were obtained from Africa and India through trades with China. Native craftsmen honed carving skills by working closely with Chinese artisans.

SALA DE PROFUNDIS. On the west wing of the cloister is the anterefectory called the Sala de Profundis or the Pantheon. Pantion, has become the the Filipino word for graveyard. This room was converted into a crypt for the Augustinians and later for Filipino families where members of the order converged  to says grace before and after meals.

The monument in the center was erected in memory of the victims of atrocities during the Battle of Manila in 1945. On 18 February 1945, 140 Spanish civilian males were marched off from the concentration camp in San Agustin, amidst the pleading and cries of the women and children. Among the 140 were 15 Augustinians, 10 Franciscans, 6 Augustinian Recollects, and 6 Capuchins. They were crowded in the ruins of the Palacio del Gobernador and grenades were thrown into the dens. Only an Augustinian and two Franciscans survived to narrate their horrifying ordeal.

MANILA PANTHEON. Just like the Pantheon in Rome, entombed in the crypt are the remains of the scions of Manila families such as the Ayalas, Paternos, Pardo de Taveras, Zobels, the nationalist historian Teodoro Agoncillo and his wife and the Luna Brothers.

Before interred in niche number 73, Juna Luna’s remains underwent an extraordinary odyssey. Following his death in HongKong in 1899, his cremated ashes were brought to Manila from a pail on which his son, the famous architect, Andres Luna de San Pedro kept under his bed. Luna’s ashes were later transferred to its final resting place in the Sala de Profundis.

REFECTORIO. After prayers in the Sala de Profundis, members of the community proceeded for meals at the Refectorio. By the entrance to left are the remains of the a stone washbasin and across it are the stone steps called the castigo de la piedra, where errant friar knelt, facing the wall while they their meal.

Similar to the murals in the Antigua Sacristia were the painted design in red and black on the barrel vaulted ceiling that form monograms of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Dating to the 17th century, the murals were copied by a local artisan from the swags, festoons, ribbons, and cartouches which framed early maps and cover of books. At the very back of the room is a massive retablo that form an assemblage of 18th century wood carvings and church antique wood from the collection of Don Luis Ma. Araneta.

LUIS MA. ARANETA CABINET OF CURIOSITIES. The old refectory houses the Don Luis Ma. Araneta collection of Philippine religious artifacts. The architect and Filipinologist started collecting in earnest after the war and some of his earliest finds were finely-carved santos and old paintings. In many instances, the town parishioners would offer their church and heirloom santos to Don Luis in exchange for roofing for their church or cement for their walls. The collection includes intricately carved wood relleves from Pakil, Mabitac and Morong, carved santos in wood and in ivory and paintings signed by Liberto Gatchalian in 1850 and Pampangan master craftsman Simon Flores.

Also an amazing part of the Don Luis cabinet of curiosities is the Calvary scene painstakingly formed in glass bottles. Tradition has it that this folk art began in 20th century by Bilibid prisoners as part of their rehabilitation while serving jail sentence.

GRAN ESCALERA. The cinematic grand staircase brought to mind the Three Musketeers and Hogwarts School of Wizardry. The gran escalera has forty-four pieces of piedra china cut stones leads up to the second floor of the monastery. Contrary to popular belief that the piedra china were used as counterweight on Chinese trade boats, these slabs were imported from Canton. In the years 1786 to 178, 2000 slabs were ordered. 44 were laid in the grand staircase, others were used to pave the sacristy and rest were brought to the different churches in the country.

Upon ascending the stairs, one is welcomed by a mellow atmosphere brought by the natural lighting filtered by the stained glass and capiz windows that open to the inner patio. In these second story corridors have walked the earliest religious orders of the Walled City.

LIFE IN THE MONASTERY. The rooms in the second floor functioned as classrooms and dormitories as early as 1590. It underwent massive reconstruction since it was severely damaged during the Liberation in 1945. When the monastery was opened as a museum, they were made into galleries to illustrate life in the monastery and exhibition spaces for more artifacts.

The hall to the right upon reaching the topmost floor from the gran escalera is a reconstruction of the Sala de San Pablo. This was the chapter hall where important meeting were held. The window in one corner of this hall opened to a pasadizo, a covered, overhead bridge with large windows that connects the monastery to the Casa Procuracion across the street. Next room is the Sala de San Agustin. This lengthy hall was divided into smaller spaces to serve as dormitories. In one corner is the celda prioral or the office of the Provincial Prior. The Prior was the head of the Augustinian community. A massive chest, engraved with the words Caxa de Obras Pias y Convento contained precious silver coins used for funding charitable projects.

BIBLIOTECA. In another corner of the second floor gallery is a reconstruction of the Biblioteca. The original library contained rare manuscripts and books brought to the country by the early Augustinians. Old photos show the books were kept in narra bookcases that are crowned by carvings that framed the names of Augustinian scholars. The gallery is enclosed in glass and has a display of representative title pages of works by Augustinians, including the classic Flora de Filipinas by the botanist Fray Manuel Blanco.

The first edition of this classic appeared in 1835 but was criticized for lack of illustrations. On a later editions, artists and illustrators were commissioned. Two versions of Flora de Filipinas were published at the same time, a colored set was printed in Barcelona while a black and white version was printed in Manila. This six huge volumes of text that came with lithographs detailed the plant life of the entire archipelago.

MURDER OF FRAY SEPULVEDA. This chamber is a passage to the choirloft and sits directly under the bell tower. It served as a private chapel for the community. The grand Baroque retablo contained a stoup for holy water. The retablo was originally from the old side chapel in the main church. It was removed when the latter was dedicated to Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. In the central niche of the retablo is a crucifix which was brought by Fray Alonso de Mentrida in 1602. This crucifix was originally placed over the railings of the adjoining choirloft. It is said that the image on the cross extended its hand in absolution to a friar who, in the throes of death who did not receive the last rites.

August 1, 1617. Rector Provincial Fray Vicente Sepulveda was found murdered in the celda prioral. In an effort to catch the culprits who were suspected to be a member of the community, the corpse of the murdered Augustinian leader was laid out with its index finger pointed at whoever entered the antecoro from the corridor. The dead body was arranged in such manner to identify the perpetrator by feeling the heart of each friar who came in to kiss the dead provincial’s hand.  The guilty were identified, one escaped. Those captured were sentenced to death by hanging and were buried within the walls of the monastery.

CORO Y SILLERIA. Pass the gloomy antecoro into the dramatic splendor of the choirloft with its 68 ornately carved molave thrones or silleria and the magnificent lectern that supports cantorals. The seat in each individual silleria can be raised so that the occupant can stand without moving away when it is upturn. The Prior’s throne in the center is covered with a wooden canopy.

At the center of the floor is the facistol, an opulent lectern that holds the cantorals. It was commissioned by Fray Felix Trillo in 1734. It must have been carved by the Chinese artisans from the old Parian. The lower part of the facistol has carvings of Classical and Oriental allegorical figures. The shaft is borne by cherubs posing as caryatids. The pyramidal upper part of the facistol can be rotated to facilitate the changing chant books that were made of durable cowhide. The facistol is capped by a niche which used to have an image of the Immaculate Conception in ivory.

SAN AGUSTIN PIPE ORGAN. The first church pipe organ were made of wood and deteriorated in time. According to historic documents, wood used in the San Agustin organ were molave, narra, baticuling and tindalo. Tuba or coconut wine was used as glue.  Ivory was laid on the keyboard. The master builder of the pipe organ is unknown but is attributed to the Fray Diego Cera of the famous Las Piñas Bamboo Organ.

In the monastery have lived composers of church music. Most renowned Filipino composer was Marcelo Adonay from Pakil who spent his younger years in the San Agustin. He founded an orchestra that was to be the finest of its time.

EPILOGUE:  SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH. The choirloft is central to the monastic life and offers the best view in the entire church and monastery. From here, the richly Baroque interior of San Agustin Church and the splendid trompe l’oeil painted on the massive barrel vault ceiling glows forever in this theater of memory.

Published in: on March 2, 2020 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

San Mateo Artists Guild

ART TOWN IN THE VALLEY. The town of San Mateo, Rizal was established by Spanish missionaries in 1850 in the northern section of the Marikina Valley. Bordered by the foothills of the Sierra Madre in the east and gifted with a rich Hispanic traditions that honors its titular patroness the Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu, it is in this countryside setting that its homegrown artists found inspiration to create art.

Established artists that hailed from this farming town like the late Gene de Loyola and Ben-hur Villanueva have made a mark in our nation’s art history. The tradition continues with new generation of artists who are making their way into the contemporary art scene through the San Mateo Artists Guild. But before the artists guild was formed in 2018, there was already an active art community in San Mateo, Rizal through individual artistic pursuits.

ELLA HIPOLITO. Ella Hipolito who took fine arts in the College of the Holy Spirit have established herself as the ‘coffee artist’ who uses coffee as pigment in her paintings.

Her versatile style and mastery on different media earned her recent nominations as finalist to the Philippine Art Awards and Don Papa Rum Art Competition.

NOEL CATACUTAN. The modernist master Noel Catacutan is a well respected officer of national art organizations that provided support and recognition to students and community-based artists.

His paintings is a playful storytelling of Philippine folk life through pyramids, cones and cubes.

ELIEZAR DIMACULANGAN. Dabs of vivid colors on canvas by Eli Dimaculangan never runs out of fashion.

His romance with colors are reflected in his aquascapes and dancing schools of fish.

JUN MENDIOLA. Before Jun Mendiola painted idyllic and pastoral landscapes, he worked as resident artist for a popular gift store.

Today, his choice of subjects are simple but painted in crisp and incredible detail.

RALPH VILLALUZ. Ralph Villaluz is a tattoo artist whose body of works on canvas is a stark contrast to his skin art.

This artist is known for his simplified and delicate, overlapping plant forms and his use of tropical colors inspired by ornamental plants from his backyard garden. He experiments on morphing human forms with organicscapes that resulted to ethereal, surreal and magical images.

BADZ PALACIO. Badz Palacio is a sculptor who works on various figures using synthetic molds and resin.

The result of his experimentation is a cult of figurative forms that is brave and challenging traditional sculptural medium.

EPILOGUE: HIRAYA EXHIBIT. As part of nurturing the creative emergence of its member artists and their followers, the art guild in its second year stages Hiraya, a grand exhibit from February 24 to 29, 2020 on the 3rd level activity area of SM City San Mateo.

– In celebration of the National Arts Month 2020

Published in: on February 26, 2020 at 11:02 am  Leave a Comment