FEU Heritage Tour

FEU Heritage Tour

FEU GOOD MEN. Heritage tours take us far back in time. Old structures serve as our time machine. Our tour guides are like the Dr. Emmett Brown from the 90’s film Back to the Future. And we, tour participants were like Marty McFly who are excited to be transported to the past.

In our recent FEU Heritage Tour, Rence Chan and Martin Lopez were the Dr. Brown. Rence, an alumnus recall campus life and shared his knowledge on the plant life thriving on campus grounds. Martin, the university’s director on culture led us to every piece of artwork incorporated into the school’s Art Deco structure. And together with the FEU Guides, a group of student and alumni volunteers who gave tour participants a gracious welcome into their campus, they represent FEU’s good men and women.

FEU Heritage Tour Nicanor Reyes Building

FEU Heritage Tour gate

HERITAGE BUILDINGS. The FEU heritage tour takes us to the Art Deco decade. It was in 1939 when London-trained architect Pablo Antonio designed and built what we see today as the largest Art Deco architectural ensemble in the country. Antonio became National Artist for Architecture in 1976 and the building he designed for FEU were recognized as an important cultural and heritage structure by UNESCO in 2005.

Historically, the Japanese took over the Art Deco buildings during World War II. It became the headquarters of the notorious Kempetai. During the Liberation of Manila, the campus was occupied by the American forces. After the war, more building were put up with architecture and design following Antonio’s Art Deco.

FEU Heritage Tour iron gate

FEU Heritage Tour art deco stairs

ANTONIO’S ART DECO. Art Deco came to the Philippines a few years after its introduction to Europe in 1925. It was considered as a progressive and modern style in an era dominated by Neoclassical architecture for government and school buildings.

Antonio’s Art Deco, in the words of the late San Beda College rector, Fr. Bernardo Ma. Perez, OSB were marked by certain boldness, the play of planes and volumes and strong and dynamic movement. Antonio brought home with him an imported template of streamline shapes and curves evocative of steam ship liners. Seen in FEU buildings, are geometric patterns that form the concrete columns, the decorative grillwork and the stylized lettering at the end of staircase bannisters.

FEU Heritage Tour Quiapo plant

FEU Hertiage Tour Garden

OLD SWAMPLAND. The tour started at the vast campus quadrangle dotted by tropical trees and ornamental plants. Here, Rence pointed out that the school grew out of a swampland abundant with aquatic plants locally called kiapo.

The swampland was part of the old Manila district of Quiapo that took it’s name from the aquatic plant. As the new structures were built, new land filled the swamp. Today, a few river stones and some aquatic kiapo in the central pond serve as a reminder of the old swampland.

FEU Heritage Tour Manasala sculpture

FEU Heritage Tour Manasala mosaic

ENTENG BRONZE AND PIECES. Central to the quadrangle are cubistic human figures in bronze by National Artist Vicente Manansala. In canvas, Mang Enteng is famous for his overlapping planes known as Transparent Cubism. In this one-of-a-kind sculpture, the cubism master applied his trademark style by breaking human figures into planes and surface and arranging them into a tableau around the central flag pole.

Framed by trees is  a mosaic of the Our Lady of Fatima gracing the facade of the FEU chapel. This pieces of glass is another rare masterpiece by Manasala.

FEU Heritage Tour Botong Murals

FEU Hertiage Tour chapel

BOTONG MURALS. Martin led us up the FEU chapel. As we climb the steps, all we could do was gasp in awe at the cinematic mural of the Stations of the Cross by National Artist Carlos Botong Francisco. The Botong murlas are made of three massive panels, the two murals on both sides of the chapel that tell the story of the Via Crucis and a central panel by the altar depicting the Crucifixion.

At the Crucifixion panel, we immediately noticed the fading circles by the foot of the crucified Christ. Martin revealed that it originally meant to be the halo for the statue of the Our Lady of Fatima that was taken down to the side of the altar and replaced by the tabernacle.

FEU Heritage Tour Maximo Vicente

FEU Hertiage Tour Pieta

RELIGIOUS ART. The FEU chapel was designed in the 1950s following the International style by architect Felipe Mendoza. Religious icons of St. Jude, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Our Lady of Fatima were commissioned by the leading santero of the time, Maximo Vicente.

A Filipinized version of Michaelangelo’s La Pieta by National Artist Napoleon Abueva has an exclusive space inside this sacred ground for religious art.

FEU Heritage Tour Nick Joaquin

FEU Heritage Tour Nick Joaquin typewritter

NICK JOAQUIN’S MEDALLION. Important of all the FEU buildings is the Nicanor Reyes Hall. This is the second building designed by Pablo Antonio after the first building was demolished to give way to the road development on Quezon Boulevard. Named after the school’s founder, it houses a library of antique books and a permanent exhibit dedicated to Nick Joaquin. The exhibit shows all sorts of memorabilia, books, a typewriter with an unfinished draft for a prose and lots of photos of the National Artist for Literature.

One of the photos shows Nick Joaquin wearing the National Artist medallion. As a devotee of La Naval de Manila, it is said that Nick offered the chain of gold-plated bronze to the Virgin. I have yet to see the treasures of the La Naval and confirm the story about Nick Joaquin’s medallion.

FEU Heritage Tour Admin Building

FEU Heritage Tour Dumlao stained glass

THE FIRST CCP. The Administration Building houses the FEU Auditorium. Before National Artist Leandro Locsin built the Cultural Center of the Philippines on a reclaimed land in Roxas Boulevard, Pablo Antonio’s FEU Auditorium is as considered the country’s cultural center. It played host to performances from ballet to orchestra concerts. It has a revolving stage like the one we saw in Les Miserable.

The Administration Building is also home to a huge mural and a triptych made of beer bottles by the great Antonio Dumlao. A contemporary of National Artist Vicente Manasala and H.R. Ocampo, Dumlao was entrusted to do the restoration work on Juan Luna’s Spoliarium when the large painting was shipped from Spain to Manila in the 1960s.

FEU Heritage Tour Board room

FEU Heritage Tour Founder's table

FOUNDER’S KEEPERS. The Administration Building has an exhibit dedicated to the university’s former presidents and to its founder. In the exhibit are photos, the founder’s typewriter, including the founder’s desk. Made of heavy kamagong, the huge table was carted away by the Japanese invaders and was later retrieved after the war. There is also a bronze mace depicting a sarimanok designed by artist Galo Ocampo. The ceremonial mace is the symbol of authority of the university president.

EPILOGUE. While in front of the portrait of Dr. Nicanor Reyes by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo, Martin narrated a story that took us to February 9, 1945 at Reyes home in Malate. In Martin’s voice: As the Japanese began a systematic exit of the city by going from house to house, killing anyone they found. It was too late for the Reyes family to escape. Before he was led away, the President in all dignity said to his daughter, Be brave. ‘Be brave’ were the founder’s last words before he died in the hands of the enemy. This legacy is carried on to this day by FEU’s good men and women.

-Eve of Philippine Independence Day 2015

Published in: on June 11, 2015 at 12:00 am  Comments (6)  

Aljo Pingol

Aljo Pingol

OPEN STUDIO. It’s always a privilege to enter an artist’s studio. Art books on a corner shelf give clues about their influences. Photo albums containing mini-prints of the their previous works and scrap books containing invitations and news clippings of their past shows tell stories about their artistic journey.

As the artist speaks animatedly about every unfinished and yet unsigned artwork in the studio, we are drawn to their openness for sharing the creative process behind their coveted masterpieces. This openness is particularly vibrant in artist Alexander JorgeAljo’ Pingol.

Aljo Pingol studio

A RELIC FROM CUBAO. One Saturday we met Aljo and his family in Valenzuela City. We brought with us the table top from Joaquin’s study table where Aljo agreed to paint his art on it. After lunch, Aljo led us to his art studio located across his family home.

Even before entering the studio, Aljo’s interest in things that tell stories about our local culture is obvious. Inspired by the Ifugao tradition of displaying animal skeleton on houses, the carabao skull near the studio’s entrance was recently acquired from Farmer’s market. According to Aljo, it took three months for the relic from Cubao to completely dry under the sun before it ended up greeting visitors entering his studio.

Aljo Pingol UST

Aljo Pingol studio visit

ARTISTIC ZONE. Music from the opera Cyrano de Belgerac fills the spacious studio. This gives us clues how the artist sets his mood and to what music influences his creative process. Having this spacious studio was a dream come true for Aljo where he spends long hours listening to lively classical music while creating his art.

Neatly arranged inside the studio are paint brushes and art books stacked in a corner self. This is unexpected from a prolific contemporary painter like Aljo who admits that he feels uneasy when things are disorganized in his artistic zone.

Aljo Pingol valenzuela

PORTFOLIOS. Aljo showed us photo albums made thick by mini-prints of the his works as a Fine Arts student at the University of Sto. Tomas and photos of his recent works. He diligently documents his creations so that he can keep track of his development as an artist.

Aljo’s major influences in art were Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso. He admires the works Alfredo Esquillo and Ronald Ventura.

Aljo Pingol Sec. Ermita

Aljo Pingol art

TINTA AT KULAY. Aljo graduated college already supporting a growing family. He worked as a cartoon animator for Toonworks Animation House and accepted commission portraits. He did portraits for then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and champion swimmer Eric Buhain. His pen and ink were printed on textbooks while his paintings on canvas ended up in stylish homes.

Aljo went through the difficult stage in his career when he have to peddled his works. The late Mario Alcantara of Heritage Gallery introduced Aljo to the local gallery scene. In Aljo’s voice: Nabuhay kami ng pamilya ko sa tinta at kulay.

Aljo Pingol table

Aljo Pingol artist

ANG PINGOL. In one occasion, actor Joey De Leon, known for having a massive collection of Ang Kiukok paintings was attracted to Aljo’s artworks while at a mall-based gallery. In one of Aljo’s one-man shows, the actor and wife Eileen de Leon showed up revealing to Aljo that their home looks happier because the Pingol paintings that are displayed side-by-side with works of the National Artist.

In Joey’s voice: Hindi lang Ang Kiukok meron kami. Meron din kaming Ang Pingol.

EPILOGUE. As Aljo speaks animatedly about his personal history, the condition he is going through and the kind of future he envisions, we are drawn to his openness in giving credit to the Divine Art Director as the source of his creative talent.

Aljo lets the radio playing as we leave the studio. The strong vibrato and melodious staccato from Cyrano de Belgerac opera spills outside the spacious art studio as if  a voice resonating from the Divine Art Director as the Giver of talents and the Maker all things beautiful.

Published in: on June 1, 2015 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Propaganda Art at the Lopez Museum

Propaganda Lopez Museum

COFFEE BREAK.  I need coffee. For someone like me who reads and writes then talks a lot and reads again, coffee is an elixir.  The effects of drinking coffee in me is perfectly described by the playwright Honoré de Balzac, who ingested powdered coffee on an empty stomach: ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages. Ha!

But one day, instead of having a coffee break at work, I walked into the Lopez Museum at Benpress Building to meet up with artist Joey Cobcobo. At the museum, Joey introduced me to Ricky Francisco, who happily toured us around the Propaganda exhibit that he co-curated with Ethel Villafranca.

Propaganda is a gathering of available artworks and different media from the collection of the Lopez Museum and Library that has been selected for the exhibit because they demonstrate how propaganda art impacts the development of a nation and its history.

Lopez Museum Luna flower vendors

Lopez Museum Luna

A WORLD THAT LOVES THE UNDERDOGS. On exhibit is an 1885 painting of Juan Luna depicting a flower shop with vendors arranging flowers for the state funeral of the well-loved writer Victor Hugo. Hugo was the author of Les Miserables, a novel that criticized justice and morality in France. Ricky pointed out Luna’s use of common people as the main subjects in his works and the double-meaning imagery in his art.

During the Spanish period, the use of double-meaning imagery in art is common. This practice is seen in Juan Luna’s Spoliarium and Felix Hidalgo’s Virgenes Christianas. Double-meaning imagery was interpreted by the likes of Dr. Jose Rizal who compared the scene in the Spoliarium and the image of Christian virgins to be like the Philippines. Both artworks won international awards because of their effective use of chiaroscuro, the creative rendering of Classical human figures and the composition of common people or the underdogs like the fallen gladiators and female slaves as main subjects.

Lopez Museum Bustamante studies

Lopez Museum Hidalgo studies

BUSTAMANTE STUDIES. While Luna is known for his bolder and more spontaneous style, Hidalgo maintained a conservative and more subtle approach in his works, except for the painting El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante, which tells the story how a group of angry friars violently murdered Governor General Fernando Bustamante y Bustillo in 1719.

The painting, said to be commissioned by Antonio Ma. Regindor, a mason and an anti-cleric is permanently displayed at the National Museum. Study drawings for the Assassination of Bustamante painting is on exhibit at the Lopez Museum.

Lopez Museum Don Salubayba

Lopez Museum Santi Bose

PASSION AND REVOLUTION. For so much of the 300 years of Spanish rule, the use of imagery through religious art and print media in forms of prayer books (Doctrina Christiana)and books on conduct (Urbana at Feliza) became instrumental in spreading Christianity and Western way of life into our consciousness and political systems. Filipinos during the colonial period expressed passion for their religion and demonstrated their passiveness to the ways of the colonizers. This passiveness is alluded in the painting Abyssmal Abound: Trinity of Passiveness by the late CCP 13 Artists Awardee Don Salubayba. 

Realizing the power of print media, enlightened Filipinos like Dr. Jose Rizal published important novels, Noli and Fili.  The novels and the execution of its author ignited hate against Spain, which eventually led to a series of revolution organized by Andres Bonifacio’s Katipunan.  A recreation of Santiago Bose’s 1983 installation Pasyon at Rebolusyon brings us to the Katipunan initiation rites has been reinstalled by artist Kawayan de Guia for the Propaganda exhibit.

Lopez Museum BenCab

Lopez Museum BenCab Letters

BENCAB TIME MACHINE. Taking us back in time through art are works of National Artist Ben Cabrera. On exhibit at the Lopez Museum Library are BenCab’s painting that are based from old 19th century photographs like women in baro’t saya and men in rayadillo, standard uniform of Gen. Aguinaldo’s army designed by Juan Luna. These historical allusions are attempts to create resonance between our past to our present political and social condition.

Taking us to BenCab’s thoughts are correspondences and doodles also on display at the museum’s library.

Lopez Museum Felix Hidalgo

PER PACEM ET LIBERTATEM. The Americans came at the height of President Aguinaldo’s Revolution. Aside from physically crushing native resistance in the Philippine-American War, US colonial strategy was focused on dominating ideology and culture through the implementation of public school system. In the world visual arts there was high demand for illustrations on text books and propaganda art.

Felix Hidalgo was commissioned by the US government to paint Par Pacem at Libertatem that shows Madre Filipinas represented by woman in mourning holding a bolo pointing downward and offering an olive branch to a Joan of Arc-like character in American Stars and Stripes. On exhibit is an 18 x 24 study. The original painting was blasted away during World War II.

Lopez Museum Burning of the Intendencia

AMORSOLO’S BURNING OF INTENDENCIA.  The Americans as the new art patrons favored idyllic, sun-drenched pastoral landscapes. Fernando Amorsolo was the prolific painter for this genre.  However, in 1942 he painted the Burning of the Intendencia to capture the attack of the Japanese to then US-governed Philippines.

According to Ricky, patrons asked Amorsolo to make versions of this painting after the war.

Lopez Museum Japanese poster

Lopez Museum WW2 poster

WAR PROPAGANDA. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the US declared war against Imperial Japan. The Philippines became a battle ground of the two colonizers.

Rare vintage Japanese and American World War II posters from the Lopez Museum archive demonstrate the use of imagery in instilling fear and surrender, bravery and patriotism.

Alvarado

Lopez Museum Nune

PROTEST ART. Social Realism is an art movement that took the lead with the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.

The curators of the Propaganda exhibit commissioned Nunelucio Alvarado to install individual drawings and prints of his past works into a collage entitled Rompagon Ang Mga Sakon. Nune is an outstanding artist of protest art. For one, he was a political detainee during the Martial Law and can tell endless stories about the dark years in our history through his figurative expressionism.

Lopez Museum Angel Cacnio

Lopez Museum Galicano

PEOPLE POWER ART. The assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and the fraudulent elections became a catalyst to the staging of the 1986 People Power Revolution. This historic event is captured on canvas by Angel Cacnio.

Similar theme but this time a satirical realism criticizing the controversial 2009 National Artist awardees is Romulo Galicano’s Siete de Agosto: Allegory of a Farce. In August 7, 2009, the art community staged a protest against the intervention of President Gloria Arroyo in the National Artist Award.

Joey Cobcobo installation at the Lopez Museum

Lopez Museum Cobcobo bakya wood blocks

TAHANANG MAY HAGDANAN. Art installation by CCP 13 artist awardee Joey Cobcobo is composed of unexpected objects sourced from the community he volunteered to take care. Piercing through the ceiling are wood ladders as if a chandelier came from three different households. Below are flights of stairs with a map of Mandaluyong City given by the city mayor to the artist echoes the España y Filipinas painting of Juan Luna as a symbol of partnership towards a progressive future.

Pre-etched bakya served as stamps where spectators are encouraged to make stamps using the bakya as sign of commitment in the helping communities as Joey did.

Lopez Museum Joey Cobcobo

Lopez Museum Joey Cobcobo art

VOTE WISELY.  A portion of the installation by Joey Cobcobo is a huge drawing of a pregnant 20-year old model and the rice terraces in the background. The drawing is made entirely of finger prints from the artist, an act similar to how this nation elect their leaders.

EPILOGUE. The scope of artworks in the Propaganda exhibit at the Lopez Museum crystallizes the hegemonic role of art in shaping the collective memory of our nation. Whether the message is about truth, fantasy, or mere subtleties, propaganda art has proven its potency in swaying society and the course of our history.

So there, as I walk back to the office from my ‘coffee break’ at the Lopez Museum, I was on natural high as if I had shots of espresso. I imagined myself to be Victor Hugo’s character Enjolras, waving the Philippine flag while singing this excerpt from the musical Les Miserables:

Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of angry men.
It is the music of the people who will not be slaves again…

-Araw ng Watawat
28 May -12 June 2015

Published in: on May 28, 2015 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sulyap Gallery Cafe

Sulyap Gallery and Cafe

CHANGING ADDRESS. Search for the image of Bayanihan in the Internet and be surprised how a group of able-bodied men carry an entire house on their backs and shoulders. In the olden days, all that’s needed to change address, the entire house included are neighbors and friends.

Is this concept of bayanihan applies the same to the practice of uprooting ancestral houses including its furniture from their historic locations and native communities? Assuming arguendo that this practice violates our heritage preservation law, let’s look at the museum artifacts and the transplanted bahay-na-bato in the compound of Sulyap Gallery Cafe and Restaurant and weigh in on the subject of heritage preservation versus the removal and rebuilding of old structures and the collecting of antiques and cultural artifacts.

Sulyap Casa Alitagtag

Sulyap Resto

TRANSPLANTING HERITAGE. Sulyap Gallery Cafe and Restaurant was borne out from the passion of its owner in collecting Philippine antique furniture and deteriorating ancestral houses. In a vast private compound in San Pablo City, he opened his ‘collection’ to the public so that new generations can experience sitting on antique furniture while dining in an ancestral bahay-na-bato just like how it were in the past.

This practice of acquiring antiques, transplanting ancestral houses and clustering them in a venue where the public is encouraged to interact with objects from the past is in a way providing a sanctuary that preserves our cultural patrimony and architectural heritage away from the bonfires of progress.

Sulyap Casa Obando

Sulyap Obando house

HACIENDA HOUSE. Casa de Obando must have been a bahay-na-bato that once stood in the middle of a vast plantation that has now turned into a residential subdivision in Bulacan. It has details of a house meant for tropical conditions. It is  surrounded by capiz sliding windows that can be opened wide for ventilation and to see full vistas. Screened with balusters are small shuttered windows below the capiz windows called ventanillas. Extended eaves and media aguas above the windows shields the interior against the rain.

Guests to Sulyap Cafe can rent out the entire Casa de Obando to experience what is like living in a hacienda house in the olden days.

Sulyap

Sulyap Caida

CASA DE CABAY. The 1907 house from the town of Cabay in Quezon Province has stone walls on the ground floor and an all-wood second floor. The wide windows are embellished with stained glass and wood tracery patterns.

Period furniture completes the old world setting of Casa de Cabay where guests are served with comfort food that makes us nostalgic for those weekend lunches in grandma’s home.

Sulyap Museum

Sulyap Gallery Museum

THAT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM. Also within the Sulyap Gallery Cafe compound is a private museum that houses a massive collection of Philippine antiques. The museum is open for public viewing. The museum artifacts ranging from farm implements to household furniture are spilled in different rooms at no particular theme or classification.

Ultimately, this private collection of antiques and artifacts is an interpretation of the famous line from Indiana Jones: ‘that belongs in a museum!’

EPILOGUE.  While I strongly disagree with the removal of heritage structures from their historic locations and native communities like how a beach resort in Bataan has done it, I admire those individuals who spent time and resources to preserve, restore and made tremendous effort in providing shelter and care to tangible pieces of our heritage.

In this day and age when the past is sometimes forgotten, putting up museum that gives us a Sulyap -a glimpse to our past is in essence a demonstration of bayanihan for the sake of heritage preservation.

-Heritage Month | Penticost Sunday 2015

Published in: on May 24, 2015 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ral Arrogante

Ral Arrogante studio

The earth is revolving and all things broken will always transform into something good.

This statement is from a text message sent to me by artist Ral Arrogante after exchanging personal stories about life and relationships one afternoon in his studio.

Ral Arrogante bangka

Ral Arrogante works

When pieces of junk shop-finds like copper wires, aluminum sheets, parts of broken gadgets get into the hands of Ral, they are transformed into works of art whose images and themes have become the artist’s trademark in the local art world.

Fashioned from aluminum sheets and copper wires are miniature Badjao houses on stilts, house boats, food carts on wheels, dragonflies and beetles.

Ral Arrogante

Ral Arrogante scrap copper

These imaginative creations that were put together from non-traditional medium for sculpture are just some of Ral’s favorites subjects and of those who admire his meticulous works.

Like his favorite medium, Ral took different corporate jobs after college that have no relation to his art before becoming a full-time artist at age 42. Today he is a respected artist who leads the Society of Philippine Sculptors and an active leader of the Art Association of the Philippines.

Ral Arrogante Don Quixote

Ral Arrogante Chinese junk rig

Ral’s workshop is located in three rooms of a multi-level parking space where he stores his junk shop finds side-by-side with his coveted creations. In one room, Ral showed us a Chinese junk with delicate sails made of copper sheets and a food cart on wheels made of recycled aluminum sheet used for printing broadsheets.

Ral thoughtfully works on copper and brass to fit his art because they don’t rust.

Ral Arrogante

Ral Arrogante fish

While the paint brush is for a painter, the chisel is for a wood sculptor, pliers, hammers, and scissors that come in different sizes and purpose are Ral’s main tools. In all his works, he uses his hands in twisting and bending copper and aluminum sheets, stitching pieces tight together using copper wires.

Attached in every artwork is a thin copper sheet where he assigns a number stamp to track his works and engraves his signature.

Ral Arrogante artworks

Ral started doing art as a kid. He created his first assemblage out of discarded objects he finds at home.

In another text message he said: I see myself in Joaquin, wanting to play with things that adults may not necessarily understand. Thanks again. -Ral

-Eve of the Divine Mercy Sunday | Eastertide 2015

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