At the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Diliman campus, there is a small road (Apacible Street) that bisects the Academic Oval from Roxas Avenue to Osmeña Avenue. In the middle of the road is the University Main Library, or the Gonzalez Hall. Designed and completed in 1950 by Arch. Juan Nakpil, the library was named after Bienvenido M. Gonzalez, the 6th UP President.
Juan Felipe Nakpil (1899-1986) was the son, of the musician and composer, Julio Garcia Nakpil 1867 -1960) and Gregoria Álvarez de Jesús (1875 – 1943); who were known for their efforts during the Philippine Revolution (1896-1898). He initially took up engineering at the University of the Philippines, then he later studied architecture at the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts, in France. After working for several architectural firms, Nakpil eventually opening his own architectural firm in 1930. Nakpil’s most noted works are San Carlos Seminary, Iglesia ni Cristo Riverside Locale (Now F. Manalo, San Juan), Capitol Theater, Captain Pepe Building, Manila Jockey Club, Rufino Building, Philippine Village Hotel, the Quezon Hall and Gonzales Halls of the U.P., and the Rizal Shrine in Calamba, Laguna. Nakpil was given the honor of National Artist for Architecture in 1973.
Coming up the main steps of the library, one can spy a large bronze cast of the U.P. Seal, which was created by Napoleon Abueva. There are several works of Abueva that are found throughout the Gonzales Hall, and near there entrance is a concrete sculpture of Abueva’s “The Kiss”. Sadly, this artwork has just been propped at the side of the library entrance, with no one knowing the importance of such a piece.
Napoleón Isabelo “Billy” Veloso Abueva (1930-2018) studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, under National Artist, Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976), who was then the director of the school. Although trained in the classical style of sculpting, Abueva broke from its mold and began experimenting on modernist styles and techniques. Soon he became known as and Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. Aside from the many historical monuments that are found all over the Philippines, Abueva has also been commissioned to create sculptures around the world. In his youth, he was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award; which would herald more awards and distinctions in his life. He was proclaimed National Artist for Sculpture in 1976, making him the youngest recipient of this distinction. And just like his mentor, Abueva also served as dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts.
Another sculpture that seems to be lost in the planters, in front of the Gozales Hall, is Ildefonso Marcelo’s “The Challenge”. This piece is one of the five works in stone by Marcelo scattered around the university, with three of them standing along the University Avenue. These are” Captivity”, “Contemplation”, and the “Bathing Woman”.
Ildefonso Cruz Marcelo (1941-unknown) studied sculpture at the University of the Philippines in 1962, under Napoleon Abueva. Marcelo took further studies at the University of Hawaii and Pratt Institute, New York. Marcelo has created many works during the 1960s, and won several honors such as the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1961. However, there is very little known about his works after the mid-1960s.
The periphery of the library is also a hub of student activity, especially with the tambayan (hangouts) of several student organizations; with the most notable is the U.P. Mountaineers. Aside from the tambayan, there are several food kiosks that draw in the students to stay around the library. The most famous of these food stalls was the Beach House, which opened in 1986 at the back lot of the library. Renowned for its barbeque and other native dishes, the Beach House was a haven for every hungry U.P. student. However, its lease had expired, and the university demolished the structure.
Another important structure along the perimeter of the Gonzales Hall is the Bulwagan ng Dangal (Hall of Honor), a art gallery and museum of the library that opened in 2009. The Bulwagan ng Dangal is located at the south parking lot of the library, and houses artworks donated by many of the College of Fine Arts (CFA) alumni.
Entering the first floor of the Gonzales Hall, there is the north wing to your left and south wing to your right. These hold the main collection of the U.P. Library System, while the rest of the books on specialized studies are scattered throughout the college libraries. These halls are very spacious and breezy, even on a hot summer day, which is a testimony to the genius of Nakpil’s design. At the south wing, there is the library’s collection of notable commemorative paintings.
In the gallery of portraits of the Gonzales Hall’s first floor, there are two paintings made by the 1st National Artist, Fernando Amorsolo. The first is the portrait of Elpidio Rivera Quirino (1890-1956), made in 1953. Quirino served as the 6th President of the Philippine Republic, as was a graduate of the University of the Philippines. The second portrait is that of Alejandro Reyes Roces (1924 -2011), which was completed in 1963. Although Roces is most distinctly known as a National Artist for Literature, he worked as a columnist in Philippine dailies such as the Manila Chronicle and the Manila Times, as well as serving as the Secretary of Education under President Diosdado Macapagal. Other portraits of Amorsolo that are no longer displayed are his paintings of Murray S. Bartlett (1st U.P. President, 1911–1915) done in 1958, Rafael V. Palma (4th U.P. President, 1925–1933) done in 1958, Jorge Bocobo (5th U.P. President, 1934–1939) done in 1953, Bienvenido Ma. Gonzalez (6th U.P. President, 1939-1943 & 1945-1951) done in 1954, and Vidal A. Tan (8th U.P. President, 1951–1956) done in 1954.
Fernando Amorsolo y Cueto (1892-1972) is one of the most important artists in the history of painting in the Philippines. Fernando, along with his brother Pablo, lost his father at an early age; and they were “adopted” by their uncle Fabián de la Rosa. Born in Paco, Manila, Amorsolo earned a degree from the Liceo de Manila Art School in 1909, before entering the U.P. School of Fine Arts and graduating in its first batch in 1914. Amorsolo’s portrayal of the beautiful and dignified peasants of the Philippine countryside, as a form of silent nationalistic protest against the rapid adapting of American styles and attitudes among Filipinos in the city, and thus he was showing the true spirit of the Filipino was to be found in the provinces. He was declared the first National Artist, by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, in 1972. Amorsolo is also known for designing the label of the very popular gin, Ginebra San Miguel.
In the gallery of portraits, the next set of paintings are by Dr. Isaac Eustáquio. This first painting is of Trinidad Hermenegildo Pardo de Tavera y Gorricho (1857 -1925), which was completed in 1961. Trinidad Pardo de Tavera was a Spanish/Portuguese physician and historian, who aligned himself with the Philippine Reform Movement of the 1880s to 1890s, and had published many journals in medicine and Philippine linguistic history. The second portrait is of Carlos Peña Rómulo, (1899 – 1985), which was completed in 1962. Romulo was the 11th U.P. President (1962–1968), and was most noted for serving as the president of the Fourth Session of United Nations General Assembly (1949–1950) and Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 1952, as well as being honored as National Artist in Literature, in 1982. Other portraits by Eustaquio no longer on display are that of Ignacio B. Villamor (2nd U.P. President, 1915–1921) done in 1960, Reverend Dr. Guy Potter Wharton Benton (3rd U.P. President, 1921–1925) done in 1960, and Vicente G. Sinco (11th U.P. President, 1958–1962) done in 1958.
Dr. Isaac Eustáquio is a renowned physician, who is also as the first Filipino to earn a Public Health degree from Harvard University. Active in his native Marikina, he has been credited as a pioneer of public health programs for the city. He also actively joined painters, and used scenes of Marikina as themes for his landscapes.
The next painting in the library gallery is Carlos Valino Jr.’s 1966 portrait Rafael Palma y Velasquez (1874-1939). Palma was the 4th U.P. President (1925-1933), and senator.
Another Valino painting is the large mural of Gen. Gregorio Hilario del Pilar y Sempio (1875-1899) and Battle of Tirad Pass (December 2, 1899). The painting features the young revolutionary general leading his men against the 33rd Volunteer Infantry Regiment of American military. Although Del Pilar and his men perished in the fight, they were successful in delaying the American’s advancement, in their plan to capture the Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo.
Carlos Perez Valino Jr. (1930s-2008) is a noted classical painter of historical scenes, as well as his illustrations of various books and publications. Valino started teaching at the U.P. School of Fine arts in 1958, and even served as the College Secretary from 1965 to 1969. He retired from teaching in 1991, and continued his pursuits in painting and illustration, until his death in 2008.
There are several more portraits that have with unidentified artists, as well as portraits of U.P. presidents that are no longer displayed. Most likely these works are badly damaged by time, and have been put aside for a future restoration. One such piece is the National Artist, Vicente Manansala’s 1972 portrait of the 12th U.P. President, Salvador P. López (1969–1975).
There are more artworks to discover as one wanders around the Gonzalez Hall. The next series of articles will feature the artworks at the second floor, including the Judge Guillermo Guevara Collection, the third floor, basement, and the Bulwagan ng Dangal.