The Main Library at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Diliman campus is named after the 6th U.P. President, Bienvenido M. Gonzalez. Touring the first floor of the Gonzalez Hall, visitors are greeted by masterpieces by great artists such as Ildefonso Marcelo , Dr. Isaac Eustáquio and Carlos Perez Valino Jr.; as well as the works of National Artists Juan Nakpil, Fernando Amorsolo and Napoleon Abueva. With such a cornucopia of art, the 2nd floor is as much a treasure trove as the first.
Taking the stairs to the second floor, one is immediately greeted by an abstract untitled piece made of found objects, which was created by Napoleon Abueva. This is not only artwork of Abueva that can be found in the upper floors of the Gonzalez Hall, as more can be discovered in the 3rd floor.
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.
Reaching the second floor; visitors can avail of the services of the Microfilm Laboratory, the University Librarian’s Office, Administrative Services, Computer Services, Technical Services, Filipiniana Serials and Foreign Serials.
At the serials section, there are several artworks on display, including busts of Filipino national heroes. One such bust is that of Francisco Baltazar (born Francisco Balagtas y de la Cruz; 1788-1862) by the National Artist Guillermo Tolentino. Balagtas was a poet during the Spanish Colonial Period (1523-1898), whose works helped define Philippine literature. His most noted piece was the epic poem “Florante at Laura” (Florante and Laura), which he penned in 1838. The epic is still taken up by students, and its full title is “Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Laura at Florante sa Kahariang Albanya: Kinuha sa madlang “cuadro histórico” o pinturang nagsasabi sa mga nangyayari nang unang panahon sa Imperyo ng Gresya, at tinula ng isang matuwain sa bersong Tagalog” (The History of Florante and Laura in the Kingdom of Albania: Adapted from some ‘historical pictures’ or paintings that tell of what happened in early times in the Greek Empire, and were set to rhyme by one delighting in Tagalog verse).
Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890 -1976) is a classical sculptor who was named National Artist for the Visual Arts in 1973. Tolentino took his art studies at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, and later at the Ecole de Beux Arts. In 1926, he started teaching at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, and he would later be given the position of director. Tolentino sculpted the University of the Philippines’ most recognizable emblem, the “U.P. Oblation”, as well as the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan City. He was also awarded the UNESCO Cultural Award in Sculpture in 1959, Araw ng Maynila Award in Sculpture in 1963, Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1967, President’s Medal of Merit in 1973, and the Diwa ng Lahi Award in 1972, before given the highest honor as National Artist.
The next series of busts are all made by Anastacio Caedo, with the first featuring the Philippine National Hero, Dr. José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda (1861-1896). Dr. Rizal was a renaissance man; who was known as opthamologist, historian, poet, journalist, sculptor, playwright, caricaturist, painter, inventor, polyglot, botanist, and anthropologist. However, his greatest impact in Philippine history was being a driving force in the Reform and Propaganda movements that pushed for greater equality among the Indios (natives) and the Spanish. With his social commentary novels “Noli Me Tángere” and “El filibusterismo”, Rizal was condemned as a subversive and executed by firing squad.
The next bust by Caedo is that of Andrés Bonifacio y de Castro (1863-1897), the “Father of the Philippine Revolution”. Bonifacio was one of the founders of the Katipunan (Kataas-taasan, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan), which sought independence from the Spanish rule. However, he was betrayed and later executed by a faction within the movement.
The last of the busts by Caedo is that of Apolinario Mabini y Maranan (1864-1903), the first Prime Minister of the Philippine Republic. Mabini was wheelchair bound due to polio, but that didn’t stop him from his work in the Philippine Revolution against Spain and later America. Mabini’s two of his works, “El Verdadero Decalogo” (The True Decalogue, 1898), and “Programa Constitucional dela Republica Filipina” (The Constitutional Program of the Philippine Republic, 1898) became the basis in the drafting the Malolos Constitution.
Anastacio Tanchauco Caedo (1907-1990) graduated from U.P. School of Fine Arts; under the tutelage of National Artist, Guillermo E. Tolentino. During his apprenticeship under Tolentino, the two took to body building as a means to understand the human anataomy and strengthen their bodies for he very physical work of sculpture. This love for body building led Tolentino to fashion his opus “The Oblation” after Caedo’s physique. Later Caedo made name for himself by sculpting many religious works for the Jesuits at the Ateneo de Manila and busts of the National Hero Dr. José Rizal for many of the Philippine Embassies around the world. Caedo was nominated three times as a National Artist of the Philippines (in 1983, 1984, and 1986); which he turned down, to avoid the politics in the art world.
Aside from the busts, there is also al large mural of the day the Philippines was granted its independence by the United States of America, on July 4, 1946. Entitled “Inauguration of the Republic of the Philippines”, the painting was created by Dominador Castañeda, in 1957. The artwork features the scene of the American flag being lowered as the Philippine flag is hoisted up, at the Independence Grandstand (now the Quirino Grandstand). In the picture are President Sergio Osmeña and President-elect Manuel Roxas with General Douglas MacArthur.
Dominador Hilario Castañeda (1904-1967) graduated from the U.P. School of Fine Arts in 1924, and then he readily joined the modernist movement started by Victorio C. Edades (1895 -1985). Castañeda later took further studies at America to the Art Institute of Chicago. Upon his return, he joined the faculty o the U.P. School of Fine Arts, and became its director at a latter point in time. He was also a noted art historian, who wrote “Art in the Philippines” in 1964. Aside from the many awards he received from art competitions, Castañeda was also honored with the Patnubay Sining Award by the City of Manila, in 1971.
Another mural at the serials section echoes the same theme as the one found at the first floor; which is the 1939 “Tirad Pass ably defended by Gen. Gregorio del Pilar” by Ramon Peralta. The artwork imagines the young Gen. Gregorio Hilario del Pilar y Sempio (1875-1899) at the Battle of Tirad Pass (December 2, 1899). Here Del Pilar is shown on his horse as he awaits the oncoming American troops in pursuit of the Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo. Del Pilar and his men successfully hold back the 33rd Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Americans, and Aguinaldo escapes. However, Del Pilar also perishes in the encounter. This mural was first located at the U.P. Manila campus, before transferring it to the Diliman campus after World War II.
Ramón Resurrección Peralta (1877-1940) first took is art studies at the Escuela Superior de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado. As a student, Peralta won several local art competitions, which lead to his successful career as a scenographic painter. He started teaching at the Centro de Artistas, and then moved on to teach at the U.P. School of Fine Arts. Peralta had also garnered international awards, such as Bronze at the St. Louis Universal Exposition of 1904.
Another interesting collection of art can be found at the Judge Guillermo Guevara Room, which was inaugurated in 2012. The room features the collection of Judge Guillermo B. Guevara (1886-1980s), who is considered the founder of Philippine Modern Criminology. Guevara was also a businessman, who owned the Mabuhay Rubber Corporation, a shoe factory. He donated his collection to the University of the Philippines in 1976, but it was only recently when they were put on display. In this collection are writings, diaries, court papers, memorabilia, photographs and paintings.
One of the impressive features of the Guevara Collection are the paintings of the National Artist, Fernando Amorsolo. In fact, the first painting that greets the visitors is a large 1950 portrait of Judge Guevara by Amorsolo.
The next set of paintings by Amorsolo are historical works, with the first is a 1963 depiction of “Ang Wakas ni Magallanes” (The Death of Magellan). Here, the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães, 1480 -1521), meets his end at the hands of the natives of Mactan Island, as lead by their chieftain Lapu-Laupu.
The next historical painting presents the 1719 “Assassination of Governor Bustamante”, which Amorsolo completed in 1965. In this work, the Spanish Governor-General to the Philippines, Fernando Manuel de Bustillo Bustamante y Rueda (died 1719,) and his son are murdered by the supporters of Archbishop of Manila Francisco de la Cuesta (1661-1724). This stemmed from a long standing feud between the church and state, especially after Governor Bustamante had Archbishop De la Cuesta arrested for harboring enemies of the state at the Manila Cathedral. After Bustamante’s death, Archbishop De la Cuesta was released from jail and appointed as acting governor-general of the Philippines.
The last Amorsolo painting in the collection in a 1942 piece of a woman with her head held up, as she kneels before a fallen soldier. Later named “Bataan”, this was Amorsolo’s silent protest against the Japanese invaders of World War II, and the Fall of Bataan in April 1942. From January 7 to April 9, 1942, Filipino and American forces were consolidated along the peninsula of the Bataan province, as well as the island of Corregidor. After three months of intense fighting, both strongholds surrendered. This heralded the dominance of the Japanese Imperial Army throughout Southeast Asia.
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.
Walking through the halls of the U.P. Main Library, visitors do not just get to marvel at the beautiful masterpieces of 20th Century Philippine art, but they are also reminded of the heritage and history of the Filipino people. And with the third floor and the basement to explore, what new stories will we hear in this tour of the Gonzalez Hall?