1965-1985, during the regime of Pres. Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos, Sr. (1917-1989), the First Lady Imelda Romuáldez Marcos (born 1929) aggressively campaigned for the development of arts and culture, as request by her husband “to revive the national pride and curb national weaknesses”. Starting with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, which was completed in 1969, the First Lady continued forged on with more cultural centers such as the Folk Arts Theater (1974), Metropolitan Museum (1979), and the Manila Film Center (1982). Under Mrs. Marcos’ guidance, other government offices also became repositories of Philippine art, and the Commission on Audit (COA) Central Office Complex, along Commonwealth Avenue, was no different.
Completed in 1977, the COA complex is filled with artworks from the lobbies to the offices, with many pieces commissioned by Mrs. Marcos specifically for the COA. One of these pieces, from the 2nd floor lobby, is the multi-paneled bronze relief called “Bayan” by the National Artist for Sculpture, Napoleon Abueva. The artwork features different facets of Philippine culture, including panels dedicated to Philippine women, the kalesa (traditional horse-drawn cart), churches and religious festivals, marine life, the Filipino family, music and theater, industry, urbanization and the jeepney, and the labor force.
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.
Aside from Abueva’s masterpiece, there are still more artworks at the 2nd floor lobby. One of the paintings in display is Dimetrio Diego’s 1979 painting “Sayaw sa Ubando”. In this piece, Diego has already shed his somber tones to a more colorful palette, as he presents the ritual fertility dance of the town of Ubando, in the province of Bulacan.
Demetrio Diego (1909-1988) is an illustrator and painter, who is considered part of the first wave of modernism in Philippine art. Diego first took his arts studies at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) School of Fine Arts, but he had to drop out due to the lack of finances. Diego soon found employment as an illustration for newspapers such as the Tribune and Taliba, and he would later become the chief artist of Sunday Times Magazines from 1950s to the early 1970s. From 1964-1965, Diego served as president of the Society of Philippine Illustrators and Cartoonists in 1964-1965. In his paintings, Diego’s bold strokes and different coloring style made him stand out from the ruling style of Romantic Classicism of the American Occupation (1898-1946), which caught the eye of the modernist proponent, Victorio Edades, who invited Diego to be one of the Thirteen Moderns. Although his work as an illustrator took up most of his time, Diego has painted many artworks, with his 1948 painting of the prisoners of war during World War II, entitled “Capas” considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Philippine art.
The next work in the 2nd floor lobby is Edsel Moscoso’s 1979 painting of a typical Filipino family resting at home, entitled “Pahinga sa Sofa”.
Edsel “Totong” Hermoso Moscoso (1952-2008) is a painter for the province of Antique, whose works were described by Natioanl Artist for Literature, Nick Joaquin, as “Manscapes”. Moscoso graduated from the University of the Philippines (U.P.) School of Fine Arts, and continued his studies at the Center for the Study of Medieval Art and Culture through a scholarship from the Italian Government. He finished summa cum laude at the Pontifico Instituto di Archeologia Christiana in Rome. As a painter, Moscoso created a style of washed sepia images of Philippine life, amidst a contrasting colored background. In 1993, Moscoso was recognized by his home province, by honoring him with the Bugal kang Antique.
Another 2nd floor painting is Antonio Mahilum’s 1980 painting, “The Builders”. The painting shows Mahilum’s fine brushwork and attention to detail. But as an early work, Mahilum still uses dark tones, before he started incorporating a more colorful and light palette of his later paintings.
Antonio Mahilum (1948-2008) is a painter and illustrator, whose works are lighthearted colorful scenes of rural life. Originally from the town of Antipolo, Mahilum moved to Manila get better exposure for his work, only to return to his home town at the latter point of his life.
There are two more paintings at the 2nd floor lobby. The first is Oscar Salita‘s undated painting, “On the Way to the Market”, and the second is an undocumented artist’s work entitled “The Market Vendors”.
Oscar T. Salita (1943-2012) is an abstract painter who graduated from the University of Santo Tomas. First exposed to his paternal grandparents’ collection of paintings, in the Quiapo home he grew up in. Salita was later introduced to sculpture by a local santo maker, and he made his first carving at the age of 11. While studying at the UST, Salita would augment his allowance, by doing fashion illustrations for couturier Pedrito Legaspi of the Fashion Designers Guild of the Philippines. After graduating, Salita co-founded the Starving Artist Group, which participated in exhibits at the Contemporary Arts Gallery. Salita has also exhibited abroad, such as Daly City and Los Angeles in the United States of America, Hong Kong and Taipei.
Going up to the COA 3rd floor lobby, one is immediately greet by a large relief mural, by Napoleon Abueva. Possible done in black concrete, Abueva presents the story of “Lapu-lapu and the Death of Magellan”, with the Mactan chieftain standing bolding in the foreground, as his warriors chop down the Portuguese explorer and his Spanish men.
Another Abueva piece in the 3rd floor lobby is the “Kodigo ni Kalantiaw: Artikulo Uno” (The Code of Kalantiaw: Article One), which is the set of 1433 laws written a fictional chieftain, Rajah Kalantiaw.
There are also three painting on display at the 3rd floor lobby, which are all undocumented and undated. The first painting features the old Spanish colonial (1523-1898) stone walls of the “Intramuros” in Manila. The second painting shows the traditional dance called “Pandanggo sa Ilaw” (Fandango of Light), and the last piece shows a maiden in traditional colonial clothing.
Climbing up to the COA 4th floor, there is another Napoleon Abueva masterpiece in black concrete. Entitled “The Katipunan Revolution”, the relief features the revolutionary hero, Andres Bonifacio, standing in the center of the artwork, as images of the Filipino’s suffering under the Spanish colonial rule and armed uprisings swirl around Bonifacio.
The is only one painting on display at the 4th floor, which is Benn A. Sabio‘s 1984 painting “Kalesa”.
Returning to the ground floor, there are a few more artworks that I was allowed to document. These are the paintings at the COA Public Information Office (PIO), in the north wing of the Mathay Hall. The first painting is Rey Zipagan‘s 1979 painting “The Fruit Vendor”.
Reynaldo “Rey” Garcia Zipagan is a classicist painter, who presently resides in Los Angeles, California.
The next painting is Nemiranda‘s 1980 paint of “Magkukuhol” or “The Snail Catchers”.
Nemiranda or Nemesio “Nemi” R. Miranda Jr. (1949) is a painter from the artists’ town of Angono, and is a graduate from the University of Santo Tomas (UST). As a student, Nemiranda would also take lessons from the Mabini artist, Miguel Galvez. Nemiranda’s style is a colorful portrayal of Philippine myths and rural life in a style he coins as “Imaginative Figutism”, and he has held over 50 solo exhibitions locally and internationally. Maintaining his base of operations in Angono, Nemiranda founded the Angono Ateliers Association in 1975 and the Rizal Artist Federation at Philippine Association of Figure Artists in 1986. Nemiranda continues to work side-by-side with local government officials to promote the arts and culture of his home town, and he has also served as the Chairman of the Angono Tourism Council.. Still in Angono, Nemiranda has put up establishments such as the Nemiranda Family Art Museum, Angono School for the Arts, the Nemiranda Art Café, and the Visual Art School Angono of the Rizal High School.
There are two more undocumented artworks in the PIO, with the first piece is a 1975 painting of “The Blood Compact” showing the ritual of bloodletting to join the Katipunan revolutionary movement. The second piece is a 1976 painting of musicians courting a country lass in the work “Harana”. The fact that many of these works are undocumented shows the sorry state that these artworks have befallen, after the Marcos had been ousted from power. In fact the staff of the PIO lament the damage of the artwork, including their prized caricature of “A Day in the COA” by noted cartoonist Larry Alcala, as previous attempts to preserve the artwork has caused further harm to it. That is why I hope that this documentation will bring interest in restoring and conserving these treasures.