In 2010, the Congressional Spouses launched “Art @ Congress”, at the Batasang Pambansa. Done in coordination with Art Gallery Manila, the exhibition is aimed to raise awareness of Philippine creativity among government officials and the visiting public. The exhibition continues to run, up to this day, and a portion of the sales of any artwork goes to programs of the Philippine Congress, for the marginalized sectors of society.
Here are some artworks of the masters that I have documented during my last visit to the Batasang Pambansa:
Federico Aguilar Alcuaz (1932-2011) took up law at the Ateneo de Manila, then decided to pursue the arts at the University of the Philippines, and later on at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. For a while, Alcuaz would stay in Germany, Spain and Czechoslovakia; yet he would still return to the Philippines and participate in group exhibitions. First known for his tapestries and abstract work, Alcuaz would later show impressionistic figurative works that created a whole new romantic dimension to his art. As a student, Alcuaz was already winning several painting competitions, he would later win international competitions such as the 1st Prize of Montcada Award Barcelona (1957); the Francisco Goya Award in Cercle Maillol Barcelona (1958); and the 2nd Prize Prix Vancell in the 4th Biennial of Terrassa of Barcelona (1964).For his accomplishments, Alcuaz was honored the Decoration of Arts, Letters and Sciences by the French Government in 1964, the Order of the French Genius also in 1964, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award of the Philippines in 1965, the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila in 1966, and National Artist of the Philippines in 2009.
Ang Kiukok ( 洪救國) was born as Ang Hwa Shing (1931-2005), to a family of Chinese immigrants in Davao City. His often violent works are a interweaving of cubist, expressionist and surrealist styles. A graduate of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Ang Kuikok originally had foregone the artistic life, in exchange of teaching English to the children of Chinese expatriates. After winning many painting competitions, Ang Kuikok was awarded the Outstanding Overseas Chinese in Art (1961), the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila (1976), the Outstanding Alumnus award by the UST (1978), and finally the National Artist for Painting (2001).
Angelito Antonio (1939) was born in Bulacan; and he started as a cubist painter, whose evolution in art is now moving towards abstraction. He married his colleague Norma Belleza, and has three children with her. His painting “Dying Bird” has been considered as a masterpiece of Philippine painting, by the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas. In 1970, he was granted the Thirteen Artist Award by the CCP.
Jose Villones Blanco (1932-2008) is a representational painter, from the artists’ town of Angono. Although Blanco had a granduncle who was a 19th century religious painter, Pedro Piñon, there were no other relatives who had an inclination towards the arts. Blanco took his collegiate studies at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and soon started working in advertising. In 1971, Blanco left the design world, and started painting full time, and held his first solo exhibition at Manila Hilton Art Center. Blanco took inspiration from his hometown, and painted large canvasses of provincial life, from fluvial parades to historical events. Although he may have not received many accolades in his life, Blanco’s works have been exhibited all around the world, and has many collectors in the USA and Europe. Blanco married Loreto Perez, and their seven children all became prolific artists themselves, and founding the “Blanco Family of Artists” with a museum of their works in Angono. Blanco is also called by his folkname “Pitok Bunggan”, as the Buggan is a local fish that has also become the symbol of the family.
Arturo Rogerio Dimayuga J. Luz (1926) was born in Manila; and he was a Neo Realist, whose abstracted works gave a play to everyday objects and scenes. His Luz Gallery has helped launch the next generations of artists. Arturo has held many important positions in the world of art, such as president of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) in 1952, executive director of the Design Center of the Philippines (1973-1987), director, Metropolitan Museum of Manila (1976-1986), and director of Museum of Philippine Art (1977-1985). Luz represented the Philippines in various exhibitions abroad, including the Arte de America y España in Europe in 1963, Sao Paolo Biennale in 1974, the Tokyo International Print Biennale in 1974, and the eighth British International Print Biennale in 1984. Aside from local and international exhibitions, Arturo also received accolades such as the Republic Cultural Heritage Award for Painting (1966), the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award for Painting (1980), the Order of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government (1978), the Gawad CCP para sa Sining (1989), and the National Artist for Visual Art in 1997.
Galo B. Ocampo (1913-1985) is a painter, sculptor, scenographer, writer, educator, columnist, museum curator, and cultural-activist from the province of Pampanga. Ocampo took his formal art training at the University of the Philippines (U.P.), and he would be later study heraldry and become a member of the International Institute of Genealogy and Heraldry in Madrid. Later on, Ocampo would go to Rome, and study Liturgical Art at the Instituto Internasionale de Arte Liturgica. As a painter, Ocampo is known as part of the triumvirate of the first modernists in the 1930s with Victorio Edades (1895 -1985) and Carlos “Botong” Francisco (1914-1969). During World War II (1938-1945), Ocampo was a captain in the guerrilla movement against the Japanese, and would lead in intelligence gathering. As a cover, Ocampo would create stage backdrops for the actor/director Allan Fernando Reyes Poe Sr. (1916-1951) and his Associated Artists group. During the term of Pres. Diosdado Macapagal (1961-1965), Ocampo served as curator of the Presidential Museum of Malacañang, later on as director of the National Museum, and served as a Secretary of the Philippine Heraldry Committee which helped to design various seals of the different cities, municipalities, and provinces around the country. In the 1960s, Ocampo started teaching at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and at the Far Eastern University (FEU), where he became head of the Department of Fine Arts in 1971. Although the symbolical painting “Brown Madonna” (1938) was a radical piece in its time, Ocampo moved on to more surreal imagery, with his flagellant themed collection embodied in “Ecce Homo” (Behold the Man), echoed his nightmares of the war. Occampo also worked with the American anthropologist, Robert Bradford Fox (1918–1985), in his work on the Tabon Caves in Palawan; which would be the inspiration of Ocampo’s first solo exhibition in 1973. Although Ocampo received the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila in 1964 and posthumously awarded the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Marangal na Pinuno in 2015, he was never honored as a National Artist, due to questions about his possible dual Filipino-American citizenship.
Luis Claudio “Onib” Velozeo Olmedo (1937-1996) was born in Manila; and he was a practicing architect, before he shifted to expressionistic painting. Olmedo graduated from the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT). Olmedo’s distorted figures were reflections of underlying pains in society, and were very influential to the young artists of the late 1980s. Aside from exhibiting and representing the Philippines in various international art events, Olmendo has been honored in 1991 with Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila, and the 1992 Thirteen Artists award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
Juvenal Gerrit Sanso (1929) is a Spaniard who born in Catalonia, but grew up in Manila. As a young boy, Sanso took informal painting lessons under Alejandro J. Celis (1899-1979), who encouraged him to pursue his art studies at the University of the Philippines (U.P.). There Sanso learned under the classical masters, such as Fernando Amorsolo, Dominador Castañeda, and Guillermo Tolentino. After U.P., Sanso continued his artistic education in Rome, and studied at the Regge Accademia di Belle Arti, the Academia della Madaglia, and the Circolo Artistico. Later on, Sanso went on to Paris, and took classes at the L’Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts. Sanso returned to the Philippines, and developed a painting style he has labeled as “poetic surrealism”, which are muted images of nature, especially the ocean, inspired by his visits to San Dionisio, a fishing village in Parañaque. Exhibiting throughout the world, Sanso has keep two studios in Paris and in Manila.
Mauro Malang Santos (1928-2017)is a figurist painter, who first took art lessons under the genre master, Teodoro P. Buenaventura (1863- 1950). Malang took his formal art studies at the university of the Philippines (U.P.), but dropped out after one semester, and started working in the art department of the Manila Chronicle. At the newspaper, Malang apprenticed under the cartoonist Liborio “Gat“ Talag Gatbonton, and he was soon churning out his own comic strips, such as Kosme, the Cop, Retired, the country’s first English-language daily comic strip. In 1955, Malang, along with many noted cartoonists of that time, put up the Bughouse, a gallery that featured cartoons. By that time, Malang was also painting and had began to win several local competitions. And in 1966, Malang launched “Art for the Masses”, where printmaking allowed budding art collectors to afford artworks. Among Malang’s notable honors are the 1958 Award for Editorial Design by the Art Directors Guild of the Philippines, 1964 Artist of the Year by the Society of Philippine Illustrators and Cartoonists, the 1963 Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM Award), and the 1981 Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan by the City of Manila. In 1972, Malang was awarded a scholarship, and finally completed his formal studies at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, California. Malang married Mary San Pedro, whom they have four children, two of whom are painters— Stevesantos and Soler Santos.
Manuel “Weweng” Unidad Chua is a figurist painter from the artists’ town of Angono. Unidad is one of the founders of the Angono Artists Association, and has been a driving force in developing the talents of the youth in Angono.