The Our Lady of the Angels Seminary (OLAS) serves as a school for future Franciscan priests, as well as a spiritually guided educational institution for children from the district of Novaliches, in Quezon City. The OLAS started its classes in 1963, under the tutelage of the Franciscan friars of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM).
The OLAS Compound boasts an impressive collection of paintings, with both religious and secular themes. At the lobby of the main building of the OLAS, visitors are greeted by a large painting of the “Immaculate Conception”, which was painted by an unknown Franciscan priest, who donated the work to the OLAS, right after its founding in 1963. The portrayal of the Blessed Virgin Mary signifies the Franciscan devotion to her.
Within the other halls, there many paintings that depict St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), who was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone. The patron saint of animals, the environment, merchants, and the Philippine cities of Naga and Cebu, St. Francis has been an inspiration through his piety, sacrifice and wisdom. Most of the paintings are reproductions of famous works on St. Francis, and these paintings were created by Romeo Ruedas Monte, a self-taught Kapampangan artist, who has been practicing his craft since 1974, and he has been offering his services to many religious institutions. One of the first works of Monte, at the administration building, is his rendition of Cimabue’s 1280-1290 painting of St. Francis of Assisi, which is found at the Museo della Porziuncola, of the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, in Assisi, Italy. Born Cenni di Pepo (1240-1302), Cimabue is an Italian painter, who worked in Assisi during the pontificate of Pope Nicholas IV.
The next Monte painting is his 2005 translation of Giotto’s “Dream of Innocent III”, where Pope Innocent III’s dream of the salvation of the St. John Lateran Church prompted him to approve the Rule of St. Francis. Born Giotto di Bondone (1270-1337), Giotto is an Italian painter and architect, who executed this fresco as part of the 1290-1292 twenty-eight paintings, in “The Legend of St. Francis” cycle, found at the upper church of the Basilica di San Francesco, also in Assisi, Italy.
Another Franciscan painting by Monte is 2005 portrait of St Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), by a certain Tiberius of Assisi, in the late 1300s. Born Chiara Offreduccio, she was one of the first followers of St. Francis; and helped him found the Order of Poor Ladies, which is now called the Order of Saint Clare.
In light of the Franciscan influence in Philippine history, Monte paints the Cagsaua Church. Daraga, Bicol. This Franciscan church stood from 1724 until 1814, and would later be destroyed by the eruption of Mount Mayon, on February 1, 1814. The church was never rebuilt, and its ruins still stand as a testament to nature’s power.
The last religious painting of Monte, in the OLAS administration building, is his version of Titian‘s 1526 “The Entombment of Christ”. Born Tiziano Vecelli (1488-1576), Titian is an Italian painter during the Renaissance period, and he was originally commission to create this work for a noted Mantua noble, and the opus now resides at Musée du Louvre.
Whereas there are more religious painting of Romeo Monte, at the Arthur J. Schmitt and Eugene Cornock memorial halls, the rest of his works at the administrative build are more secular in nature. A large portion of his secular paintings revolve around images ancestral homes of the Spanish Occupation of the Philippines (1565-1896), such as those in the town of Vigan and Intramuros in Manila.
Romeo Ruedas Monte (born 1941) is a figurative painter from the province of Pampanga. Montes born in Camarines Norte, province of Bicol, and his family would transfer to Manila years later. His father, Francisco Sibulo Montes, was an architect who influenced him to take up architecture at the Manuel L. Quezon University, where he also excelled as an athlete; however he was unable to complete his studies after three years. After he dropped out, Montes started working in different jobs. During that period, he met and married Daisy Anne Gonzalez, daughter of the fames portraitist Felix Pinto Gonzalez. While living in the Gonzalez home in Pampanga, Monte was inspired to pick up the brush, and started painting with whatever material he could get his hands on, while learning from observing his father-in-law and brother-in-law’s techniques. He officially started his career as an artist in 1974, and soon was active in the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP), and later became president Angeles Artist Association. Monte would continue to painting in his studio in Pampanga, while exhibiting locally and internationally. He put up his own gallery and framing shop in Angeles city, where he would continue to nurture the next generation of Kapampangan artists. For a while, Monte would teach about art in the Columbia College in Olangapo City, as well as give art workshops all over the country. Monte has also been participative in many civic programs, and has been an active member of the Board of Directors of the Rotary Club of Angeles City North. Because of his growing network, Monte has also created many paintings for parishes from Bicol to Pampanga; and because of his outstanding community and artistic endeavors, he was awarded Lira Pampanguenña’s Outstanding Artist of the Year in 1978 and Outstanding Business Executive of the Year in 1983.
Aside from Monte, there are other artists who have also donated works to the OLAS, and themes are also secular in nature. However, the next article will explore the other religious works found at the Arthur J. Schmitt and Eugene Cornock memorial halls of the OLAS.