The Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) complex in Quezon City boasts of a large collection of modern painting and sculpture. The collection started during the term of Pres. Carlos P. Garcia (1957-1961), when the Director of the MWSS, Eng. Manuel Mañosa Sr., commissioned Fermin Yadao Gomez (1918-1984) to create several sculptures for the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) office in Manila, the La Mesa Dam and Watershed Reservation, and the Balara Filtration Complex . Decades later First Lady Imelda Marcos Romuáldez (born 1929) would commission artworks from the active artists of the time, to fill the halls of the new MWSS Administrative Building. Presently, the bulk of the MWSS can be found at the 4th floor halls and offices of the building.
The tour of the 4th floor art collection starts with the MWSS office lobby, where 11 large works are on display. Among these are Angelito Antonio’s “The Fish Vendor” and “Laborers Carrying of Sacks” are immediately recognizable for their bold lines of movement and colors. Both works at first seem celebratory of the Filipino worker, due to the bright colors used in the composition. However upon close inspection, the people are looking towards the ground with downtrodden faces, belying Antonio’s earlier social realist works that speak of the struggles of the common man.
Angelito Antonio (born 1939) is a painter from Bulacan, who as a expressionist painter, however his evolution in art have moved towards sublime cubist works and abstraction. Antonio took his formal art studies at the University of Santo Tomas, where he met and later marry 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 honored the Thirteen Artist Award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). In 1984, he was also honored with the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award by the City of Manila.
Juvenal Sanso’s “Sunset” features the Spaniard’s signature surreal landscape of what seems a beachside with sea weed covered rocks exposed in tidal pools during a low tide sunset. By this period, Sanso has fully develop his technique and imagery, growing out of the earlier social realism that he experimented with in the 1950s.
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.
Norma Belleza’s ”Flower Vendors” shows three women preparing their floral wares for the day ahead. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Belleza does not portray the Filipina as idealized voluptuous goddess who is of fair complexion. Rather, Belleza the common Filipina as robust dark toned woman, with a quite pensive dignity about them.
Norma Belleza (born 1939) is a Kapmpangan painter, whose genre works of rural women at work and at home are stylized by a bending form of round bodies, symbolizing the nurturing spirit of the Filipina. Belleza’s exposure to art making started with her family, who were movie marquee and billboard painters. Belleza would later take her formal art studies at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), where she would meet and later marry her co-artist, Angelito Antonio. As a student and young artist, Belleza would join many competitions and win several of the top prizes. To this day, Belleza and her husband continue to paint, while supporting the artistic careers of their own three children.
Roger Gutierrez’s “Dalampasigan” (Sea Shore) is typical of his landscapes, a beautiful natural scene with a faint trace of human settlement, but not a single person in the picture frame. This presents Gutierrez’s view of his native Cebu, which was not as bustling as Manila at that time, and where one can travel off to the quite mountainside or seaside just a few minutes away from the city.
Roger Gutierrez (born 1947) is a Cebuano classicist painter, who is noted for his stunning landscapes. Gutierrez’s first influence in art was watching his neighbor, the Dean of Cebuano Painters, Martino Abellana. By age 11, Gutierrez was apprenticing under Abellana, along with the young Romulo Galicano. Gutierrez would eventually go to Manila, and join Galicano, who had already transferred years before. There, Gutierrez would take on odd jobs such as construction worker and a security guard, while pursuing his painting. He would exhibit with fellow Cebuanos such as Madronio Cempron and Galicano, before relocating to the Province of Rizal, where the open fields and mountains would remind him of his hometown in Cebu. There Gutierrez would actively participate in the local art groups, such as the Rizal Artist Federation and Antipolo Visual Artist Association.
Rolando Delos Santos’s still life “Panggatong” (Firewood) shows two bundles of firewood laid on the ground, with a rattan yoke. Delos Santos work give glimpse of rural life of the time in his native Tanay, where many households would still cook their food over a clay stove with firewood.
Rolando Delos Santos (born 1952) is a naturalist painter, from the town of Tanay, Rizal Province. A graduate from the FEATI University, Delos Santos is a master in rendering still-life and portraits, but he is better known for his images of scenes from daily life. Delos Santos is very active in the art community of Tanay, and is one of the founders of the Tanay Contemporary Artists group.
Manuel Baldermor’s “Doon po sa Amin” (There in Our Community/Home) and “La Mesa Filipina” (The Filipino Table) are glances at life in the rural communities, specifically of his native Paete. In “Doon pos a Amin”, Baldemor presents a typical Sunday afternoon in the streets of a provincial town, with teenage boys playing basketball with a makeshift court, children buying cadies from nearby sari-sari store, a roaming vendor going to the church plaza to sell balloons, elder men hanging around a barbershop with a pair play the dama board game, the faithful paying their respects to a roadside shrine dedicated to the Santo Niño (Christ Child), children preparing to go to the fields to fly their kites, a family on a Carabao drawn cart delivering their harvest to the market, a gang of boy exploring the town on their bicycles, and a group of men betting over a sabong (cock fight); all the while as other neighbors watch all the activity from the second floor windows. In “La Mesa Filipina”, Baldemor presents an early evening preparation for dinner, on an old table made from whole cut from a tree trunk, decorated with freshly pick flowers from the yard. Light by a gasera (gas lamp), the ingredients for the nights meal are coconuts to extract gata (coconut milk), malagkit (glutinous rice) on a mill to make delicacies, puso ng saging (banana bud), pechay (chinese cabbage), and saba (cooking banana); all that with a cup of coffee is set on the side for the cook to enjoy while preparing the night’s feast.
Manuel Dalao Baldemor (born 1947) is a painter and sculptor from the wood carver’s town of Paete, Laguna Province, whose colorful a intricate townscapes often celebrate the festive life of Paete and his adopted Angono. Baldemor took his fine arts studies at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), while working in various businesses, including the Philippine Graphic publication as an editorial cartoonist. Baldemor took inspiration of his home town, painting colorfully abstracted images of the rural life, which soon won him awards in various competitions. Soon Baldemor was experiment on printmaking as well as using elements of the traditional Paete taka (papier maché) into his artworks. Soon he was representing the Philippines in many international expositions; such as the 2004 10th Asian Biennale in Bangladesh, the 1994 Internationale Austausch Ateliers Region Basel in Switzerland, and the 1989 First ASEAN Symposium on Aesthetics in Malaysia. Baldemor’s colorful and joyous paintings have been a constant in the UNICEF cards. In 1992, Baldemor was awarded the Thirteen Artists honor by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Prudencio Lamarroza’s “Alulusan” (Riverbed) features his signature surreal landscapes of highly detailed multicolored rock forms, which may allude to Amburayan River of his hometown, with the mountains of the Bessang Pass in the background.
Prudencio Lamarroza (born 1943) was born in Ilocos Sur, and is recognized by his colorful surrealist landscapes and portraits of women. His most noted body of works revolve around theme on the Amburayan River, which is found in his province of Ilocos Sur. In 1978 Lamarroza was awarded the Sadiri ti Tagudin by the Ilocos Sur provincial government, and in 1983 he was given the Patnubay Kalinangan Award by the City of Manila.
Pempe Ybañez’s “Flower Pots” is an impressionist image of the Filipino’s traditional value of recycling and repurposing waste products. With a traditional paso (clay flower pot) in the center, the flowering plants also find a new home with a used paint can, an empty cooking oil can, a broken coffee mug, and an old ice cream tub.
Jose “Pempe” J. Ybañez Jr. is a Cebu based genre painter, who specializes in impressionist watercolors of still lifes and landscpaes. Ybañez also works on portraits in oil. Ybañez is an active member of the Cebu Artists Inc. (CAI).
There is one more painting by a certain L. Antonio Abaya entitled “Banga” (Water Jar), which completes the collection at the 4th floor lobby. Although there isn’t much information of Abaya, there more paintings the in offices where more stories of Filipino life and culture are explored.