Tandang Sora Avenue, Quezon City: Art at the 4th Floor Offices of the MWSS Administration Building

 1957-1963 Fermin Gomez's The Presidents of the Philippines & 1980 Ros Arcilla's Water from the Source
1957-1963 Fermin Gomez’s The Presidents of the Philippines & 1980 Ros Arcilla’s Water from the Source

At the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) complex in Quezon City, there is a large collection of modern painting and sculpture that the employees have already taken for granted, as they would pass by these masterpieces every day for years. At times, some would take a look at a painting or two, and acknowledge the craftsmanship of the figurative pieces or scratch their heads confused by the distortions and abstractions of the more modern pieces. Sad to say, there is no longer an active employee who could remember when these artworks were installed in the building, as part of First Lady Imelda Marcos Romuáldez (born 1929) patronage of the arts. With over 120 artworks made by over 50 artists, each room of the MWSS Administrative Building is a treasure trove for any art lover. And at the 4th floor, the largest part of the collection is found here.

02 1970 Cenon Rivera - Orange SherbetCenon Rivera’s “Orange Sherbet” has caused many MWSS employees to raise their hands in confusion, declaring that they will never understand modern art. However, look a little closer, one can see that this is a playful abstracted representation of the top view of a canteen table and chair, with plate and two glasses served, alluding to the artist’s order for an Orange Sherbet.

Cenon Mangahas Rivera (1922-1998) was a Bulaqueño painter, whose works revolved around Philippine culture, and rendered into cubist forms that seemed inspired by stained glass windows and mosaics, and sometimes textures drawn from batik fabrics. Rivera’s style would later naturally transfer to actual stained glass design, of which the best example is found at the Shrine of Valor on Mount Samat, Bataan Province. In college, Rivera initially enrolled in a Liberal Arts course, while taking some Fine Arts subject at the University of the Philippines (U.P.). There he met Vicente Alvarez Dizon (1905-1947), who convinced Rivera to take up Art Education, which he did at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), 1948. Years later, Rivera would join the UST College of Architecture and Fine Arts as one of its faculty, and serve as its director. Rivera would eventually continue his art studies on stained glass technology at the Regge Accademia di Belle Arti, mosaic design at the Reverendissima Fabrica di San Pietro, and printmaking at the Accademia di Belle Arti, all in Rome, on a scholarship from the Italian government. While studying in Italy, Rivera joined several art competitions, and he would eventually garner the grand prize at the 1964 Mostra Internazoinale d’Arte Estempronea in Sabaudia and the Premio Nationale de Pintura Massimo d’Azzeglio in Rocca di Papa. Returning home, Rivera would be bestowed more honors, such as the 1967 Golden Jubilee Award from the UST College of Education, and the 1982 Outstanding Bulakeño Award.

 1970 Hugo C. Yonzon Jr.  - Batang Naliligo sa Batis
1970 Hugo C. Yonzon Jr. – Batang Naliligo sa Batis

Hugo Yonzon’s “Batang Naliligo sa Batis” is a breakaway from his signature cubist style, and shows his more illustrative technique. The artwork features three young boys taking a bath in a creek that is fed by several waterfalls. This painting harkens to Yonzon’s younger days visiting the provinces and exploring the many springs and waterfalls of the Sierra Madres that pass through the nearby towns of Tanay, Antipolo and Morong.

Hugo C. Yonzon Jr. (1924-1994)is a noted illustrator, cartoonist, and second wave modernist painter; who one pioneers of comics after World War II. Yonzon’s comic “Sakay and Moy” was a popular post-war strip at the Manila Times. He also illustrated for the Evening News, Daily Express, and Daily Globe, while painting at night for group exhibitions. In the early 1950s, Yonzon is also known for his art in the novel “Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo”, written by Amado Yasona, in Mabuhay Komiks. He also created Dalaginding, a strip in the defunct Kislap-Graphic magazine from 1967 to 1970. He served for a time as the head editorial cartoonist of Pilipino Express. Yonzon’s formal training came at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts, where he graduated in 1947, under a scholarship from Ramon Roces. As a painter, Yonzon shfted between the classical genre style, which was an influence of his teacher Fernando Amorsolo (1892-1972), and with the cubist style influenced by Cesar Legaspi (1917 -1994), whom he worked with at the PHILPROM.

1974 Alfredo Liongoren - Abstract in Earth Colors
1974 Alfredo Liongoren – Abstract in Earth Colors

Alfredo Liongoren’s “Abstract in Earth Colors” is a composition of three different abstract paintings on canvas that were cut up into smaller rectangles, and with different parts put together to create a new composition. Being part of the third wave of Philippine modernists of the 1960s, Liongoren’s  reflect that very drive to define a new local modern aesthetic that stood away from the cubist, expressionist and social realist styles that were established by the first generation. The choice of the browns still connect with the definition of the Filipino identity, as brown represents the color kayumanggi (tan), which is the skin tone of the common folk.

Alfredo Aritcheta Liongoren (born 1944) is a noted abstractionist painter, who was born in Hiba-iyo, in the municipality of Guihulngan, province of Negros Oriental. Short after his birth, Liongoren ‘s family transferred to the province of South Cotabato, in which he met his first art mentor, a local sign painter. Despite the limited exposure to the arts, Liongoren was able to enter the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts, and was able to continue his studies through the Jose Joya Sr. Memorial
Foundation and the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma scholarships. As a student, and later a young artist, Liongoren was winning several art competitions, and his experimentations of incorporating materials such as burlap and rope into his explosive abstract painting were garnering critical acclaim. This frightened the quite Liongoren, who withdrew back to his home in Cotobato. After five years in hiatus, Liongoren returned in 1971, with a more subtle yet still invoking abstract style, with religious undertones. In his return, he met and married Norma Crisologo (1946-2016), with whom he put up the Liongoren Art Gallery in 1981, which would be a launching pad for many a young artist. Liongoren would continue to exhibit locally and internationally, and even study abroad with a British Council Scholarship to the United Kingdom in 1979. In 1972, Liongoren received the Thirteen Artists Award from the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

05 1978 Demetrio Diego - Kudkuran ng NiyogDemetrio Diego’s “Kudkuran ng Niyog” (Grating of the Coconut) features a woman grating niyog (aged coconut) to extract gata (coconut milk), which is used for cooking or making delicacies. Rendered in an impressionistic style, Diego draws from his earlier influences of romantic realism from his teachers at the University of the Philippines, presenting the rural life as idyllic and dignified.

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 by the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

06 1978 Justin Nuyda - UntitledJustin Nuyda’s Untitled abstract piece, is part of his not-so-common geometric paintings that depict seemingly smoke filled rooms, with the furniture, walls, windows and doors for geometric patterns.

Justin “Tiny” Nuyda (born 1944) is a Boholano abstractionist who compositions create an illusion of surreal floating clouds of fabric over strange folded landscapes. Nuyda’s more geometric works create an  illusion of ghostly illuminated rooms. Nuyda took his formal studies at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). In the 1968, Nuyda and fellow artists formed the now famous Saturday Group, who would meet every week at the Tazo de Oro Restaurant in Ermita to sketch and talk about art over several cups of coffee. Decades later, Nuyda would partner with the American Jim Turner, to be a co-owner of the Hobbit House, and folk music bar that employed people with dwarfism. Since childhood, Nuyda has always held a fascination for the science of lepidoptery, the study of butterflies and moths. This would translate into his paintings, as his floating forms are actually a means to capture the movement of a butterfly in flight. Presently,  Nuyda is considered an expert lepidopterist, having discovered many new species and sub-species, with the Liphyra brassolis justini as the first butterfly named after him in 1968, and the Delias nuydaorum in 1975. 1993, Nuyda helped establish the FilKulisap society, of Filipino lepidoptery enthusiasts. For his influence in the field of the arts, Nuyda was honored as Thirteen Artists Awardees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

1979 Lino Severino - Selda
1979 Lino Severino – Selda

Lino Severino’s “Selda” (Cell) is a breakaway from his signature paintings of details of Spanish era ancestral houses. In this work, Severino looks at a jail window from the streets, and a small make shift hut build below the building. Here, Severino explores the cubist style, which was prevalent among many of his peers, as the juxtaposition of forms allows him to express the grittiness of the setting.

Lino C. Severino Jr. (born 1932) is a painter, who was active during the 1970s and 1980s. Although he experimented in many styles, Severino is most noted for his renditions of details of ancestral homes built during the Spanish and American occupation of the Philippines, especially those from his hometown of Silay, in the island of Negros. While painting, was active with the Saturday Group, the offshoot Thursday Group, and the Antipolo Group. However, Severino’s first love was flying, as he was inspired by the aerial dog fights he witnessed as a child during World War II. After the war, Severino joined the Philippine Airforce, and became a fighter pilot by 1952. After his retirement from military duty, Severino would continue to fly for the Philippine Airlines, and later for the Philippine National Bank.

08 1979 Loreto T. Racuya - SiniguelasLoreto Racuya’s “Macopa” features a young woman who is about to put away the unripe macopa fruit (Java Apple / Syzygium samarangense), while the ripe fruit are ready for sale in the market in a basket behind her. Racuya’s painting is typical of his earlier romantic realist style, rendered in somber tones and a slight use of the chiaroscuro technique, which stands vastly from his present brightly colored canvases.

Loreto T. Racuya (born 1940) is a figurative painter of genre scenes, in the romantic-realist style. Born of humble roots in Anda, Pangasinan Province, Racuya already displayed a knack for art, despite his lack of materials for art making. In 1960, Racuya first started his informal art lessons with a local painter, Feliciano Rombaoa Tinonas (1922-2011). On the next year, Racuya started working for Jose Juco Advertising, rendering large scaled billboards of American and Filipino films. After half a decade working on film posters, Racuya was hired by the Ayala Foundation, as one of the artists to create the dioramas for the Ayala Museum. Along with other young artists, such as Tam Austria, Racuya would model miniature scenes of Philippine history, with the dioramas of the “Parian”, “Aglipay”, “Katipunan”, and “The Battle of Bataan” sets as his primary creations. In 1974, just as he had completed his work for the Ayala Museum, Racuya finally received his Bachelor of Arts degree Diploma in Painting from Pennsylvania International Correspondence School with excellent grades in watercolor. From then on, Racuya would be continuing his string of successes, such as his first solo exhibit at the Hidalgo Gallery in 1974, the 1st Prize for the Manuel L. Quezon Centennial Nationwide Painting Competition in 1978, the 1stPrize in Balagtas at Celia Nationwide Painting Competition in 1979, the 10 outstanding Andaneans in 1987, and the 1995 Premio Speciale di G. B. Tiepolo at 10th Biennale International Figurative Art FestivalUdine, Italy. Racuya finally settled in Las Piñas City, and has been an active member of the Tuesday Group of Artist and Las Piñas Artists Society.

09 1979 Mario Parial - Dalaga sa GabihanMario Parial’s “Dalaga sa Gabihan” (Young lass among the Taro Plants) features a young girl, probably his daughter, standing behind a growth of gabi (Taro / Colocasia esculenta) plants. Here, Parial has already developed his signature style of the almond shaped faces, but his colors are more subdued and bruch stroke more pronounced, compared to his finely rendered and colorful latter works.

Mario Agustin Torres Parial (1944-2013) is a painter and printmaker, who graduated from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and learned printmaking under ManuelA. Rodriguez Sr. (born January 1, 1912), the father of Print Making in the Philippines. Early in his career, Parial taught at the UST and the University of The Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts. Parial’s colorful and almost cartoonic style showcased a folk-like whimsy, which had won him many competitions. Parial was honored the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Thirteen Artists Award (1972), the Benavides Award for Outstanding Performance to University Prestige from the University of Santo Tomas (1967), and the Outstanding Thomasian Award from UST (1978).

1980 Angelito Balagtas - Mother & Child
1980 Angelito Balagtas – Mother & Child

Angelito Balagtas’ “Mag-Ina” (Mother & Child) features his signature cubist inspired style, showing a country mother and her child, while behind them is a gatungan (wood burning stove), palayok (eathen pot), kawali (wok), and a kulambo (mosquito net). It can be assumed that the mother is trying to put her child to sleep, so that she can start preparing the meal for the day.

Angelito Balagtas (born 1947) is a figurative painter who depicts genre scenes of rural folk, rendered in a cubist inspired style. Balagtas completed his formal studies at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and started exhibiting soon. His work caught the eye of Vicente Manansala (1910-1981), who hired him to be his assistant in completing a series of murals for the United Coconut Planter’s Bank. This collaboration and mentoring by Manansala greatly influenced Balagtas, which shows in his own paintings. Balagtas has been active in various art groups, and has once served as the president of the Philippine Association of Figure Artists.

1980 Jun Tiongco - Tanay Landscape
1980 Jun Tiongco – Tanay Landscape

Jun Tiongco’s watercolor “Tanay Landscape” landscape is an pensive impressionistic view of the rural landscape of his hometown of Tanay. The work differs greatly from his present brightly colored and detail paintings, which reflects a melancholic romanticism of his home, while he was working in Manila.

Jun Tiongco (born 1957) is a Tanay based painter, whose romantic realist style features genre subject matter such as still lifes, landscapes, and scenes of Philippine rural life in idyllic settings. Exposed to the artistic legacies of his hometown of Tanay and the neighboring art capital of Angono, Tiongco learned to draw at a very young age. In high school, Tiongco took art lessons under Rody Herrera (1925-2009), who would continue to mentor him for the years to come. When it came to college, Tiongco took his studies at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts, but he did not complete his schooling as he was already actively participating in exhibitions. Tiongco would be active in promoting art in his hometown of Tanay, and he would help establish the Tanay Artists Group, and later the Rizal Lakeshore Artist Association, where he would serve as its president. Presently, Tiongco opened a restaurant beside his studio, named Lutong Pugon. There, Tiongco and his family serve local cuisine and and exhibit his works as well as the artworks of other artists in Tanay.

1980 Manuel Antonio Rodriguez Sr.  - Bata
1980 Manuel Antonio Rodriguez Sr. – Bata

Manuel Rodriguez’s “Santo” (Saint) and “Maglalatik” feature his visually textured painting style, that incorporates hundreds of small colored daubs of paint to fill up the forms. In Rodriguez’s “Santo”, the artist presents an unknown saint, whose facial features are greatly abstracted to give similarity to the ancient god sculptures called anito. In the painting “Maglaltik”, Rodriguez shows the maglaltik dancers of the town of Biñan, Laguna, who strap empty coconut shells on different parts of their body, which they strike as they dance in mock battle that represent the war between the Christians and Islamic Moro people.

Manuel Antonio Rodriguez Sr. - Maglalatik
Manuel Antonio Rodriguez Sr. – Maglalatik

Manuel Antonio Rodriguez Sr. (1912-2017) is considered the “Father of Philippine Printmaking“. Rodriguez first completed his studies at the U.P. School of Fine Arts in 1939, where he was first exposed to the art of printmaking when he attended a serigraphy workshop under Hans Adolf Heimann (1882-1955). However, Rodriguez decided to pursue other studies such as architecture at the Mapúa Institute of Technology, and architectural draftsmanship at the Central Institute of Technology Foundation. But the draw of the arts was too strong, and in 1960, so Rodriguez studies printmaking at the Pratt Graphic Center, in New York; and he took photography at the School of Modern Photography, Little Falls, New Jersey, in 1978. While in America, he worked as a trainee at the print department of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in New York. Upon his return to the Philippines, Rodriguez opened the Contemporary Arts Gallery for graphic artists, and he established the Philippine Association of Printmakers in 1968. He later taught at the University of Santo Tomas and the Philippine Women’s University, where he established their respective graphic arts departments.

1980 Mauro Malang Santos - Shadows of Little Girls
1980 Mauro Malang Santos – Shadows of Little Girls

Mauro Malang Santos’ Untitled work presents his earlier theme of rendering Philippine flora in the abstract cubist style, which in turn is represented into a starburst composition.  This fascination with plants can be traced to many species of flowering plants throughout the country, and festoon the yards of rich and poor alike.

Mauro Malang Santos (1928-2017) is a figurative 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 Institutein Los Angeles, California. Malang married Mary San Pedro, whom they have four children, two of whom are painters— Stevesantos and Soler Santos.

There are three more untitled and unsigned works found at the MWSS 4th floor offices, and any traces of their creators have been lost over the decades of piled up documents, or even discarded records. Of the artists in the collection who are still alive, some cannot recognize the style of the undocumented works, as there was a prevalence of imitating other painter’s techniques during those years. However, there are more documented artworks of known painters in the 4th floor’s Director’s Office and Conference Room, including those of three National Artists.

MWSS Administration Complex

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