Since the development of the commercial district of Cubao, the whole area was never really known for its support and establishments for the arts. In 1976, the former comedian, Perfecto “Peck” Piñon (1917-2006), opened his gallery in the Ali Mall. Piñon was trained as a billboard painter, before entering show business under the stage name of “Tugak.” After Piñon closed his gallery in the mid 1990s, there was no other gallery in Cubao for several years.
In 2000, a group of young artists and entrepreneurs created the alternative arts and events space called Cubao X, in the empty stalls of the old Marikina Shoe Expo, along General Romulo Avenue in Cubao. This inspired other art galleries to open in the area, and in 2014 the Gateway Mall opened the Sining Saysay museum of murals on Philippine history and art gallery. Spearheaded by alumni and faculty of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Fine Arts (CFA), the museum sought to present to the public a visual story and experience of Philippine history and culture, without becoming a boring lecture.
Luis “Junyee” Enano Yee, Jr.’ s (born 1942) “Pre-Historic Philippines I” is a depiction of the Angono Petroglyphs, which are believed to be carved onto the rock face before 2000 BC. Junyee foregoes his usual indigenous installations to paint a scene of the shadow of a man pointing at the animal and human figures carved by the early settlers in the Philippines, in now the town of Angono, Rizal Province.
Benjamin Isla Cabangis’ (born 1957) “Prehistoric Philippines II” presents the artifacts and culture of the prehistoric people, who lived in the Philippines as far back as 70,000 BC. In the painting, Cabangis breaks from his traditional abstract works to paint reconstructions of the life of the Tabon people in the island of Palawan, who have left many artifacts that have been dated through many centuries, including the famed 890 BC Manunggul Jar and the rice gods of the Ifugao people, called the Bulul.
Simkin Sarabosing de Pio’s (born 1976) “Peopling the Philippines I” presents the different waves of Austronesian people to the different islands of the Philippine archipelago. These many migrations are believed to have started as early as 48,000 BC, and have formed the many ethnic groups throughout the islands.
Gig Completo de Pio’s (born 1951) “Peopling the Philippines II” shows how the Austronesian / Malayo-Polynesian migrations developed into the different ethnic cultures of the Philippines. Aside from using photographic reference from the late 1900s to the present, De Pio also uses images from the Boxer Codex, one of the first ethnographic documentations of the different Philippine people, done in 1590. De Pio also writes the names of the native groups both in roman letters, as well as in the traditional script, called Baybayin.
Randy Solon’s (born 1971) “Pre-Hispanic Philippines” is a black and white imagining of life along the coastal kingdoms such as that of Maynila, Namayan, Tondo, Cebu, Butuan, and Sulu. Whereas many of these kingdoms were converted to Islam, their cultures still were strongly a hybrid of older cultures, as well as Chinese influences, whom these chiefdoms had been trading with as early as 900 AD. Other trade relations were also developed with the Siamese, the Viet, the Javanese Majapahit Empire, and the Bornean Srivijaya Empire, among others.
National Artist, Abdulmari Asia Imao’s (1936-2014) “Muslims in the Philippines” celebrates the Islamic cultures of the Philippines, rendering the images in an adaptation of the floral styles, called the ukkil by the Tausug people and okkir by the Maranao people. Islam’s introduction in the Philippines dates to the arrival the Arabian trader, Karim Al Makhdum, in 1380. From then, many of the ethnic groups of the island of Mindanao covered to Islam, along many kingdoms across the coastlines of the Luzon and Visayas island groups.
Armand “Bim” B. Bacaltos’ (born 1949) “The West Discovers the Philippines I” features the arrival of the Portuguese explorer, Fernão de Magalhães (Ferdinand Magellan, 1480-1521), in the islands of Leyte, Samar and Cebu, and the conversion of Rajah Humabon to Christianity. This was followed by an expedition by Ruy López de Villalobos (1500-1544), who visited the islands of Leyte, Samar, and Mindanao; and thus declaring them Las Islas Filipinas, after King Philip II of Spain. This was concluded by the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi (1502-1572), who built forts and started the colonizing the Philippines, in 1565.
Amado “Ding” Hidalgo’s (born 1945) “The West Discovers the Philippines II” features the expedition of Fernão de Magalhães (Ferdinand Magellan, 1480-1521), the conversion of Rajah Humabon and his people to Christianity, the burning of “pagan idols” by the natives, and finally the Battle of Mactan where Magalhães lost his life to the forces of Datu Lapu-Lapu.
Jonahmar “Jonah” Aguilar Salvosa’s (born1953) “Galleon Trade” presents the flourishing trade between Manila and Acapulco, Mexico, between 1565 to 1815. The need to explore Asia, which lead to the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, was driven the by the Europeans’ demand for spices, specifically in India. Although the Spanish did not find India or similar spices in the Philippine archipelago, the wealth of local gold and access to Chinese product proved justification for colonization. The Spaniards spread through the country via the sword, Catholic evangelization, and diplomacy; which the latter is best exemplified with the Blood Compact between the conquistador Miguel de Legaspi and Rajah Sikatuna, of Bohol. Once the Spaniards established their towns throughout the islands, the Manila-Acapulco trade began with goods exchanged that were mainly Chinese spices, porcelain, ivory, lacquerware, and silk cloth from the Fujian province brought to Manila, and from Mexico came the silver used in the trade. The great Spanish galleon ships were mostly built in the province of Cavite, and would start plying direct routes between the Philippines and Spain by 1766.
Janice Liuson-Young’s (born 1965) “Chinese in the Philippines” honors the long history of the Chinese-Filipinos, or Chinoys. Starting their trade with the Philippine natives in the 900’s, many Chinese settlements grew in the archipelago. And by 1144, the Shang Dynasty of China had given names to the different Philippine islands, such as Mayi for Mindoro, Pai-P’u-yen for the Babuyan Islands, Liu-hsin for Luzon, and Pa-lao-yu for Palawan. Chinese settlements during the Spanish occupation were called Parián. To celebrate this legacy, Young presents many of the prominent Chinoys throughout Philippine history; including the Philippine patron saint Lorenzo Ruiz (1600-1637), writer and revolutionary Prime Minister Pedro Alejandro Paterno y de Vera Ignacio (1857-1911), the National Hero José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Realonda (1861-1896), Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee (1918-1989), Cardinal Jaime Lachica Sin (1928-2005), the National Artist Ang Kiukok (1931-2005), and the presidents Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (1869-1964), Sergio Osmeña Sr. (1878-1961), Maria Corazon Cojuangco Aquino (1933-2009).
Vincent Paolo Sarabosing de Pio’s (born 1979) “Filipino Responses to Spanish Colonization” relates the many uprisings against the Spanish throughout their presence in the islands, from 1521 to 1898. This started with the Battle of Mactan, lead by Datu Lapu-Lapu in 1521; then followed by the 1565-1567 Dagami Revolt of Leyte, the 1574 Tagalog Revolt in Manila, the 1585 Pampanga Revolt, the 1589 Cagayan and Dingras revolts of Cagayan and Ilocos Norte, the 1601 Igorot Revolt among the many ethnic groups in the Cordilleras, the 1607 Caquenga Rebellion in Cagayan, the 1621-1622 Tamblot and Bankaw uprisings in Bohol and Leyte, the 1625-1627 Itneg Revolt in Cagayan, the 1649-1650 Sumuroy Revolt in Samar, the 1660-1661 Maniago and Malong revolts in Pampanga and Pangasinan, the 1661 Almazan Revolt in Ilocos Norte, the 1663 Panay Revolt, the 1681-1683 Zambal Revolt, the 1744-1825 Dagohoy Rebellion of Bicol, the 1762-1763 Silang Revolt of Ilocos, the 1762-1764 Palaris Revolt of Pangasinan, the 1807 Basi Revolt of Ilocos Norte, the 1840-1841 Pule Revolt in Tayabas, and the 1872 Cavite Mutiny. This would all accumulate to the Reform Movement of the 1880s to mid-1890s; which in turn would inspire the nationwide Katipunan Revolution of 1896 to 1898.
Romeo “Romy” Castillo Mananquil’s (born 1942) “Breaking Colonial Ties I” depicts the start of the Philippine Revolution with Spain, which was triggered by the 1872 execution by garrote of the three indio priests Mariano Gómez de los Ángeles (1799-1872), José Apolonio Burgos y García (1837-1872), and Jacinto Zamora y del Rosario (1835-1872), as they were implicated in the Cavite Mutiny of the same year. This would inspire the Propaganda Movement in Spain, led by Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitán (1850-1896), José Rizal (1861-1896), Graciano López Jaena (1856-1896), and Mariano Ponce (1863-1918). Through the newspaper La Solidaridad, the Propagandists demanded for reforms in the Philippines, especially to have the islands declared as a province of Spain, and thus making all natives equal to the Spaniards. However, during that same period, Andrés Bonifacio y de Castro (1863-1897) was organizing a revolutionary movement called the Kataas-taasan, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, or Katipunan, to free the Philippines from Spain. And in 1896, the discovery of the Katipunan and later execution of Rizal spurred the Filipinos to rally against the Spaniards. The Katipuneros formally declared independence from Spain and called for revolution, with their symbolical tearing of the cédulas personales (community tax certificates), in the Cry of Pugad Lawin.
Aileen Lanuza-De Pio’s (born 1987) “Breaking Colonial Ties II” relates the latter part of the Philippine Revolution (1896-1898), where General Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964) took over the revolutionary government, now called the Republic of Biak-na-Bato. Finally there is Aguinaldo’s declaration of Philippine Independence, in June 1898, where he formally unfurled the Philippine Flag in Kawit, Cavite, which was made by Marcela Mariño Agoncillo, aided by her daughter Lorenza and Delfina Herbosa Natividad.
Dr. Grace Javier Alfonso’s (born 1952) “Woman Empowerment in the Philippines” honors the contribution of women to Philippine history. This female presence starts with the political leaders and babaylan spiritual leaders of pre-colonial Philippines, such as the 1400s’ legendary Princess Urduja leader of the Kinalakihan warrior women of Pangasinan and Uray Maniwantiwan of Panay, as well as Dayang Kaylangitan, the queen of the kingdoms of Namayan and Tondo in the 1500s. Then next are the women revolutionaries against the Spanish and the Americans, such as María Josefa Gabriela Cariño de Silang (1731-1763), Melchora Aquino de Ramos (1812-1919), Trinidad Perez Tecson (1848-1928), Marcela Mariño de Agoncillo (1860-1946), Commander Teresa Ferraris Magbanua (1863-1947), Patrocinio Gamboa y Villareal (1865-1953), Gregoria Álvarez de Jesús (1875-1943), Marina Dizon-Santiago (1875-1950), and General Agueda Kahabagan y Iniquinto (served 1896–1901); as well as the World War II guerilla against the Japanese, Remedios Paraiso-Gomez (1919 – 2014). And there are the early feminists and women’s suffrage activists Clemencia Lopez y Castelo (1876-1963) and Purificacion “Pura” Villanueva Kalaw (1886-1954). And finally there are the women who made great strides in the political arena, such as the Natividad Almeda-Lopez (1892-1977) who was the first Filipina lawyer in 1914 and female judge in 1934, Carmen Lim Planas (1914-1964) the first Filipina city councilor in 1937,Elisa Rosales-Ochoa(1897-1978) the first Filipina congresswoman in 1941, Geronima Tomelden-Pecson (1895-1989) the first Filipina senator in 1947, and Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino (1933 -2009) the first Filipina president who served from 1986-1992.
Adonai “Don” Artificio’s “Re-asserting Independence” presents the battles between the Filipino forces against the Americans, who had snatched victory of the Philippine revolutionaries in 1898. After a brief respite, the Filipinos, under President Emilio Aguinaldo, fought bravely but unsuccessfully during the Philippine-American War of 1899 to 1902. Two of the leading the Filipino commanders of that time were General Antonio Luna de San Pedro y Novicio Ancheta (1866-1899) and General Gregorio Hilario del Pilar y Sempio (1875-1899).
Norman Damasco Dreo’s (born 1970) “American Betrayal of an Ally” relates the treachery of the American forces against the Filipinos, starting with claiming to help then General Emilio Aguinaldo in the revolution against Spain, only to take over the whole country. And the Americans formalized the occupation of the Philippines, with the 1898 Treaty of Paris. After the American government claims that the Philippine Insurgency had officially ended in 1902 (the Philippine-American War), skirmishes continued throughout the islands lead by General Aniceto Lacson y Ledesma (1857-1931) and General Macario Sakay y de León (1878-1907), who was also betrayed by the Americans and hung. Other battles erupted throughout the archipelago, including the Moro Rebellion which lasted until 1913.
Janno Gonzales, Jasmin Gonzales, Marianne Rios and Aman Santos’ “Filipinos Experiencing Invasion” is a representation of National Artist Benedicto “Bencab” Reyes Cabrera’s (born 1942) artwork entitled “A Page from an Officer’s Diary” (1980). In this montage of the Philippine-American War, images of (possibly) Commodore George Perrin Dewey (1837-1917) commander of the Asiatic Squadron of the United States Navy, General Wesley Merritt (1834-1910) commander of the American forces in the Philippines, General Elwell Stephen Otis (1838-1909) who replaced Merritt, or General Arthur MacArthur Jr. (1845-1912) who would later serve as Governor General of the Philippines. Other images show Philippine freedom fighters, including General Vicente Lucbán y Rilles (1860-1916), General Miguel Malvar y Carpio (1865-1911) and Major Manuel Luís Quezon y Molina (1878-1944). Finally there is the image of the hanging of Filipino soldiers, a reflection of the atrocities of the war, including the order to shoot any Filipino male above the age of ten, as they would be old enough to carry a gun.
Cris Cruz’s (born 1935) “The Philippines under the Stars and Stripes” shows American developments in the Philippines from 1902 until 1942, including the Commonwealth Era under President Manuel Quezon (1878-1944) and Vice-President Sergio Osmeña Sr. (1878-1961). Party of these developments were the Women’s Suffrage Law (1935-1937); the enactment of a centralized public school system throughout the country in 1901; the country’s first public university in 1908; the expansion of the railway system in Luzon in 1902, Panay in 1906, and Cebu in 1911; expansion of electrical services starting 1903; the introduction of airmail in 1919; representation in legislature through the Philippine Assembly in 1907; and the institutionalization of Neoclassic architecture for government offices nationwide.
Romeo San Antonio Carlos (born 1945) and Norman Dreo’s (born 1970) “Quezon-Osmeña Administration” chronicles the tandem of Manuel Quezon (1878-1944) and Sergio Osmeña Sr. (1878-1961), which started in 1907, when they founded the Nationalista Party. Then in 1916, Quezon was nominated as the president of the newly form Philippine Senate, while Osmeña retained his position as Speaker of the Philippine Assembly (congress), which he had held since 1907. In 1935, Quezon and Osmeña joined forces and won the national elections as the President and Vice President of the Philippines. At the start of their administration, the Commonwealth Act was signed into law, as preparation for the eventual move towards Philippine Independence. During this period, President Quezon established a new city in 1939, which would be later named Quezon City, and the plans to University of the Philippines from Manila to Quezon City were already set in motion.
Julius Samson’s “Occupied Philippines” shows events during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines (1942-1945), during World War II (1939-1945). The alliance with the Nazi Germany and the Fascist Italy was part of Japan’s “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” where they saw an Asia for Asians and Europe for Europeans. In the artwork are the side images of General Masaharu Homma (1887-1946) to the left, who commanded the Japanese forces in the Philippines, along with General Tomoyuki Yamashita (1885-1946). To the right is President José Paciano Laurel y García (1891-1959) who was the Philippine administration’s representative to the Japanese from 1943 to 1945, along with Benigno Simeon “Igno” Aquino Sr. (1894-1947) as Speaker of the House. At the lower left frame is the surprise attack on the American Naval base in Pearl Harbor, which signaled the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia and the American involvement in World War II. At the bottom shows the Filipino resistance to the Japanese, which continued after the American forces had lost in the Fall of Corregidor and Bataan, and their leaders fled to Australia. After the Fall of Bataan, 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners were marched for 96.6 to 112 kilometers to Capas, Tarlac, in the infamous “Bataan Death March,” where approximately 54,000 were able to reach their destination. And finally in the center and at the upper frame is the Battle of Leyte Gulf of October 1944, which started the American offensive to take back the Philippines. This was part of General Douglas MacArthur’s (1880-1964) promise “I Shall Return,” which he fulfilled when he landed in Palo, Leyte, along with Osmeña, and staff.
The last 20 murals have explored our roots as a collection of many cultures, tribes, and kingdoms scattered throughout the archipelago; to a people united under military rule of Spain, England, America and Japan. The next 10 murals will detail our building of a nation, now free to govern ourselves. This will be the topic of my next article.