Aside from the Philippine Centennial student competition paintings at the AFP Museum and Multi-Purpose Theater, in Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, there are many artworks in the building by noted artists and masters. The most obvious among these is the bust of the highly decorated former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Secretary of the Department of Transportation of the Philippines, Gen. Arturo Tiongson Enrile (1940-1998), by the National Artist for Sculpture, Napoleón Abueva. The bust was installed in the lobby in 1999, to coincide with the renaming of the building as the Bulwagang Heneral Arturo T. Enrile (Gen. Arturo T. Enrile Hall).
Napoleón Isabelo “Billy” Veloso Abueva (1930-2018) studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, under National Artist, Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976), who was then the director of the school. Although trained in the classical style of sculpting, Abueva broke from its mold and began experimenting on modernist styles and techniques. Soon he became known as and Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. Aside from the many historical monuments that are found all over the Philippines, Abueva has also been commissioned to create sculptures around the world. In his youth, he was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award; which would herald more awards and distinctions in his life. He was proclaimed National Artist for Sculpture in 1976, making him the youngest recipient of this distinction. And just like his mentor, Abueva also served as dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts.
Flanking both sides of the main entrance to the AFP Museum and Multi-Purpose Theater are two large untitled vertical murals by Ephraim Samson, which depict native Philippine flora and fauna. The most recognizable animals in the paintings are the Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis), the Philippine Sambar Deer (Rusa marianna), the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), the Kalangay or Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), the White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), the Kalaw or Rufous Hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax) and Writhed Hornbill (Rhabdotorrhinus leucocephalus), the Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), the Palawan Peacock Pheasant (Polyplectron emphanum), the Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor), the Philippine Serpent Eagle (Spilornis holospilus), the Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus), and various indigenous doves and kingfishers. For native plants there are the Nipa (Nypa fruticans), the Betel (Areca catechu), the Gabi (Colocasia esculenta), the Narra (Pterocarpus indicus / Red Sandalwood tree), the Sampalok (Tamarindus indica), the Kalachuchi (Plumeria rubra / temple flower), the Fiji Fan Palm (Pritchardia pacifica), and Taraw Palm (Livistona saribus).
Ephraim Samson (born 1947) was inspired towards an art career through local comic books, and thus took graphic art classes in high school, then collegiate studies at the University of Santo Tomas. After graduating, Samson first found work in creating local film posters and billboards, while active with the Saturday Group of artists in the ’70s and ’80s. By the mid-1980s, Samson migrated to the USA, and started working at Marvel Comics in New York City, before transferring to Guam in 1996. In 2001, Samson moved his family back to the US mainland, and settled in Stockton, California; where he joined the Stockton Art League. Samson has held over 17 solo exhibitions in the Philippines and abroad, as well as hundreds of group shows. In his career, Samson was recognized with the 2002 Best of Show at the 42nd Lodi Art Show, and the Elsie Mae Goodwin Award of Excellence at the 51st annual Stockton Art League Exhibition. In 2017, Samson released the book “Portraits of Filipino Artists”, published by the Crucible Gallery.
Also at the lobby, the 1995 glass sculpture “Waterfalls” by Imelda “Impy” Manalaysay Pilapil (born 1949) acts as screen to the entrance of the Multi-Purpose Theater. Impy Pilapil is recognized worldwide for her mostly glass sculptures and installations, where she first honed her craft at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts in 1968, and continued further studies at the Academia Italiana in Rome and at the Pratt Graphic Institute in New York. A versatile artist, Pilapil has done printmaking, but is more known for her sculpture in glass and mixed media; winning many competitions in both disciplines. Among her major recognitions, Pilapil was given the Thirteen Artists Aware by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (1976), the 100 Outstanding Women of the Philippines (2002), and the Outstanding Citizen Award of Cavite (2004).
Upon entering the AFP Museum, the first object that greets visitors is the large 1996 relief sculpture by Apolinario Bulaong, entitled “The Filipino Quest for Freedom and Security.” At the left side of the artwork features many Filipino heroes; such as the Mactan chieftain Lapu-lapu (1491-1542) whose forces slew Ferdinand Magellan; the Ilocano freedom fighters Diego Pineda Silang (1730-1763) and María Josefa Gabriela Cariño de Silang (1731-1763); the 1872 Gomburza Martyrs of Fr. Mariano Gómez de los Ángeles (1799-1872), Fr. José Apolonio Burgos y García (1837-1872), and Fr. Jacinto Zamora y del Rosario (1835-1872); the reformist and National Hero, Dr. José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda (1861-1896); the founding of the Katipunan Revolution against Spanish rule in the Philippines and its supremo, Andrés de Castro Bonifacio (1863-1897); the “Brains of the Katipunan,” Emilio Jacinto (1875-1899); the Mother of the Philippine Revolution, Melchora “Tandang Sora” Aquino de Ramos (1812-1919); the Caviteño war hero and 1st President of the Philippines, General Emilio Famy Aguinaldo (1869-1964); and the martyr of Tirad Pass, General Gregorio Hilario del Pilar y Sempio (1875-1899). At the right side of the artwork is a large image of Inang Bayan (Motherland), while the whole sculpture is bisected by a coconut tree that represents the Puno ng Buhay (Tree of Life). Behind Inang Bayan are several scenes of Philippine history; such as the Barasoain Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, which represents the founding of the First Philippine Republic in the municipality of Malolos, on January 21, 1899; the battles of the Philippine-American War of February 4, 1899 to July 2, 1902; the guerrilla warfare of the Hukbong Laban sa Hapon (Anti-Japanese Army) in World War II (1939-1945), the 112 kilometer Bataan Death March of 1942, and the EDSA People Power Revolution of February 22-25, 1986.
Apolinario “KaInar” Paraiso Bulaong (1930s-2013) was a student of Guillermo Tolentino, at the U.P. School of Fine Arts. A contemporary of Napoleon Abueva, Bulaong dabbled in both classical and modernist styles of sculpture. However, Bulaong focused his efforts in creating monuments for his province of Bulacan; such as the Pulang Lupa sculptural mural and the equestrian sculpture of Gregorio del Pilar in Bulacan.
Placed beside the many artifacts is Carlos Valino’s 1990 painting of the “Tejeros Convention,” which features the the Magdalo and Magdiwang of factions of the Katipunan revolution against the Spanish Occupation (1565-1898) of the Philippines convening at the district of Tejeros, in the city of San Francisco de Malabon (now General Mariano Closas Trías City), province of Cavite, on the 27th of March, 1897. During that congress, the Philippine revolutionary government was established, where General Emilio Famy Aguinaldo (1869-1964) was elected as the first Philippine president, over the Katipunan founder, Andrés de Castro Bonifacio (1863-1897).
Carlos Perez Valino Jr. (1930s-2008) is a noted classical painter of historical scenes, as well as his illustrations of various books and publications. Valino started teaching at the U.P. School of Fine arts in 1958, and even served as the College Secretary from 1965 to 1969. He retired from teaching in 1991, and continued his pursuits in painting and illustration, until his death in 2008.
Another painting on display is Rene Robles’ 1998 “The Japanese Occupation.” The artwork features evens of the World War II Japanese invasion of the Philippines, which started on the 8th of December, 1941; and ended with the surrender of the allied American and Filipino forces on the 8th of May, 1942. Part of the artwork are images of the Battle of Bataan (7 January – 9 April 1942) and the Battle of Corregidor (May 5-6, 1942). After the Fall of Bataan, on April 9, 1942, around 80,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war were forced to travel by foot for 112 kilometers, in the infamous Bataan Death March, from Saysain Pointand Mariveles in Bataan Province to Camp O’Donnell, in Capas, Tarlac Province. While the march was continuing, Lieutenant General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV (1883-1953) surrenders all remaining American troops, to General Honma Masaharu (1887-1946), on May 6, 1942. While around 18,000 Filipino and 650 American soldiers died during the march, survivors of other battles were also locked in makeshift internment camps, such as the University of Santo Tomas campus.
Ireneo “René” San Agustian Robles, Jr. (born 1950) is a both naturalist figurative and abstract painter, from Lucena City, Quezon Province. Robles studied first at the National Teachers College, where he was recognized as the Outstanding Graphic Artist of the Year, in 1969. Soon Robles would transfer to the University of Santo Thomas’ College of Architecture & Fine Arts as a Rector’s Scholar, where he was honored with the university’s Gold Medal for Excellence decades later. Robles migrated to the United States of America, and began practicing his art, before continuing his education at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in New York City. While living in NYC, Robles develop his style called Assertionism. Moving around the USA, Robles established himself with each city he lived with, joining New Jersey Visual Arts Foundation, the New York Oil Pastel Association, and the Californian Pastel Society of the West Coast. During his stay in the USA, Robles was honored with the 1982 San Francisco’s Gold Key to the City, San Francisco, the 1986 New Jersey Pine Shores Art Association’s Plaque of Appreciation, the 1987 City of Houston Medal, the 1992 Somerset County Heritage & Cultural Commission Juried Show’s Award of Excellence, the 1992 United Pastelists of America/Oil Pastel Association’s International Award, the 1993 Manhattan Arts Magazine International Competition’s Award of Excellence, and the 1994 Pastel Society of the West Coast Juried Exhibition’s Award of Excellence, Pastel Society of the West Coast Juried Exhibition. Robles has held more than 70 solo exhibitions in the Philippines, Europe, America and Asia, and has settled back to the Philippines.
There is also a painting about Major Viginia Sarino, by an unknown artist. Maj. Sarino was part of the Philippine Civic Action Group to Vietnam (PHILCAG V) sent to field, in the Vietnam War, in 1966. The PHILCAG V wasn’t a combatant unit, and was composed of engineers and medical units. Maj. Sarino was part of the 94 members of the Philippine Military Nurses Corps in Vietnam, and displayed unwavering valor in treating the inpouring of many casualties despite the fight fights around them, even when their field clinic was overrun by Việt Cộng soldiers, who ransacked their clinic. The brave work of the PHILCAG V nurses was detailed by Sarino in her article: “Civic Action in Vietnam.”
The ramp leading to the second floor of the AFP Museum is the also the Hall of the Chiefs of Staff, which features the men to took the position of the head of the Philippine military, starting with Gen. Artemio Ricarte who served under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo during the Philippine Revolution and Gen. Antonio Luna of the Philippine-American War, and ends with Gen Hernando Iriberri, who served during the term of Pres. Benigno Aquino III. The first 28 portraits were created by Luisito “Chito” Katindig Villanueva (born 1938) in 1999, and the rest were continued by the deaf-mute artist Samuel Navarrete Abrera from 1999 to 2016, and by Ed Esvasida in 2016.
There a few more artworks without titles or with identified artists, in the AFP Museum. However, there is mush to explore about the history of the Philippines and stories of heroism among the many artifacts of the museum. And the Hall of the Chiefs of Staff also stand as a testimony of the achievements of the generals, who have risen to the highest military position. And that will be the subject of the next article.