On the 7th of December 1797, President Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos Sr. (1917-1989) signed Proclamation No. 1604, declaring the years 1977 to 1987 as the Decade of the Filipino Child, with the theme of “The Filipino Child: Our Richest Human Resources.” This act was also in anticipation of the 1979 International Year of the Child of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). And on the 10th of August 1979, Pres. Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 1631, enacting the creation of a National Children’s Hospital in Quezon City. Other programs of Pres. Marcos for the development of public spaces for children are the 1980 construction of the Children’s Park at the Luneta and the 1983 renovation and renaming of the Philippine Parks & Wildlife Center as the Lungsod ng Kabataan Recreational Park (Children’s Town).
Arch. Cesar Homero Rosales Concio Sr. (1907-2003) was tasked to design the National Children’s Hospital along Don Mariano Marcos Avenue (now Quezon Avenue) and Agham Road (Tagalog for “science”). The hospital complex was designed in the then-in-vogue Brutalist style, but more open aired compared to other Brutalist structures of the period. The complex has 6 main wings, with the four main wings perpendicular to Quezon Avenue and the two halls running parallel at the north and south, linking the four wings.
All the wings are separated by three open-aired atria, with the east atrium with a globe that dedicates the area to the children of the world. The center atrium is dedicated to the Santo Niño (the Christ Child), which is also the site for many of the hospital’s gatherings and special events. The west atrium is now the location of the pharmacy, canteen and playsets.
The hospital was designed to be “A Wonderland for Children” with many murals and artworks to spark joy among the patients. Many designers and artists were hired to work on the many facilities of the hospital, creating bed and waiting areas that resembled race cars, trains, jeepneys, fire trucks, etc. This is immediately felt by a first time visitor, when they are greeted by the watermelon shaped reception desk at the lobby.
The walls of the hospital were also adorned with many educational and entertaining fixtures, such as Letras y Figuras inspired alphabet and numerical artworks.
Other wings have artworks of animals and insects from all over the world, play blocks, maps of different nations, fruits and vegetables, and even an image of the helicopter by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).
Another interesting installation is the hall of names, where the children and explore any see if their names are written on the walls.
The main artworks in the hospital collection are the many murals created by the Spanish-Filipino painters, Victor Cabisada Jr. & Peter Alcántara (born 1925), who were active in the Philippine art-scene from the 1960s to the 1980s. The main artworks by Cabisada and Alcántara are tow murals at the lobby of the hospital.
On the west wall is the Cabisada and Alcántara mural “Larong Filipino” (Filipino Games) that features children engaged in various games, starting with (left to right): palo-sebo (greased-pole climbing race), lunksong tinik (jumping the thorns), yo-yo, karerang baong sangko (coconut stilt race), hula hoop, sipà (kick volleyball), luksong baka (jumping the carabao’s back), pasahan (toos), saranggola (kites), kadang (stilts), tumbang preso (jail break), bahay-bahayan (playing house), sungkâ (mancala shell game), boxing, habulang (chase), hamapas-palayok (clay pot piñata), piko (hopscotch), jolen (marbles), sabong gagamba (spider fighting), and luksong lubid (jump rope).
On the east wall is the Cabisada and Alcántara mural “Ang Kabataan Filipino” (The Filipino Children) that features children in the different costumes of the many cultures and dances found in the archipelago: (Left to right) the Leyte dance of tinikling, the Maranao singkil performance with a Higaanon girl interacting, the Kalinga banga dance, the Biñan war dance of maglalatik, a Tausug couple, two Tinggian girls, a Badjao/Sama, a boy in the Barong Tagalog, a girl in the terno ensemble, a Manobo couple, an unidentified Moro couple, an Aeta boy, the Kalibo festival of the Ati-Atihan, a Kalinga girl with two Ifugao boys, a Pangkat Kawayan bamboo band, and the Mindoro dance of Pandanggo Sa Ilaw.
The next major mural by Cabisada and Alcántara is the painting of “Si Malakas at si Maganda” (Strong and Beautiful), the Tagalog creation myth of the first man and woman. Also called Sicalac and Sicauay among the Bisayan people, the story tells of the Limokon bird landing on a large bamboo, and the first man and woman emerged from the trunk when it peck on the trunk looking for food.
There are also smaller murals by Cabisada and Alcántara, such as children driving and riding a jeepney and the horse-drawn kalesa. An additional 1982 mural by Fernando “Nanding” Belen Sena (born 1948) is a reinterpretation of Fidelito Manto illustrations for 1981 children’s book “Munting Patak Ulan” (Little Raindrop) by multi-awarded, Gloria Sogueco Villaraza-Guzman (born 1925).
The hospital was inaugurated on the 29th of August 1980, and named the Lungsod ng Kabataan (City for the Children). The guest of Pres. Marcos and First Lady Imelda Trinidad Romualdez Marcos (born 1929) for the event was the United Kingdom’s Princess Margaret (1930-2002), Countess of Snowdon, whose work with the Royal Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Invalid Children’s Aid Nationwide made her an apt choice to grace the hospital’s blessing.
After Pres. Marcos and his family were exiled to Hawaii by the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, the hospital was renamed as the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) in 1987. Since those days, the hospital slowly began to deteriorate and many of the artworks and fixtures also were lost to the march of time, neglect, and exposure to the elements. The murals of Cabisada and Alcántara were fading, and several of their Philippine myths paintings had to be painted over, due to the extensive damage. Many of the wooden vehicle shaped beds were also thrown away, due to damage.
In 2008, the designer Feanne Hontiveros Mauricio created new artworks for one of the wards within the PCMC, which inspired Mai Valera and Ella Ladignon, enterprising friends and former patients of the PCMC, to launched the “Walls of Hope” program in 2009 to restore the damaged facilities and murals and create news paintings with the help of volunteers from the professional and student art communities. From the 19th to the 21st of December 2009, professional artists and students volunteered their talents in creating new murals for those that were too damaged to save, while other artists worked on the restoration of the Cabisada and Alcántara murals.
On those three days, I brought my students from the Far Eastern University (FEU) Institute of Architecture and Fine Arts (IARFA) to participate, as part of their NSTP (National Service Training Program).
One of the professional artists who contributed to the “Walls of Hope” project was the muralist Amado Guerrero “AG” Saño.
In 2013, the gains of the PCMC through its renovations and upgrades was threatened, when the NHA (National Housing Authority) staked its decades old claim over the property where the hospital stood, and its was proposing to sell off the lot. After much intervention from different government officials and agencies, the PCMC and the NHA have settled the issue, with the hospital paying part of the property value to the NHA in 2015. Because the PCMC now owns its land, there are new plans to expand the hospital, and add an 8-storey building.
No matter what the new developments are planned by the PCMC, its administration must never forget the importance of the art and designs within the hospital, and how they create an atmosphere of joy and wonder for the children who come to its halls. Many of the former patients of the PCMC have fond memories of how these artworks help them get through their difficult times during treatments, and that it is important to take care of these artworks and create a holistic atmosphere for the children.
About the architect and artist of the Lungsod ng Kabataan:
Arch. Cesar Homero Rosales Concio Sr. (1907-2003) first graduated with bachelor of science degree in civil engineering at the University of the Philippines in 1928, and then took up architecture at the Mapua Institute of Technology in 1932. In 1933, Concio ranked first in the government examination for architects. Later on, he studied his masters intown planning, and housing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1940. Upon returning to the Philippines, Concio started working at the Department of Public Works, from 1940-1945, while teaching at Mapua. By 1946, he headed the Department of Architecture of Mapua, and became its first dean. In 1948, the Capital City Planning Commission was created, and Concio was appointed executive secretary. He is also a president of the Philippine Institute of Architects (PIA). In 1969, Concio was given the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan by the City of Manila.
Victor Cabisada Jr. & Peter Alcántara (born 1925), are Spanish-Filipino painters, who were active in both Spain and the Philippines from the 1960s to the early 1980s. Both artists have worked together in the creation of the murals at the Lungsod ng Kabataan (Philippine Children’s Medical Center) and the Manila Film Center. Very little is known about Alcantara and Cabisada, except that Cabisada’s father was a noted landscape painter from Spain.
Fernando “Nanding” Belen Sena (born 1948) is genre painter, who is considered the Father of the Philippine Art Workshops,as his nearly 50 years of artworks shops have produced many of the great contemporary artists from the 1980s to present. A native of Tondo Manila, Sena was born to a home of very modest means. As a child, Sena helped his parents augment their income by selling newspapers, and found his natural inkling towards art by copying the illustrations of the comic and movie advertisements in the newspapers he sold. In elementary school, Sena’s teachers recognized the boy’s talent, and would ask him to draw historical figures for the school library. And in high school, Sena was further able to hone his skills by entering a vocational course in commercial art. Sena would finally take his undergraduate studies at the School of Music and Fine Arts of the University of the East (UE), but could not complete it in time due to financial constraints. During a period he stopped his studies, Sena took a free workshop at the Children’s Museum and Library Institute (CMLI), where he would later volunteer giving art workshops in 1975. Before that, Sena was able to complete his Bachelor of Fine Arts, Major in Painting in 1971. After his stint of teaching at the CMLI, Sena would continue to give free and paid workshops, all over the country. He would also have a short stint teaching at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA), in the 1990s. Conducting his first solo exhibition in 1973, Sena would continue exhibiting throughout the Philippines and abroad. To promote art making in the communities, Sena established the Kabataan Tondo (formerly Troso) Art Group (KATAG) in 1975 and Art Discovery and Learning Foundation Inc. (ADLFI) in 2001. Sena’s work had opened his own participation with many art groups such as the Saturday Group, the Wednesday Group, the Art Association of the Philippines, and the Iguhit Alaminos.Due to his tireless work in promoting art, Sena was recognized as one of the “Ten Outstanding Manilans” in 1979,as one of the “Outstanding UE College of Fine Arts Alumni” in 1986, as one of the “Most Distinguished UE Alumni” in 1989, and honored the and “Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan” in the field of painting by the City of Manila in 1995.
Amado Guerrero “AG” Saño is an internationally recognized environmental advocacy muralist, whose body of work often feature sea creatures, specifically cetaceans (dolphins and whales). Originally taking architecture at the University of the Philippines (U.P.), Saño’s foray into environmental art started when he worked as a photographer for a marine research project of WWF-Philippines, in the Babuyan Islands. His exposure to the plight of the whales and dolphins, especially about the annual slaughter of dolphins in Japan, lead Saño to start a campaign to raise awareness of the endangerment of these marine mammals. Starting with a goal to paint 12,000 all over the Philippines, Saño’s works have graced the walls of many private and public institutions, locally and internationally, working side-by-side with local volunteers and his group Art Attack.