It was a great morning for the Arts and Crafts Club and Visual Arts Elective. Meeting place at St. Scholatica’s College Pergola at 5:00 am wasn’t quite pleasant to start with since it was too early. But the illuminating sun giving us vitamin-D (According to our HS principal, Sr. Sally) and the perfect sound trip playlist of OPM songs gave us a kick and a throwback Saturday big time. Indeed we were to embark on an adventure that will hopefully inspire us artistically and that place to explore was the place named “Art Capital of the Philippines”which is Angono, Rizal, a 2 and a half hour drive from Manila.
First destination was the Angono-Rizal Petroglyphs Site wherein we walked a small tunnel-cave that contained not only the few marks of the that seemed primitive to the eyes of modern man, but sadly, vandal marks that attempted to recreate and add more of the real marks. It was found by Carlos “Botong” Francisco, a known artist in Rizal, during his hike/ mountaineering in the nearby site situated in the town of Binangonan back in 1965.
The first time we got there felt adventurous. After making the first step off the bus, everyone was drawn completely to the site that lured and say “Come and look at me.”. It was quite funny that the cave reminded us of our Filipino literature and history back in Manila and while we were walking through the tunnels and walkways, we would imagine ourselves to be guerrillas wagging battle against the Spaniards, rising our cedulas to be torn or just be Mando fleeing for his life from the Kempetais.
Fortunately, Kuya Christian was kind enough to walk us through the small exhibit that contained some painting, elephant tusk remains, ceramics and other fossils that were found within the vicinity of the site. He also explained where the word, “Petroglyph” was derived from. 2 Greek words “Petro” meaning rock and “Glyph” meaning mark was combined to exactly encapsulate what the site was all about. He also stated that the “mountain” as we speak, is due to be marked because of its soft layer of rock that is unusual. If you stare closely at the pictures, it appears to bear distorted primitive images of stick figures that were believed to bear meaning or images of rituals back in time. Now, we don’t have to worry much about it being ruined because it has been accredited by the National Museum that secured the place by law to protect from other pirates and trespassers. It is acknowledged, if not the oldest, one of the oldest existing art in the Philippines.
A combination of a somewhat untouched nature in addition to the historical contribution makes it an ideal place to relax (their platform that was a tree house-like structure was a superb place to hang out) and loosen up in the outskirts of the metro.
And some weird photo ops after sightseeing…
Second destination was the jaw-dropping exhibit of the Blanco Family. What’s astounding about the Family is that Sir Jose “Pitok” D. Blanco, together with his wife, was able to mold his 9 children to have such great artistic skills and composition. The kids, in such an early age, improved over time and created paintings with stories to tell that it was considered a priceless heirloom not just by the family, but the art capital as well.
In entering the museum lobby, Sir Michael Blanco welcomed us with a warm smile, was more than willing to tour us around the lobby and especially their private collection of paintings.
Before entering, he narrated to us about the installation art that he has built for the past years that included animated like and cheerful looking paper mache that he was able to preserve for almost a decade. The installation art hung was used during the Lenten season , Easter and the others for festivals that became a family tradition and contribution to the various festivals in the city.
He also mentioned that he decided to make the private museum to be an art center to help aspiring artists alike to come and improve their skills on their craft. He also proudly mentioned that Rizal hasn’t only been catering and producing talents of visual arts, but as well of other art forms like dance and vocal arts. It has been stated that the private museum turned art center has been the second home of children and children at heart enthusiasts and professionals during summer for their annual workshops.
Back to sir’s work, isn’t it weird for a paper mache to actually survive for a decade?
The secret of Sir Michael is the usage of Fiber glass as a sealant for his works.
And truly, the family keeps it fresh and existing by experimenting with materials and techniques in their different mediums and crafts.
“Syempre hindi naman ibig sabihin ay artist ka, pinta ka lang ng pinta at gawa ka lang ng gawa, dapat pag-aralan mo rin kung pano i-preserve yung mga artworks mo.” (An artist does not only paint and create but also study the technicalities of preserving his or her works.) and of course, it was evident by the paintings and techniques the different family members have applied.
In a nutshell, I’d like to point out the things I learned from the tour:
Art is all about discipline and telling your story. As what Sir Michael mentioned, the family and its members kept travelling the Philippines, injecting passion to their wives/husbands and children and giving justice to the places that are rarely seen. The sense of being physically present in the ritual or place plays a big role in execution.
According to sir, in an early age as early as 11 months old, they would be surrounded by art. He also mentioned Peter Paul, one of the Blancos, that at 11 months old, started eating oil pastels, draw lines that produced an abstract work. In a few years time, he would tell a story about it and it made the child very imaginative and creative in presenting his works.
He also mentioned that it is not all about MOOD. As most of us know and what the popular culture dictates to us, masterpieces are considerate and dependent on the proponent’s mood. But again, Sir Jose Blanco broke this stereotype. He taught the children to magnify the value of DISCIPLINE. That is requires an ample amount of it to finish an artwork in one sitting, to be able to create insane details and so on. Skills applied are obviously needed to actually recall an image or recreate a sketch to its true-to-life image and telling what happened, that again, can be developed though discipline.
Art is a multi-disciplinary approach. You can take two paths, taking it as a major course or taking a course to finance of yourself being an artist. Some people opt for the first one because it is inevitable or just their main target. Like Sir Jose, he studied Fine Arts, with 12 years experience in an advertising company, started freelancing and teaching the children his knowledge. In contrary, his children took different courses like Business Administration, Accounting, Engineering and the like and kept their artistic interests.
Art is a never ending process, the more you create and critique, the more substantial knowledge you can get on what to work on which can also lead to fresh ideas or interest. The Blanco family kept a tradition of doing study paintings and the most massive ones called “Thesis” to be presented to their father for deliberation. It was an 8 by 8 feet of plywood and canvas to be finished in 2 to 3 months time. The whole family partakes of the critiquing of works, and yes, even the 7 year old to his older 20 year old plus brothers/sisters. Also, a story of adding interest by placing a cat under the chicken coop in the painting of Jan P. Blanco entitled “Merchant” through a suggestion of a family member.
Draw influence and techniques from history. Sometimes , the best techniques are learned from the past that can be handy in composition like the Rembrandt lighting. Some of the painting suggested the mentioned lighting in the gallery. The contrast between the dark and brighter images give a sense of depht to the works.
Take art as a quality work and process and not a brand. Sir Jose taught them to work their best in every artwork. No mediocrity. No excuses. No going back. It won’t mean you have a known family name means you can sell your “mediocre” artwork to anyone at any price. Usually, after finishing a piece, they would keep it for a week and afterwards critique and rethink if it is worthy of selling. They prioritize quality before the financial part, according to Sir Michael
Humor wouldn’t hurt. There was this uber emotional painting of a scenery with a fisherman and his people fixing their baits and all, and suddenly a child was there picking his nose. Everyone went giving a hysterical laughter after Sir Lacson saying “May kinocontact, busy daw eh!”. And also the painting that exhibited the first date of Sir Jose and his wife. A girl with a battalion of relatives… and Sir Jose (lol). As you know, Filipinos are conservative by nature, bawal makipagngitian!
Here are some pics taken via Instagram
I have a lot more to tell but I think it would be better if you would hear it first hand from the Blancos instead. This museum trip were the ones that was fun and quite interactive. I would definitely come back there. 🙂
Last stop is Balaw Balaw Restaurant for our lunch, that at first look is very striking, again, exhibiting the very artsy side of Rizal. From the posts, to the rugged piano, to the tree of masks and of course, to the food. The place also had an in-house art gallery which was A-W-E-S-O-M-E and spelled shabby chic all over it.
The restaurant serves delicacies of Rizal and even unexpected dishes like this one…
It was delicious according to the other members, but yeah, I passed. xD What we ate was a dish of Binagoongan Rice , Crispy Hipon and Chicken Ala King with Achara. (I love the chicken especially)
Here are some pictures I took from the gallery:
Some paper mache tutorial before going back to the bus…
Ah. Rizal, I’ve never been there until yesterday and it was quite refreshing to escape the busy city. Truly, Rizal is a place of inspiration and unwinding and no doubt, it certainly is the Art capital of the Philippines. I’ve never seen so much externally presented art in one place.
Weird shop signs, art studios and galleries , friendly people, artists at work were everywhere.
Angono, Rizal, Art in Motion.
I hope you’d visit the places and enjoy as well!
S.S., signing out. 🙂