I’m igniting my artsy wanderlust this 2020 with Drive Tours in the Art Capital of the Philippines, Angono, Rizal.
“Tara, let’s have fun today!” Exclaimed Michael Miranda, Founder and President of Drive Manila as we boarded our ride outside their HQ in UP Diliman. We were headed to Angono, Rizal, on 11th January 2020, for the first Angono Art Tour of Drive. Accompanying us on this trip were Reamur Adaza David and Omar Regalado of Watatrip, Eva Parreno of AccesiWheels, the rest of Drive team like Nikolai Mae Catajan of Drive TV, Mailyn Solomon and myself as the Drive Tours organizer and a few joiners.
At around 9 am, we kickstarted the tour at the Angono Municipal Hall led by our lovely tour guide, Ms. Lady Mendiola of Angono Tourism Office.
Land of Artists
There must have been something in the air, or the in nature all around, that give Angono natives inspiration to create timeless masterpieces.
Between the hills of Angono and Binangonan, one can find the oldest known artwork in the Philippines. Early inhabitants, had already expressed their artistry through petroglyphs or rock carvings. The petroglyphs are in the rear recessels of a cave, carved in a rock formation belonging to the Pleistocene Guadalupe Formation dated 3000 BC.
We were joined by Councilor Leah Villalon, an avid supporter of her hometown’s art scene, with visions of a more accessible touring in Angono.
Angono native, Carlos “Botong” Francisco, discovered these primitive carvings in 1965 while on a field trip with a troop of Rover Scouts. The Angono Petroglyphs were declared a National Cultural Treasure through P.D. 260, signed on August 1, 1973, by former President Marcos . And through the auspices of UNESCO, and other agencies it was included in the World Inventory of Rock Art. . The National Museum also established a site museum showcasing the cultural and artistic heritage of the province of Rizal.
Blanco Family Art Museum
Jose “Pitok” Blanco is the head of the Blanco clan, a family of artists. In 1978 the family held their first exhibit at the National Museum in Manila which which led to the construction of their own gallery museum in Angono sometime in the 1980s. Their museum houses more than 400 pieces of art that highlights Filipino culture and traditions..
Before stepping inside the main gallery, Michael Blanco, son of Pitok and the museum director, explained, “Naging goal ng family i-record ang kultura at tradisyon ng mga Filipino. Kaya po nagta-travel kami sa iba’t-ibang provinces in the Philippines para yung different culture and traditions ma-irecord namin sa aming artworks.”
With five decades of family art history the Blancos show no sign of stopping. They have to expand to accommodate more forms of art in the museum.
Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant and Art Gallery
Cooking is an art in itself. And to keep the tradition of Angono native dishes alive, Andre Vocalan carries on the legacy of Perdigon Vocalan, his father, by managing their specialty restaurant and art gallery. He was personally supervising the restaurant during our lunch.
They have been serving local favorites and exotic dishes since 1983. The restaurant’s name alone, alludes to a classic Filipino theme. Balaw-balaw, is a condiment of the Tagalog made from fermented small shrimps and rice gruel mixed with an herb called “angkak” that causes its pinkish color. It’s then preserved and fermented in an earthen jar for 3 days. It’s flavor compliments well with fried dishes.
Alfresco dining on the first floor, a glimpse of Pedrigon’s artworks, as mentored by Carlos “Botong” Francisco, during his time, together with Andre’s brother Rembrandt who displays his work on the second and third floors.
Nemiranda Art House
And just a few meters away, we we’re transported to the world of the artist, Nemesio R. Miranda “Nemiranda” Jr’s imagination. The art house is guarded by higantes (giants) at the entrance. life-size sculptures of characters from Filipino folktales and legends tickle one’s mind. His canvases depict both mythical creatures and the daily lives of locals. Having mastered the art of depicting the twisting, bending, playful movements of the human body, he’s earned the title, “Father of Imaginative Figurism.”
Carlos “Botong” Francisco Studio Home
No art tour of Angono is complete without paying homage to the National Artist for Visual Arts, Carlos ”Botong” Francisco is studio home, displays of some of his intimate works, collections, andawards. Entertaining the guests at Botong’s restored humble abode is his grandchild, Carlos “Totong” Francisco, an artist himself.
In the house a citation declaring Francisco as National Artist in Visual Arts in 1973 reads, “No painter of his time has more closely attuned to the spirit of his land and people. His genius fed on this never-failing source of inspiration, and he remained to end of his life, the authentic interpreter of the timeless round of the daily existence in the villages of his native land.”
In 1910, noted art critic, historian, and curator, Roger Fry, coined the term “Post-Impressionism.” It means a work of art should not revolve around style, process, or aesthetic approach. Instead, it should place emphasis on symbolism, communicating messages from the artist’s own subconscious. And for me, the Angono art scene gravitates to post-impressionism.
The main subject of local artists boasts of the town’s folklore, local legends, culture, and traditions. From ang nuno sa balite to higantes to the vivid portrayals of everyday lives, and to their interpretation of history, in paintings, sculptures and murals. Yet not limited to those, as the new breed of Angono artists is splashing their colors with various exhibitions around town across different mediums.
En route to our starting point we were already plotting our next art tour. To become part of the next tour, like and follow DRIVE Tours. Or download the app on Google Play for Android users and on the App Store for iOS.