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Angono, land of the giants
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Mita Sison Duque
Date: 2003-01-25
About 29 kms away and 30 minute -drive from modern, cosmopolitan Manila, is a quaint town, where interestingly, despite influx of immigrants, old-time traditions and customs are preserved and still observed today.

In the province of Rizal, in the municipality of Binangonan, in Angono, a town whose name according to old folks, came from two words “ang nuno” meaning a dwarf, or a wise old man, inspired artists and composers to paint masterpieces as the 1947 mural “Fiesta” for the Manila Hotel and to compose Filipino classics as the musical piece, “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan,” both national treasures. Considered the

center of visual arts in the country, the town is rich with art galleries and works of homegrown artists, together with known art pieces coming from some of the country’s more prominent painters and sculptors.

Already rich with aesthetic works on canvass and other art mediums, in 1965 Carlos “Botong” Francisco, during poor visibility and on a steep climb to the hills and valleys of Antipolo ma

de a great discovery in a heavy forest. Petroglyphs, pre-historic inscriptions, carvings cut on the face of cliffs or rocks dating back to 3000 B.C. by prehistoric people, reminiscent of the hieroglyphics in Egypt and the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, were found in the caves of Angono. The cultural heritage site, is the most ancient Filipino site where prehistoric Filipino works of art were u

nearthed. Besides being the oldest work of art, the artwork provides our nation an evocative glimpse into the past and the lives of ancestors in earliest times. Over 120 rock engravings of human and animal figures led to archaeological finds which yielded fragments of earthenware, obsidian flakes and shells.

The relics were open to deterioration from physical and chemical weathering, erosion, algae, fungal growth, including termite attacks and aging. More severe, however, than assaults from nature, are the lack of cultural awareness and preservation that endangered the petroglyphs. Anthropologist Dr. Jesus Peralta, former Assist. Director of the National Museum, brought the historic discovery to the public eye. Recently, the site has been included in the World Inventory of Rock Art under the auspices of UNESCO and the International Committee on monuments and sites as one of the oldest in Asia-Pacific. In 1996, the site has been declared a National Cultural Treasure by virtue of Presidential decree 260, and was nominated as one of the “100 Most endangered sites of the world,” placed under the World monument watch list. Presently, the Dept. of Tourism is developing the site, while conservation researches and environmental rehabilitation are conducted by the National Museum.

In 1973, Mr. Francisco was declared a National Artist and received the republic’s Cultural Heritage award in 1976. Recognized as masterpieces among his art works are “Pounding Rice” in 1949, “The Threshers” in 1950, “Muslim betrothal” in 1958, and the mural depicting Filipino struggles and their long history towards freedom at the Bulwagang Katipunan at the Manila City Hall in 1964. In music, prolific composer and multi-talented musician, Maestro Lucio San Pedro was declared a national artist in 1991. His famous works, such as “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan,” “Sa Mahal kong Bayan” and “Lahing kayumanggi,” are classics of Filipino musical compositions of all times.

Art galleries are unusually and strangely concentrated in Angono, where many artists are based. Here, the home and studio of national artist Vicente Manansala, is enshrined. The Balaw-balaw gallery is the house with studio with restaurant of artist-gourmand, Perdigon Vocalan lives here. At the Juban studio at Dońa Justa Village, Salvador Juban lives and paints. Painter Orville Tiamson displays his art works at the Tiamson gallery where he also lives at Nieves street. At the family-oriented Blanco museum, where renowned artist Jose Blanco lives with his family of painters, fine arts are routinely crafted behind the high-fenced residence. At the village artist galleries works of Vicente Reyes and Pepito Villaluz are inspired, produced and displayed for sale. At the Miranda family art museum and Angono School for the Arts, contemporary artist Nemi Miranda Jr. a native of Angono, and his artist offsprings Katrina, Zarah Jane, Paul Greco, Don Nemesio III and Franchesca, all painters in their own rights, together with his wife, Teresita Hipol, live in quiet, bucolic, nature settings. A Fine Arts graduate of UST, Miranda institutionalized the Angono Ateliers Assn., a learning institute for the artistic. He organized the Angono Visual Art Center in 1989, accredited now by the DECS. A multi-awarded and an environmental artist for his commitment to preservation of the environment through his ecology paintings, with a long list of major works seen in international exhibits, he is included in the International dictionary of art published in London. Best known as an EDSA revolutionary artist, his long series painting started in 1986, the EDSA mural at the shrine, and the EDSA 2 relief mural of 2001. His historical series paintings are sensitive visual chronicles of contemporary Philippine history.

Angono, an exotic town on the verge of flourishing, yet seemingly holding back inroads of modern commercial progress, is art’s home and ally as art is food for the soul, so is gourmet food for the body, and as frequented by artists and beautiful people, restaurants serve exquisite Filipino cuisine using fresh herbs and spices grown in the lush mountains of Antipolo, cooked and served in the ambiance and company of art and architecture. Even festivals in Angono are not quite the same as others. In the festival in honor of the patron saint of fishermen, San Clemente, the image of the saint is carried in a fluvial procession on scenic Laguna de Bay, while fishermen and their families dress in their work attires, carry oars and implements of the trade while in procession. In the village plaza, giant papier mache figures as tall as 14 feet, aptly called “higantes”, tagalog word for giants, dance the night away as part of the fiesta. “Higantes” is part of the tourist attraction of the Philippines, native only to Angono. Lately, Nemiranda introduced another innovation of the “higantes”, with giant papier mache head masks, now found in some of the art galleries. Experiencing Angono, is a deja vu to a time of long ago, neither traveled by time or space, but through the passages and arrays of art works, relics and vestiges of the past found in the primitive artwork of early artists with the bare essentials of stones for palate, cave walls for canvasses, and raw, native talents of visionary artists who have left traces of the past for the far away future, they may never see.

Or perhaps, only in God’s time and designs as arts are after all, His gift to man and the future, through artists He, of course, created and gifted. (Eds Note: Writer is the daughter of the late Justice Porfirio V. Sison, and Atty. Nancy Q. Sison)

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