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PROFILES OF PASIGUENOS IN THE LITERARY AND VISUAL ARTS

By: Manolo Lozada

LOPE K. SANTO

Poet, Novelist, Essayist, Critic

Did you know that the roots for the consolidation of Tagalog-based Filipino into one national language were planted deep into the very soil of Pasig by our townmate Lope K. Santos of Buting? It is a disservice to this man that Pasig little recognizes today – one who had many talents and national accomplishments, especially in the literary field.

Santos, a.k.a. “Berfugo,” was born in 1879 and lived till the age of 84. He was a fictionist, poet, printer, revolutionary (in the Philippine-American War), politician (governor of Rizal 1910-1913, first Filipino governor of Nueva Vizcaya 1918-1920 and senator of the 12th district 1921-1922). As senator, he authored the law on Andres Bonifacio Day and sponsored bills to improve the condition of workers.

From 1941 to 1945, he was director of the Institute of National Language and espoused the teaching of the national language. His Balarila ng Wikang Pambansa of 1946 became the official textbook.

In the early 1900s, Santos went into newspaper work, and wrote for and edited several Tagalog publications, including Muling Pagsilang and its sister publication, El Renacimiento, both of which exposed American abuses in Bacoor, Cavite, in 1905.

American authorities filed a libel suit against Santos and Fernando Ma. Guerrero (editorial director of El Renacimiento). But, in a celebrated verdict, they were found not guilty and hailed as champions of freedom of the press.

Santos authored 10 books of poetry and six novels, including his masterpiece Banaag at Sikat. He was also one of the pioneer essayist and critics writing in Spanish and Tagalog in Philippine language and literature. As a critic and scholar, he is credited with having established the code of writing poetry that critic Virgilio S. Almario called balagtasismo.

He received many awards, among them the posthumous Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1977. It should be a source of pride for Pasigueños that through Lope K. Santos and his descendants, Pasig has contributed much to the national heritage and culture.

His descendants include his children, especially the writer and Pilipino grammarian Paraluman S. Aspillera and the lexicographer Vito Santos; his niece, the film director and screenwriter Susana C. de Guzman; his nephew, the playwright Severino Reyes (author of Walang Sugat), whose grandson was Constacio de Guzman, the composer of the “second” national anthem Bayan Ko (lyrics by the poet Jose Corazon de Jesus), and who also wrote the music and lyrics of now classic Maalaala Mo Kaya, Ang Tangi Kong Pag-ibig, Babalik Ka Rin, Pamaypay ng Maynila, Bituing Walang Dambana, Pagdating ng Takipsilim, and many other songs.

GREGORIO COCHING

Novelist, Translator

Another son of Buting born in 1892, a.k.a. Kalingkingan, Gregorio Coching was one of the popular novelist of his time.

He began writing in 1923 with the novel Sanggumay, which won first prize in the Liwayway publication contest.

His many other novels include Baliya, Nita Ravinsky, Okami San, Dama de Noche, Nanay Ko, and Babae ng Bayan.

He translated into Tagalog John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Two of his novels were made into films: Teniente Rosario and Ilaw ng Langit.

He had a son who became a noted komiks writer and excellent illustrator, Francisco, who in turn has successful portrait artist daughters, Lulu and Maribel.

Among Francisco’s works for the komiks, which were serialized and held the readership in suspense, were Satur, Sabas, Ang Barbero, Palasig, Maldita, and Movie Fan. Most of his works eventually found their way into films.

FEDERICO LICSI ESPINO, JR.

Poet, Short Story Writer, Playwright

Born in 1939 in Palatiw, Pasig, multi-awarded Federico Licsi Espino, Jr. received his journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1959. He worked as editorial assistant of Saturday Mirror Magazine. Later, he became a freelance writer, writing in four languages: English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Ilocano.

He also authored collections of stories: The Country of Sleep, Percussive, Blood, and Geometries, Bright and Dark.

He wrote two Palanca winning plays: The Ricebird Has Brown Wings and Lady Macbeth/ A Black Symphony in Three Movements.

Espino continues to live and write in Palatiw, Pasig City.

LUCIANO P.R SANTIAGO

Writer – Historian

A descendant of some of the political and social pillars of Pasig, he lives in Baranggay Bagong Katipunan. From the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Encyclopedia, we quote:

“He finished his early schooling at Pasig Catholic College, high school at San Beda College, and a medical degree at the University of the Philippines. Santiago’s commitment as a doctor has never gotten in the way of artistic and writing inclinations. Trained in adult and child psychiatry at Sheppard and Erroch Pratt Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, he won the Wendell Muncie Prizes for 1970 and 1976 for writing in psychiatry. He is the only non-American and only two-time recipient of the award.

Santiago’s research on the various aspects of the 19th century has produced books like The Hidden Light: The First Filipino Priests, 1987, and The World of Damian Domingo, 1990, with Nick Joaquin. He has contributed on Filipino artists to the Filipinas Journal of Science and Culture and Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society.

His love for history and the arts has brought him prestigious awards and prizes such as the Premio Manuel Bernabe, Primer Premio in History from the Centro Cultural de la Embajada de España in 1987; finalist, Best Book for The Hidden Light, Catholic Mass Media Awards in 1988; the Catholic Author Award from the Asian Catholic Publishers and the National Book Award for art from the Manila Critics Circle for The World of Damian Domingo, both in 1990.”

BENIGNO R. JUAN

Writer

Another writer from Palatiw, cousin-in-law of Federico Licsi Espino, Jr., he is a staff member of Liwayway Publications. He has been awarded prizes for his short stories in Filipino. He also served as barrio councilman of Palatiw, and was among those named Outstanding Pasigueños in 1994.

BERNARDO DEL ROSARIO, JR.

Playwright, Novelist

Amazing indeed that this mechanical engineering graduate of the University of the Philippines, and now associate professor of the Rizal Technological University, would be a twice-awarded literary personality for works in Filipino.

In 1966, he won the first prize in the Palanca Awards for his one-act play, Itim ang Kulay ng Paruparo. In 1968, he won first prize in the Liwayway novel contest for Ang Panginoon ng Madera.

Effacing and mostly reticent, he is a living proof of “depth in silence.”

He lives in Sagad with his family, where his roots have always been.

CENON M. RIVERA

Painter, Stained-Glass Artist

Standing tall in the galaxy of Pasig visual artists is painter Cenon M. Rivera of P. Gomez, Baranggay San Jose. It is sad that this artist, who was dean of the University of Santo Tomas College of Fine Arts (succeeding the recognized Father of Modern Art in the Philippines, Victorio C. Edades), is no longer with us. He died in 1998, leaving his only son Noel to keep alive the technique and the art of stained glass. Noel, in turn, has a professional photographer in his son Angelo.

The CCP Encyclopedia says this about Rivera: “His earliest style in painting was influenced by academic realism, but in 1951 he abandoned realism for semi-abstraction and analytic cubism. He evolved a distinct style blending semi-abstract figurative and stained-glass and mosaic technique.”

Rivera learned glass technique in European cities on a scholarship from the Italian government in 1962-1965.

Some of the important glass works are: Mt. Samat Memorial Shrine, consisting of three panels on the Battle of Bataan; the four skylight panels for the Dominican chapels in Baguio; the 22 panels for Sanctuario Church in San Juan; 14 murals at the Shrine of Santo Niño in Cebu.

He won prizes and received awards both here and Italy.

ROD PARAS-PEREZ

Painter, Museum Curator, Art Critic

A product of Rizal High School and the University of the Philippines, and a Pasigueños of many years standing (Kapasigan), Paras-Perez pursued higher education at the University of Minnesota and obtained a doctorate from Harvard University. He received several scholarships, among them the Schimdth-Mundt Fulbright and the Rockfeller. An award-winning artist, he has exhibited locally and abroad. He has expertise in museum curatorship, has written critiques and books on several Philippine artist and on the French sculptor Rodin. His woodcut illustrations for the special edition of Florante and Laura became a collector’s item.

The public had to wait 11 years before Paras-Perez mounted another major painting exhibition in 1999 in Makati City. It was noted that his paintings there showed a distillation of complex thought process and imagination. A reclusive scholar, Paras-Perez nevertheless “has the logic and informed pragmatism of a corporate mind. It is not surprising then that the institutions abroad, including the culture institutions of such countries as Singapore, have regularly tapped his mind for their culture planning. Sad to say, it takes foreign entities to recognize his value. (Philippine Daily Inquirer).”

And Paras-Perez himself speaks of “how the arts are a premium vehicle in teaching our children the sense of values. Only a generation with strong values can be a key to a country’s growth.”

AMBROSIO MORALES

Sculptor

This gentle soul was a sculptor from Pulo (now San Miguel) who designed and executed some of the monuments that stands around Pasig. He is to have been involved in the design of Philippine coins, Morales was a professor at the UP until 1950s.

In the early 1960s, upon his encouragement and leadership, the Pasig Art Club was born with members that included Cenon Rivera, Rod Paras-Perez and Jose Pyt Santos.

BENIGNO R. JUAN

Writer

This gentle soul was a sculptor from Pulo (now San Miguel) who designed and executed some of the monuments that stands around Pasig. He is to have been involved in the design of Philippine coins, Morales was a professor at the UP until 1950s.

In the early 1960s, upon his encouragement and leadership, the Pasig Art Club was born with members that included Cenon Rivera, Rod Paras-Perez and Jose Pyt Santos.

FRED CARILLO

Comic Book Illustrator

Those who followed in their youth the forceful and florid komiks drawings of Fred Carillo (1950s-1970s) would not fail to recognize the name. For he created visual worlds out of the stories of Clodualdo del Mundo and other writers, and help shape the consciousness of the reading nation steeped in the likes of Pilipino, Hiwaga and Especial Komiks and the Liwayway group of publications.

In his creative peak, it was easy for Carillo to be illustrating five novels per month for the komiks, as well as other commissions. Among his works of the period were Daluyong which he also wrote, and Prisipe Paris. The era was one of great illustrators, including Francisco Coching, Redondo, Javinal, Larry Alcala, Tony Velasquez, and others.

Towards the mid-1970s, Carillo was plucked from the country by giant US publications, Pendulum Press and Marvel Publications, and there he contributed to the universe inhabited by superheroes like Phantom Stranger, Spiderman, He-Man, and The Transformers. In the US, he also single-handedly created in comic form the classics, like the works of Shakespeare.

His production is voluminous, lying uncatalogued in his residence in Robinson Circle. Somebody – quick! Catalogue these works. Better still; make a coffee-table book out of these.

Among Carillo’s awards was the 1971 Award for Mass Media as best illustrator. Generous with his craft and art, he has trained apprentices. One of his protégées is the talented Danny Acuña of Baranggay Santo Tomas, now a leading cartoonist and illustrator whose abilities are being used extensively by the Pasig City government.

MANUEL CARILLO

Art Director, Illustrator, Watercolorist

A natural talent, Manuel Carillo, brother of Fred, was art director for Admakers for 35 years, while he also did illustrations for Liwayway. After retirement, he became active as watercolorist. He has exhibited his works, which are representational and refined, and show great attention to details.

MANUEL D. BALDEMORN

Painter, Sculptor, Printmaker

Manuel and Fred Baldemor, uncle and nephew, are by-words in Philippine art. They are Pasig-based artists who find inspiration from their ancestral town of Paete and its tradition in carving. Their clan has contributed much to sculpture and the visual arts as a whole. The Baldemor children, if not artist themselves, either teach art, work in graphics, or are studying art here and abroad.

Manuel of Santolan is a product of the University of Santo Tomas and the workshop of the woodcarvers and santeros (makers of religious images). The CCP Encyclopedia writes that early on, he worked on sculptural reliefs and later on tried to develop the taka (paper mache) industry by designing flat wall taka depicting rural scenes

He first attracted attention in the early 1970s with his pen-and-ink drawings, which captured the folk spirit in meticulous detail; he also did printmaking and is a leading painter with a recognizable style.

FRED BALDEMOR

Sculptor, Painter, Illustrator

Although a commerce graduate, Fred has been kept hostage to art – understandably so – and maintains a studio, Ukitan, on Shaw Boulevard near the Rizal Medical Center. He originated in 1974 the image of Santo Niño de Palaboy (Holy Child, the Vagrant), which has become the folk imagery commonly sculptured today. He produced a body of work called Sining Kahoy and a series of sculpture in ivory on the subject of Filipino myths and legends. He is currently at work on a statue of San Lorenzo Ruiz, which will be installed in the landmark of St. Patrick Cathedral in New York as his personal donation through the Filipino community./p>

He has done a larger-than-life sculpture in wood of Mutya ng Pasig which is his personal collection. The painting of Santa Rosa de Lima on the side of the main altar of the church in Bagong Ilog is another testimony to his skill.

Baldemor also paints and draws.

WIDMARTH A. LODRIGA

Sculptor

BENIGNO R. JUAN

Writer

Widmarth has just turned 21 and is a fresh graduate of UP. He won the grand prize in the recently-concluded Shell Art Competition, besting 84 other countries.

Even a young boy, Widmarth has been winning prizes (the first when he was six).

After his elementary education at the Pasig Catholic College, he gained acceptance into the Makiling High School for the Arts in Los Baños as a government scholar.

His talent undoubtedly received encouragement and breath from his thoroughly artistic family of San Joaquin (father: artist; mother: art teacher; siblings: all into fine arts and architecture). Widmarth also plays the violin.

His winnings piece was called the Philippines’ Naïve, intended as a representation of the Filipino’s boundless optimism in the face of disaster, both manmade and natural. Lodriga used the difficult lost-wax process.

A description of that piece runs thus:

Lodriga’s works stands votive-like, complete with a pool of drippings to suggest a lit candle. The work isn’t exactly naïf and is reminiscent of stylized human figures depicted in Etruscans and Tanzanian cave paintings (Sunday Inquirer Magazine, March 18, 2001).

We believe that Pasig is once again nurturing a serious artist of tremendous promise.

The magazine article about him was entitled “The Shape of Things to Come.

That could be prophetic regarding Philippine sculpture.

FEDERICO ESTRADA

Painter, Muralist

Is there a Pasigueño who has not seen at least an obra of this Sumilang painter?

His mural on Pasig hangs prominently at the Pasig City Museum

He painted many of Pasig’s lost landmarks, which were exhibited in the soft-launching of the Pasig City Museum last December 2001.

Estrada also did portraits and other landscape, mostly in oil and often in the impasto technique, laid down sensitively with the palette knife.