“One blessed land, built from hardships and sufferings, born from tears and hope of this heart and soul. I’ve seen your beauty in your songs and art. I’ve felt your love which is great and true. You are my town, my town of Angono.” This excerpt from the translated lyrics of the Angono Hymn denotes how a provincial town in the Philippines became its art and heritage center.
Angono is located in the southern part of Luzon, one of the main islands of the Philippines. It is just a one-hour drive away from the capital city, Manila. Despite the small geography and population, this rural town is overflowing with raw talent. Angono is home to thousands of Filipino artists such as painters, sculptors, musicians, craftsmen, writers, theater people, and church-based workers. From furniture and trinkets to grand sculptures and paintings, the locals never cease to amaze the visitors and passers-by through their expression of creativity and heritage.
It is undeniable that the Philippines has a unique history. Its heritage is heavily influenced by many countries that have invaded or traded with it. At a glance, the cultural roots of the Filipinos can be traced back to the Malay, Chinese, American, and Spanish occupancies or trade relations. This is why the Philippines has such unique and diverse traditions. It has a little bit of everything. It is a perfect example of the “east meets west” metaphor. This weird but standout congregation of different ideals and philosophies brought the best out of the Filipinos: culture and heritage.
But before having the best, the Philippines had to go through the worst. Before the country teemed with freedom and flair from fine arts, it had to go through the occupation and censorship of the Spaniards in the mid-1500s.
If someone would look at the Southeast Asian map, the Philippines is strategically situated in the Pacific Ocean. Aside from the occasional typhoons and usual natural disasters, trading ships and other sea vessels travel across the country. Add the fact that the Philippines is rich in marine life, minerals, and other desirable products such as spices, it is easily a top candidate for being a colony of bigger countries.
When the Spaniards took sight of the Pearl of the Orient, which is the Philippines, they easily carried out their master plan to colonize the country behind the message of peace and Christianity. Up until now, the remnants of their colonization are still very evident because the Philippines is the only Christian country in Southeast Asia. Their religion, which served as their foot-in-the-door tool, takes up 86% of the total population of Filipinos today are Roman Catholics.
Since then, many Filipinos have become devout Christians. The Spanish Occupation caused the Filipinos to be religious and superstitious. From beliefs and conduct to faith and fiestas, most of the Filipino lives and culture are centered around Catholicism and its teachings. One of the major doctrines of Catholicism, to which the majority of the Filipinos are anchored, is to do all things in the name of the Lord. Hence, giving birth to local religious artworks such as paintings, sculptures, and even religious folklore. The efforts and talents being put into religious acts would later be redirected to recreation and self-expression through various artworks and crafts. This cultural revolution can be seen in different parts of the country, especially in Angono; where the abundance of talent is equal to the abundance of artwork.
Known as the “Art Capital of the Philippines”, Angono is a first-class municipality of Rizal, Philippines. In 2020, it is home to more than 130,000 talented Filipinos. Two of the country’s national artists resided here: Lucio San Pedro for music and Carlos “Botong” Francisco for visual arts. It is also the site for the oldest known work of art in the Philippines, the Angono Petroglyphs. Currently, the town is campaigning for the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and also pushing the Angono Petroglyphs to be included in the World Heritage List.
The name “Angono” was derived from the Filipino words “Ang” which means “The” and “Nono” means “Dwarf”. Due to its geographical size, Angono was considered a pueblo in 1766 and just a neighboring barrio to two bigger towns. But it was legally proclaimed an independent municipality in 1938 by the former president of the Philippines, Manuel L. Quezon. The whole province of Rizal, where Angono is located, had become the “Premier Province” of the Philippines because of its economic centers, progressive towns, and urbanized communities. It is also referred to as “The Cradle of Great Filipino Leaders.”
ASEAN Culture Capital
In August 2010, Angono, Rizal was one of the highlighted towns in the celebration of the recognition of the Philippines as the Cultural Capital of ASEAN that year. Angono Artists Village was launched that year. That is a community that gives residency to underprivileged and deserving Filipino artists. It also serves as a venue for workshops, performances, and residency programs.
There are a lot of art galleries inside Angono that rose to prominence on both local and international scenes. Some popular go-to art places for tourists are the Blanco Museum, Nemiranda Art Haus, Botong’s Studio and Balaw-Balaw Restaurant, and Folk Art Museum.
The townspeople of Angono express art not just in painting and sculpture but in other industries too like furniture and fixture making. One common item that can be seen in Angono houses from a generation before was the titiris. The Titiris is a weather vain. It usually consists of wooden figures of a Spaniard and Moro fighting with large flat swords that turn with the wind.
There were also local furniture makers with no formal training in making one. The ingenuity and resourcefulness of Filipinos are very evident here in Angono as some common furniture like chairs, tables, or beds are made from bamboo, carabao yoke, or even palay hooks.
Lucio San Pedro
Lucio D. San Pedro Sr. was a Filipino Composer and teacher. He was proclaimed a National Artist of the Philippines for Music in 1991. In his early life, he succeeded his grandfather as a local church organist and he composed songs, hymns, and even an orchestra. He took advanced composition in the Netherlands and taught music to the major music conservatories in the Philippines.
Carlos “Botong” Francisco
Carlos Modesto “Botong” Villaluiz Francisco is a Filipino muralist and was one of the first Filipino modernists in visual arts. He served as a production designer for the 1961 film adaptation of Noli Me Tangere, Jose Rizal’s (The Philippine National Hero) novel. He is also one of the premiered costume designers in Philippine Cinema. He was responsible for the discovery of the Angono Petroglyphs in 1965. His precious murals were restored and are currently stored in the National Art Gallery of the Philippines.
Botong has a heavy cultural and historical significance in the Philippines. Since being proclaimed as a National Artist for Visual arts in 1973, he has been the most revered muralist who interpreted the country’s significant events on canvass that are now part of government and private collections. He has been an inspiration not only to the visual artists in Angono but to all of the talented people in the Philippines. The reverence for Botong doesn’t only come from his sophisticated art but also from his simplistic way of living.
After rising to prominence, Botong never left his hometown, Angono. He persuaded many individuals who show love and appreciation for the arts to be an artist. He even convinced people to purchase large fishing vessels for the San Vicente festival. His presence and proximity to the community really emanate artistry, companionship, and a sense of camaraderie.
Fiestas, Festivals, Food
If there is one obvious heritage that the Spaniards passed down to the Filipinos, it is the love of social gatherings via religious event celebrations. In the Philippines, Fiestas and Festivals are being observed with colorful bandiritas, parades, marching bands, different talent and beauty show contests, church masses, and most especially, food. And Angono, Rizal is no exception to the grand and graphic parties. Angono celebrates seven festivals throughout the year. One popular festival that exhibits the locals’ creativity and zeal is the Higantes Festival or Feast of Saint Clement.
Higantes Festival is simply a loud parade with gigantic papier-mache puppets that could take the form of anything from animals to people. Originally, Higantes Festival is celebrated by the commonfolk to mock the bad hacienderos. But it has evolved into a more comical, cultural, and religious approach.
Every November, people gather in the streets to join the riotous parades, with sophisticated costumes and a loud marching band playing beyond the cheers and chants of people. And to top the celebration over, delicious feasts are being held during the celebration in streets and houses to commemorate the event. In fiesta feasts, everyone is welcome to eat. It doesn’t matter if one is a neighbor, a local tourist, or maybe even a foreigner, if someone is invited to eat, he or she is in for a real treat!
Festivals and Fiestas are the perfect occasions to see what bayanihan and pakikisama are about. In simplest terms, bayanihan is the civic unity and cooperation among Filipinos. It is the promptness and sincerity of the community or a group of people to help a fellow towards a common goal. Pakikisama, on the other hand, is a Filipino value that can simply be described as being courteous by offering companionship. These two uniquely Filipino values transcend the culture universally. For they are also engraved through the teachings of the church and family: be kind to others and love one another.
Bayanihan is widely expressed in fiestas and festivals when the people help each other out to prepare and carry out the whole event; even though there is nothing in store for them but strong bonds and relationships with their neighbors and fellow citizens. Pakikisama can be seen in fiestas and festivals when people are gathered to celebrate the event by eating, telling stories, singing songs on the karaoke, or even just having good laughs together. Filipinos love to gather and have a good time around their food. That is why almost all of Filipino celebrations are centered around the table - as depicted in many paintings and sculptures that showcase Filipino values.
Filipino Talent Around The World
Talented Filipinos are being recognized internationally for their creativity and innovative takes on expressing abstract ideas physically through works of art. In one recent art exhibition that was held in Kuala Lumpur last May 2022, the works of the Filipino painters Mr. Roy Espinosa, Mr. Frank Cana, and Mr. Pancho Piano were featured.
Last June 21, 2022, several Filipino Contemporary artists were featured in top contemporary art museums in Europe. The Filipinos who represented the country through their explicit showcase of creativity are Dina Gadia, Pow Martinez, Ha.Mü, Dex Fernandez, Urban Decay Planning, Leeroy New, Timmy Harn, and Rasel Trinidad (Doktor Karayom).
Aside from contemporary arts, Filipino artists are also renowned for their acting and singing skill - which are also considered forms of art (performing arts). The likes of Lea Salonga and Rachel Ann Go are showcasing the Filipino caliber in acting and singing.
There were also Filipinos that won international awards for their natural genius in their crafts. Ms. Jaclyn Jose won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. The Igorot Sculptor Gilber “Gano” Alberto won 2 international awards in Switzerland at the 2013 Symposium International de Sculpture. The Filipino visual artist Michael Garcia Villagante won the highest award called the “Lorenzo il Magnifico” award at the XIIIth Florence Biennale 2021 in Florence, Italy.
Art knows no boundaries. Who would’ve thought that a little country from Southeast Asia can make resounding waves in the international community? That is one of the reasons why the art industry, whatever form it might be, is truly unique. There are no rules as to what is desirable or not. We are here for the passion. We are here for the expression. We are here for the story.