NATIONAL ARTIST CARLOS “BOTONG” FRANCISCO: THE POET OF ANGONO
National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco discovered the Angono Petroglyphs during a field trip with the Boy Scouts in 1965. This was not an accident; it was his destiny. This cultural heritage site which is famous for its rock engravings, 127 drawings of human and animal figures, has been included in the World’s Inventory of Rock Art, through the auspices of UNESCO, ICCROM and ICONOMOS.
The Petroglyphs, after all, can be said to
be murals, and Botong, who is known as the Poet of Angono, singlehandedly revived the art of mural painting, becoming the most distinguished practitioner of his time. In panels such as those seen on his masterpiece, “Filipino Struggles through History” at the Bulwagang Katipunan of Manila City Hall, Botong turned fragments of the historic past into vivid records of the legendary courage of the ancestors of his race.
National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco was born to Felipe Francisco and Maria Villaluz in Angono on Nov. 4, 1914, and went to college at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts. Although he came from the same school of arts as Amorsolo, he veered away from the traditional artist and developed a modernist style.
Botong was invariably linked with the modernist artists, forming with Victorio Edades and Galo Ocampo what was then known in local art circles as “the Triumvirate.” They developed Filipino imagery in their work, taking images from the customs and traditions of his people in the murals they were commissioned to do in lobbies and private residences.
His first important mural was “50 years of Philippine History,” created for the International Fair held in Manila in 1953. Considered arts gems until today are Botong’s “First Mass at Limasawa,” a government-commissioned historical painting illustrating the first Catholic Mass in the Philippines, and “The Martyrdom of Rizal,” also a commissioned work depicting Philippine National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal at Bagong Bayan.
Botong’s other important works include “The Life and Miracles of St. Dominic” for the Santo Domingo Church in 1954; “Stations of the Cross” for Far Eastern University in 1956; “The Invasion of Limahong” in 1956; “Mangigisda” in 1957; and “Bayanihan” in 1962.
Botong’s unerring eye for composition, his lush tropical sense of color, and an abiding faith in folk values typified by the townspeople of Angono became the hallmark of his art. His mural paintings embody the rich tapestry of rhythm, boldness and inventiveness interwoven by the vibrancy of Philippine folklore, history and traditional life.
As an artist who influenced, and in turn was inspired by, his community, his body of work serves as a visual document of timeless and traditional folkways.
For his compelling pieces, Botong was honored with the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan from the City of Manila in 1964 and the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1976.
After Botong’s death on March 31, 1969, what came to be known as the Botong Francisco School of Painting grew, exemplifying lyricism and heroism. Botong became the second Filipino to receive the title of National Artist in Painting in 1973.
Botong, who is known as the Poet of Angono, singlehandedly revived the forgotten art of mural painting