NA­TIONAL ARTIST CAR­LOS “BOTONG” FRAN­CISCO: THE POET OF AN­GONO

The Philippine Star - - LIFESTYLE SUNDAY -

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

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