The Philippine Star
CELEBRATING THE LIFE AND WORK OF GUILLERMO TOLENTINO AT SM CITY BALIWAG
His masterpiece monuments like the Bonifacio Monument and the UP Oblation are not only great sculptures, but iconic representations of the Filipino soul. A work of his symbolizing peace sits on the fireplace mantle of the bedroom of a US President’s House in Washington, DC. As an instructor, and later director and Professor Emeritus at the UP School of Fine Arts, he inspired and trained generations of Filipino artists.
The recent stop of My City, My SM, My Art at SM City Baliwag paid tribute to National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, showcasing his life and works in an exhibit at the mall’s atrium. The event also gave mallgoers a glimpse of the vibrant arts scene in Bulacan.
Bulacan’s artistic tradition has its roots in Spanish colonial times, and the rise of the ilustrados or the enlightened and educated ones in the 19th century. This came about with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the development of the agricultural export economy, through which native Filipinos acquired economic wealth and became known as ilustrados.
Ilustrados sent their children to universities in Europe like the families of Bulakeños Marcelo H. del Pilar and Mariano Ponce. With that, European-based ilustrados like Juan Luna and Felix Resurrección Hidalgo became world-class artists, while others became patrons of the arts.
The opening of the Suez Canal also made paints available in the Philippines, leading to the popularity of the art of portraiture. Other popular subjects during that time included landscapes or paisajes and bodegones or still life.
While the ilustrado period has long come to an end, the spirit of the times lives on in Bulakeños who continue to value education, as well as intellectual and artistic pursuits.
A joint project of SM, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Shell Philippines, the Philippine STAR, with support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Centerstage Productions, My City, My SM, My Art is a celebration of Philippine visual arts – painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography and filmmaking.
The campaign brings art and people together by showcasing the works of masters, modernists and millennials in a road show around the SM Supermalls. Advocating art for all, the team works with communities to mount exhibits, workshops, and contests in key cities around the Philippines.
Daisy Tolentino-Mendez, daughter of National Artist for Sculpture Guillermo Tolentino, as well as Baliwag Mayor Ferdie Estrella attended the event. Also, seen talking art were Baliwag officials such as Vice Mayor Christopher Clemente, municipal administrator Enrique Tagle, Councilors Generoso Ligon, Madette Quimpo, and Joel Pascual, as well as Bulacan Provincial History, Arts Culture and Tourism head Gracey Villacorta and cultural advocate Bong Enriquez.
Project partners Jayson Vicedo of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila and Grace Laurel and Doddie Gutierrez of the Philippine STAR also attended the event. They were welcomed by SM officials led by SM senior vice president for marketing Millie Dizon and SM Supermalls regional operations manager for north 5 Ana Datu.
Guests enjoyed the program, which included an AVP hosted by Bong Enriquez featuring the amazing works of Bulakeño artists. These works were exhibited in and around the My Art Gallery, which was inspired by the bahay na bato of Luzon. These included the works of Fil Delacruz, National Artist nominee, visual artist, and master printmaker who specializes in mezzotint prints. This is a printmaking process that is achieved by producing half tones without the use of line or dot-based techniques such as hatching, stippling and pointillism.
His works, like the “Diwata” series are known to be rich in ethnic imageries and indigenous symbols. Born in Hagonoy, Bulacan, he was trained at the University of Santo Tomas, the cradle of modernism in the Philippines, as well as in New York and Paris. A former president of the Philippine Association of Printmakers, his works have been exhibited in Europe, the US, Asia and in the Philippines.
My City, My SM, My Art also featured the works of visual artist Danny Pangan, the “exponent of tri-dimensional painting,” depicting history and nostalgia in this innovative art form; as well as Malolos-born Salvador “Buddy” J. Ching, whose images are a home in tradition and modernity, in the constancy of geography and in the flux of history.
The works of young Bulakeño artists were also showcased during the event. These included those of Jayson Cortez, who approaches motifs in a hyper-realist manner; Froilan Calayag, the “Prince of Dark Fairy Tales,” who is known for his surrealist cartoon-like figures and creatures; and young couple Kiko and Ynah Marquez who are passionate about love, life and art.
The highlight of the event was a tribute to National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, who was born in Malolos, Bulacan on July 24, 1890. Before his formal schooling, he used to mold horses and dogs in clay, out of the materials from the banks of the fishponds in the town.
Tolentino’s love for art brought him to Manila where he attended the School of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines under Vicente Rivera for painting and later for sculpture under Vicente Francisco. In 1915, he graduated in Painting and Sculptures in the School of Fine Arts with prizes in all subjects taken.
This would later take him to America in 1919, where, inspired by President Woodrow Wilson’s work for peace, he created a statue symbolizing “peace” hoping he would be able to present it to the President. He did, and today the statue showing a young woman leading a small child personifying the US and the Philippines, with the inscription PAX on its pedestal, sits on the fireplace mantle in Wilson’s bedroom in the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, DC.
This can be considered a turning point in his career, as millionaire Bernard Baruch saw the statue and offered him a scholarship at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where he enrolled in advanced courses in sculpture. After graduating with honors at the Ecole, he traveled to Europe and studied at the Regge Instituto Superiore di belle Arti di Roma in Rome.
Tolentino returned home in 1923 and opened his own studio in Manila. He also had a distinguished career in the academe. He was appointed as an instructor for sculpture at the UP School of Fine Arts in 1926; and later was named director of the School of Fine Arts and Professor Emeritus.
Tolentino received numerous awards and citations during his lifetime including the UNESCO Cultural Award for Sculpture in 1959, the Araw ng Maynila Award for Sculpture in 1963, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1967, the Diwa ng Lahi Award in 1972, and the President’s Medal of Merit in 1973. He was named National Artist for Sculpture in 1973.
Tolentino’s other monumental works include bronze figures of President Quezon at Quezon Memorial, life-sized busts of Jose Rizal at UE and UP, and the marble statue of Ramon Magsaysay at the GSIS building. He also designed the bronze medals of the Ramon Magsaysay Award and the Seal of the Republic of the Philippines.
With its aim of bringing art and people together, My City, My SM, My Art also held a printmaking workshop conducted by Salvador “Buddy” Ching. Justin Calacdac won the grand prize and brought home P5,000 worth of SM gift certificates.
My City, My SM, My Art is a take-off from the previous My City, My SM campaign which promotes tourism; My City, My SM, My Cuisine, which highlights regional culinary specialties; and My City, My SM, My Crafts, a celebration of traditional art and modern Philippine design in cities where SM has malls. My City, My SM, My Art’s next stop will be in SM City North EDSA.