A glimpse of a nation imagined

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Monday, May 19, 2014

IT IS not every day one gets to see the works of our country’s national artists. So it was a privilege to see the works of Carlos Modesto Villaluz Francisco, better known as Botong Francisco in an Ayala exhibit entitled “Botong Francisco: A Nation Imagined.”

Ayala Museum senior curator Kenneth Esguerra explained that the exhibit is an offshoot of the Ayala Museum exhibit of Francisco’s works to commemorate his 100th birth anniversary in Nov. 4, 2012. In that exhibit, there were 60 original works of the artist mostly borrowed from collectors like Dr. Jaime Laya, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Paulino and Hetty Que and Gretchen Cojuangco. From that exhibit, about 25 paintings were chosen to be part of this Ayala-sponsored traveling exhibit, but not the original works, which would have cost quite a fortune in insurance costs, but photographs copied on photo canvas. Most of the photographs are in the same size as the original though some have been enlarged, and others made smaller.

The beauty of this exhibit is that you not only see the replicas, there is also an accompanying Peque Gallaga film that shows more of Francisco’s works, mostly his murals which could not be contained in the Ayala museum. With this film, one gets to see Francisaco’s works like the Martyrdom of Jose Rizal, the History of Medicine, Fiesta and The Pageant of Commerce, works that certainly justify his being a national artist for visual arts.


Francisco was from Angono, Rizal, and is sometimes called “the poet of Angono.” His paintings not only depicted Philippine history but also the life and lore of his native place: the fiestas, the farm and countryside scenes, people at work, at home, at play. He rendered these mostly in oil on canvas. The painting replicas on exhibit have a faded air about them and Esguerra explained that the Philippine humidity, climate is harsh so some of the paintings have faded somewhat. But the greatness of Francisco’s works is still evident: there’s a feeling of fluidity in his canvases, a movement that invites one to explore the nuances of his brush strokes. And the Peque Gallaga film makes one feel all the more the greatness of this artist who died of tuberculosis on March 31, 1969. He was given the title of National Artist posthumously in 1973.

The traveling exhibit “Botong Francisco: A Nation Imagined” was held at The Gallery, Ayala Center Cebu, from May 10 to 17.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 20, 2014.


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