Monday, October 13, 2014

Visiting the Blanco Museum in Angono, Rizal, full of vibrant paintings of country life.


Sometime back, I took an ambassador and his wife to Angono, Rizal for a morning of art and culture in a never-endingly eventful Travelife.

We were really supposed to meet for lunch only. But then the wife also said: "Before lunch, please take us sightseeing first somewhere."

I tried to think of an interesting place to take them, that also wouldn't be too far, especially in this heat.

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THE ART TOWN OF ANGONO



This was when I remembered the town of Angono, full of artists in residence and some galleries.

I'd visited it a very long time ago, when I was a child and Angono was but a fishing village.

At that time, the Blanco family had put the town on the map by becoming famous for painting as a very large and talented family.

THE FAMILY THAT PAINTS TOGETHER...



It was very charming to see the whole family painting together.

Their favorite subjects were things closest to their hearts: portraits of family membersslices of everyday lifescenes from Angono and Laguna Lake, and some colorful festivals they'd visited.



DON'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER

Nothing much has changed in terms of their themes and style of painting.

But today there's a pretty extensive museum of their homegrown paintings. The property doesn't look much from the outside, I have to warn you.


It's a plain-looking building fronted by a large iron gate with a sign. In fact, when I first saw it, I thought we'd come on the wrong house.

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IS THIS THE RIGHT PLACE?

And as soon as you step inside, the first thing that greets you is a rather dusty courtyard with all kinds of items strewn about.



As it was very early in the day and the museum was still padlocked, we were kindly ushered to wait in the garden.

This, too, really could have used some sprucing up. If this was my private museum, I certainly know what I would do with it.

As we inspected the semblance of greenery, I was trying to figure out in my mind where the art was.




OFF THE MARK?

For a moment, I wondered whether I'd made the right decision in taking this ambassador and his wife to this particular place that I, too, hadn't visited in several decades.

Just as I was about to suggest leaving and trying our luck at another art gallery, the lady on duty came with the keys to the museum proper, so we decided to go in anyway.



SURPRISE, SURPRISE

What an extensive collection of lovely paintings of Philippine scenes by an entire family, from the head of the family, Jose "Pitok" Blanco, down to his youngest child.

It's a very nice collection of the kind of paintings you don't see at all anymore, in this world of very stylish and provocative art.

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Amidst all the trendiness in the art scene today, looking at these terribly old-fashioned works of Philippine rural and village life was kind of a comfort.



MEMORIES OF ANOTHER LIFETIME

The universal theme of the paintings was nostalgia in itself.

It was a very enjoyable way to spend the morning, looking at vignettes of Philippine life long gone by.


And, of course, for foreigners, such a museum is a particularly special treat as these paintings give them insights into Philippine culture.

Each painting by Pitok Blanco's son or daughter also states the age of the child when the painting was done.



So many of the paintings were really amazing, considering they were done at the age of four or five years old, for instance.

A GREAT TOUR GUIDE



We were very lucky, as well, as Art Blancoone of the Blanco grandsons, happened to be around.

He personally toured us through about half of the museum.



Along the way, his wondrous stories of his grandfather and uncles and aunts, as well as his explanations of each painting, made everything ten times more interesting for us.



The ambassador's wife couldn't believe that this young man was so good at explaining every painting. She asked him: "How do you know all of this?"

Art replied: "We were all close to our grandparents. And my grandfather explained his paintings to us whenever we came over for Sunday lunch or family gatherings."

The ambassador and his wife enjoyed this visit immensely.

But if you do go, I'd recommend that you take a fan with you as it's really a family residence with paintings on exhibit, rather than a museum; so it doesn't have infrastructure like centralized airconditioning.

But, then again, this is part of its charm -- especially in this era of minimalist and uber-cool galleries with lots of art that look more like advertising, or like something done in five minutes.



TIMELY INSPIRATION FOR SRI LANKA

This short but very pleasant visit certainly inspired me to take up painting again.

And this is exactly what I did after that, when I decided to bring my watercolors another wonderful journey in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




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