Rizal Province: Maestro “Pitok” Blanco, His Family, Their Craft, and, Museum in Angono
Angono, living up to its monicker, “The Arts Capital of the Philippines”, has been a cradle for Filipinos masterfully equipped with unparalleled artistic skills, two of them regarded for contributions in their respective fields and were individually awarded the National Artist of the Philippines – Lucio D. San Pedro for Music, and Carlos “Botong” Francisco for Visual Arts. This feature, however, is about the prodigy of the great Botong Francisco, a proud local of the Arts Capital, and also the leader to a whole new band of artist who became among Angono’s finest. This feature is about the patriarch, Jose “Pitok” Blanco, his family, their craft and the Blanco Family Museum.
My travel toes wandered block by block and deeper into Angono’s streets while the midday sun blazes over my head. Partially exhausted from searching Ibañez Street, I took respite under the shade of a small sari-sari store situated at the corner of a small intersection. I got into a conversation with the vendor and asked for directions. Her face brightened up with and replied with enthusiasm painted all over her face, “Diyan na lang ‘yun, diretso tapos may makikita kang isda” (It’s right over there, head straight then you’ll see a fish). The good news rang in my ear and got me on the go, but when I was about a few hundred meters away, I asked myself, “Wait… fish?”
The fish suspended beside the museum entrance.
“Oh, that fish.” The lady referred to the papier mache of a huge orange Carp suspended gracefully, mimicking a fish jumping high above the water’s surface – a mere representation of the Blanco Family. The carp’s vibrancy embodies the exuberance that dwells within every Blanco whilst the rich hues of the fish exhibits the colorful journey of the family on their road to success. Both of these evident in their artistic outputs.
Memoirs from the Blanco Family’s exhibit in China back in ’86
In 1978, the Blanco’s had their first painting exhibition at the National Museum and carried the inverted fish locally called “Bunggan”, as the family’s insignia, which eventually became the Blanco Family’s official logo. It was inspired by a name called to their great grandfather, Juan, who was a fisherman by trade. Juan’s friends saw the short and stout fisherman sleeping in a small boat wherein only his tummy was visible. The figure of Juan resembles a bloated dead fish, thus, being punned a Bunggan.
“Burning of Angono” is one of my personal favorites in Maestro Blanco’s collection. Everything is in detail even the flames that resembled abstract human figures which struck me as “souls” that have been lost in this tragic incident.
As a young man, Maestro Jose “Pitok” Blanco graduated with a Fine Arts degree in University of Santo Tomas and landed a job in a top advertising agency worldwide. Time with his family and passion clashed with his job until he reached a crossroad where he gave up the nine-to-five job and pursued his burning passion (if I remembered it right, there was even a painting about this story). The path he chose was right and the limelight shun upon him, eventually together with the family.
His works, in my own personal opinion, strongly defined realism in two ways. First, embedded on maestro’s paintings are his and the family’s personal experiences portrayed by folk traditions, festivities or cultural events. Also incorporated in his paintings are characters of real people, including his family, and some real-life incidents that occurred in his beloved hometown, Angono. Second, again in my own opinion, he captivated the viewers with his masterful skill in painting realistic shades of shadows and highlights the gives volume to a two dimensional canvass. In addition, the tones and palettes he used provokes a strong feeling that sets the mood of the painting. Both elements make the image pop out of the frame. I was astonished with Maestro Blanco’s style, works, and approach which indeed captured my personal taste in paintings.
In Pitok Blanco’s “Angono Fishermen Festival”, all characters are REAL residents of Angono.
Jose “Pitok” Blanco and wife, “Loring” brought forth 7 children who freely chose the same path as their father’s. Every one is an artist equipped with their own unique styles and specialties. Every family member display paintings in their respective galleries in Blanco Family Museum beginning with the youngest among the siblings, Peter Paul Blanco, who amazingly started painting at 11 months, and had his first child painting exhibit at Nikko Manila Garden (now Dusit Thani) at 7 years old. Gay Blanco, on the other hand, began drawing at the age of 3. Instead of playing with toys, they chose pencils and brushes, thus, the initiative at a young age is an extraordinary gift.
Works of Peter Paul Blanco.
Gay Blanco’s “Morion Serenade”
Jan Blanco‘s favorite subjects are birds but also practices portraiture. In fact, Jan recently exhibited a tribute painting portraying significant events of the canonized St. Pedro Calungsod who was believed to have stayed at St. John the Baptist Church of Taytay in the 1600’s.
“Tagabundok” by Jan Blanco. There are two versions of this painting.
First Blanco girl, Joy Blanco, specializes in the cultural environment of people like her “Santacruzan” painting. Giving more personality to the characters portrayed in her works is her attentiveness to details – a distinctive attitude among artist.
Joy Blanco’s works including “Santacruzan” on top right.
Humans are social animals who interact, engage, and collaborate with each other on a daily basis. Thirds son Michael Blanco saw the beauty in this tangible relationships with his observant eye and incorporated in his work. At age 38, Michael’s first solo painting exhibit, “Ivatans, People of the North”, was held in Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2004.
Michael Blanco’s, “Beginning Of A New Day” (right)
Still, silence, spiteful – these are only some characteristics of water that captured the eyes of Noel Blanco. Water inspired the second Blanco wherein the timelessness of this element is evident through his works like, “Gantungan”.
Glenn Blanco’s gallery with “Anak ng Magkakaingin (The Woodman’s Child)” at the center.
In contrary with the other Blanco siblings, Glenn Blanco, though the eldest, only started painting during his 4th year in secondary education. The late bloomer, however, didn’t saw any hindrance in his situation, instead, he even mastered illustrating life-like images of thick forest vegetation, as seen in his painting, “The Woodman’s Child”.
If Glenn was the late bloomer, the mother of the 7 Blanco siblings, Loring P. Blanco, would be the last to get her hands into painting. Her artistic passion was not defied and defined by age. At age 48, she was painting masterpieces portraying the warmth of a mother to her child/children, just like Loring to her 7 kids. The combined touches of a mother and artist gave more life to her works.
Blanco Family Museum under renovation.
For more than 30 years, the Blanco Family Museum housed the masterpieces of every family member. The museum moved from it’s sawali-walled enclave to a concrete structure built on bigger lot to accommodate over 400 artworks of the Blanco’s and most of all, preserve the quality of every painting. Though many paintings have withstood time, there were some unfortunate ones which were slightly damaged due to natural elements. Not only these uncontrollable factors were the problem but thieves as well. Some priceless works of the Maestro have been stolen and sadly, if I’m not mistaken, only one has been retrieved.
Artworks of Gay and Jan Blanco
The family, museum, and masterpieces may have underwent renovations, conducted numerous preservation efforts, and encountered countless obstacles, but it will forever be the home of the 7 Blanco siblings, the late Loring and Maestro Pitok Blanco, the family’s priceless creations, and their unparalleled passion for the arts.
The Blanco’s weren’t only Angono’s finest after all for their success, not only as individuals but as a family, already went beyond their beloved hometown, and even reached lands beyond the Philippine seas. They are among the pride of the Philippine arts and an epitome of a classic Filipino value – the family.
Here are some fast facts that may help you on your trip:
1. Blanco Family Museum is located in 312 Ibañez Street, Baranggay San Vicente, Angono Rizal.
2. Directions to Angono written in their brochure:
From EDSA, take Ortigas Avenue then turn left to Ortigas Extension passing by Rosario and Junction in Cainta, and Tikling area. Turn right at Manila East Road, passing SM Taytay and Pure Gold. The next town is Angono.
3. Museum Fee cost only P70.00.
4. Priceless pieces of history like these needs to be preserved. Our visits could contribute to restoration and preservation efforts. And besides, I could guarantee that your jaw will drop and you will be astonished by their beautiful works of art.
5. The museum curator was very kind to walk me through the paintings. Don’t be shy to ask.
6. Flash photography is STRICTLY PROHIBITED.
7. I am not an art expert neither a critique, but just an admirer of art.
8. More destinations in Rizal Province.
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11. Happy Travels. =)
12. The following is my personal reflection:
Art has been my inclination since I was a child. Sketching funny-looking human figures and weird-shaped animals was my special skill. But unlike child art wonders like most of the Blanco kids, my practice in skill was come-and-go. I’ve dreamed of becoming many things when I grew up – a businessman, lawyer, an astronaut (who didn’t), a soldier, a musician specifically a rock star, kung fu practitioner, I even dreamed of being a ninja or a samurai warrior, and believe it or not, for once I also wanted to be a panda – but there was a burning desire kept inside me, pleading to be let out. I realized after more than 15 years or so, it was my love for the arts. Witnessing the works of the Blanco’s and other skillful artists just ignited the passion even more.
My mom worked her way through the ranks of the corporate world while my dad has already proven his technical skill in the world of aircraft mechanics and for some time, in aviation. Both have achieved many things in life – they were merited for their work, got my siblings and I first class education, built our humble abode, and raised their kind kids very well – but there was something missing. After retiring from their respective professions, my mom closed the last chapter of her corporate life and turned to painting while my dad packed his last pair of pliers back in his toolbox and went to his hometown to raise chickens and grow crops.
The Farm is my dad’s lifelong retirement dream. He’s been through many obstacles to build that farm from scratch, but he is a strong man – even physically stronger when he was younger, he bears a strong heart, his physical ailments didn’t even hindered him from making his dream come to life. For my mom, her art was a passion begging to be unleashed. After an art session with Maestro Nemiranda, she got her first set of Faber-Castell colored pencils and a sketch notebook, drew whatever she taught off, flowers, teddy bears, and many more. Today, watercolor is her favorite medium, and even added photography to her arsenal of artistic skills.
Dreams can be achieved if you desire it. I believe that true success is not about fame, fortune, and glamor, but self-fulfillment. Our work, our craft, our passion – it doesn’t have to be perfect as long as we’re happy with what we really want to do. Maestro “Pitok” Blanco chose the path of an artist though he knew it that it was road of struggles. Loring Blanco never doubted her skills even in a late age. Glenn Blanco started late but even mastered a difficult technique in painting.
There are no challenges we won’t overcome as long as we put our hearts in what we love and in what we do. After all the challenges, there is self-fulfillment, when there’s self-fulfillment, there is happiness. We may not achieve happiness tomorrow, or next week, or next year, but we will achieve it.
Above all, I wanted to say that I am damn proud of my parents who serve as my everlasting inspiration in all my works.
Gay Blanco’s “A Farmer’s Child” on top right.