Last Updated: April 6th, 2019
A native of Angono, considered as the “Art Capital of the Philippines”, Carlos “Botong” Francisco made waves in the local arts scene with his thought provoking murals of Philippine history and everyday life. And with the restoration of his magnum opus–now on display at the Old Senate Session Hall of the National Museum of Fine Arts–the viewing public can now appreciate the iconic work of one of the country’s best muralist and National Artist.
Born on November 4, 1914, Carlos Villaluz Francisco was the son of Angono, Rizal natives Felipe Francisco and Maria Villaluz.
Francisco studied at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, he worked on several illustrations for the Tribune and La Vanguardia.
When the war finally ended in 1945, he took on scriptwriting projects for films including “Genghis Khan, Putol na Kampilan” and “Tatlong Labuyo.” He also designed costumes for “Ibong Adarna”, “Siete Infantes de Lara”, and “Romeo at Julieta”. During this time, Francisco worked as a lecturer at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
In the Philippine art scene, he would become known as one of the modernist artists joining the ranks of Victorio Edades and Galo Ocampo–to which, at that time– were collectively known in the local arts scene as “The Triumvirate”. Their works featured Filipino traditions, history and were regularly commissioned to take on projects for private businesses and residences. The murals for the now-defunct State Theater and Capitol Theater in Manila are among the commissioned works that they worked on.
Today, Francisco is also widely recognized as one of the pre-War “Thirteen Moderns” who was at the forefront of the modernist movement in the Philippines. This group includes Victorio Edades, Hernando R. Ocampo, Cesar Legaspi, Vicente Manansala, Galo B. Ocampo, Anita Magsaysay, Demetrio Diego, Ricarte Purugganan, Jose S. Pardo, Bonifacio Cristobal, Diosdado Lorenzo, and Arsenio Capili.
Francisco’s works often evoke scenes from Filipino customs and traditions, Philippine folklore and mythology, history, and everyday life. Some of his best-known works include the portrayals of the Blood Compact, First Mass at Limasawa, The Martyrdom of Rizal, The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines, and the Muslim Betrothal.
His most iconic work was commissioned by former Manila Mayor Antonio Villegas entitled, “Filipino Struggles through History” also known as “History of Manila”. It is currently displayed at the Old Senate Session Hall of the National Museum of Fine Arts. The mural chronicles the history of Manila–from the first Rajahs of Tondo, the Spanish Colonial Era, American Colonial Era, and the history of the Philippines. It was one of the last works completed by Francisco as it was completed months before his death.
Discovering the Angono Petroglyphs
During a field trip with the Boy Scouts in 1965, he would discover the cultural heritage site that is now known as the Angono Petroglyphs. It’s considered as the oldest known work of art in the Philippines where over 120 human and animal figures were engraved on the rock wall. Believed to be carved before 2000 B.C., it shows stylized human figures, frogs, and lizards.
The discovery has been declared by the National Museum of the Philippines as a National Cultural Treasure in 1973.
Botong Francisco was conferred the National Artist Award for Visual Arts in 1973, albeit posthumously. He was also recognized for:
- First Prize, Art Association of the Philippines Exhibit – National Museum, 1948
- Sining at Kalinangan Award, City of Manila, 1964
Carlos “Botong” Francisco died on March 31, 1969. He was posthumously conferred as a National Artist for Visual Arts in 1973, four years after his death.
The Manila Project
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