Botong and San Pedro: Angono National Artists Sharing Same Death Anniversary

The greatness of Carlos “Botong” Francisco and Lucio San Pedro becomes doubly admiring because their feet remained on the ground even after they had achieved iconic status. They mirrored and represented a generation of Angono whose parents – despite being fishermen, farmers and duck raisers – were trained and disciplined to value the meaning of familial virtues, sacrifice, hard work, education, faith in God, and social responsibility.

Contributed to Bulatlat

Vol. VIII, No. 9, April 6-12, 2008

Painting, serenata, poetry recital and film showing marked the tribute commemorating the death anniversary of Angono’s two great sons on March 31, 2008.

Carlos “Botong” V. Francisco died in 1969 while Maestro Lucio D. San Pedro passed away in 2002. They are Angono’s two National Artists for Visual Arts and Music, respectively.

The municipality of Angono, Rizal headed by Mayor Aurora A. Villamayor and the Angono Council for Culture and the Arts (ACCA) organized the program.

ACCA was the product of the 1st Angono Arts Congress held last February. It serves as the consultative body to the local government’s arts and culture programs. Renowned musician and assistant conductor of Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra Prof. Agripino “Nonoy” Diestro and artist Nemesio “Nemi” Miranda Jr., painter and sculptor of the famous Edsa Shrine mural and bas-relief, serve as the group’s president and adviser, respectively.

ACCA is comprised of various Angono artists from seven artistic idioms as well as cultural workers and keepers of the town’s traditions and heritage.

Life and times

Popularly known as Botong (Nov. 4, 1912 – March 31, 1969), Francisco was a muralist who single-handedly revived the forgotten art of mural-making and remained its most distinguished practitioner for nearly three decades, according to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) website. In panels such as those that grace the City Hall of Manila, the CCP added, Botong turned fragments of the historic past into vivid records of the legendary courage of the ancestors of his race.

He was invariably linked with the “modernist” artists, forming with Victorio C. Edades and Galo Ocampo what was then known in the local art circles as “The Triumvirate.”

“Botong’s unerring eye for composition, the lush tropical sense of color and an abiding faith in the folk values typified by the townspeople of Angono became the hallmark of his art,” the CCP stated.

Botong posthumously received the National Artist award in 1973. He was also responsible for the discovery of the now famous Angono Petroglyphs in Binangonan in 1965. He was also involved in Costume Design in Philippine Cinema.

San Pedro (Feb. 11, 1913-March 31, 2002), composer of the popular lullaby Sa Ugoy ng Duyan and the symphonic poem Lahing Kayumanggi, was a master composer, conductor and teacher. His music evokes the folk elements of the Filipino heritage.

Cousin to “Botong” Francisco, Maestro San Pedro, according to the CCP website, has produced a wide-ranging body of works that includes band music, concertos for violin and orchestra, choral works, cantatas, chamber music, music for violin and piano, and songs for solo voice. He was the conductor of the much-acclaimed Peng Kong Grand Mason Concert Band, the San Pedro Band of Angono, his father’s former band, and the Banda Angono Numero Uno. His civic commitment and work with town bands have significantly contributed to the development of a civic culture among Filipino communities and opened a creative outlet for young Filipinos, the CCP noted.

San Pedro received the National Artist Award for Music on May 9, 1991.

Sons of the 20th century

Botong and San Pedro were born on the 2nd decade of 20th century with their artistic career reaching its peak in the 1950s. As intellectuals and artists, both were also part of Filipino scholarship which debated and searched on the meaning of “Filipino Culture.”

For Botong and San Pedro, being a Filipino is rooted and wedded in the community of Angono. This means that the local scene, the dynamics at the grassroots, forms part and contributes to the “meaning” of being a Filipino.

This explains why the people of Angono and the national art community regard Botong and San Pedro as heroes. In the geography of Botong’s creativity, the artist is shown as deeply entrenched in and defined by the community of simple “masa” (the masses) whose rich culture, tradition, heroism, sacrifices and communal bonding throbbed on his brush and colors. These are the motif of his major works such as Blood Compact, First Mass at Limasawa, The Martyrdom of Rizal, Bayanihan, Magpupukot, Kaingin (which won 1st prize in the first Art Association of the Philippines exhibition in 1948), Fiesta, Bayanihan sa Bukid, Sandugo, and most of all, the famous and unparalleled mural titled “500 Years of Philippine History,” which can be found at the lobby of the Manila City Hall. This Botong painting in 1952 drew much acclaim and admiration from both local and international audience during the First International Fair in Manila.

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