THE CULTURAL Center of the Philippines (CCP) celebrated National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco’s 100th birthday through a photography exhibit titled CCP Collection Preview: Carlos “Botong” Francisco and the Angono Environs at the Bulwagang Fernando Amorsolo from May 14 to June 3.

The pictures were taken by Dick Baldovino, a prominent photographer known for his portraits of National Artists.

The photographs framed excerpts from Botong’s life and work, as well as the humble life of those who reside in the fishing village of Angono, where Francisco grew up.

According to Boots Herrera, CCP exhibit curator, “Art critic Alice Guillermo noted the distinct Filipino quality of Botong’s work in his sense of the communal life: the crowds of people in interaction as they engage in trade, enjoy themselves in fiestas, or unite in common struggle.”

The flowing lines, the subtlety of details, and the vibrant life depicted in Botong’s works carries a tinge of community life in Angono. His landscapes and seascapes are so true-to-life that one could even observe the fluidity of the the waves that washed up on shore of the fishing village during that time.

“In spite of his modernist aesthetics, the people of Angono in their everyday activities inform Botong’s depiction of local genre, rural scenes and landscapes, and Philippine history and mythology,” Herrera said. “He is known for his mural sized paintings rendered in sinous forms and stylized compositions, inspired by the Art Deco style.”

Baldovino, a close friend of Botong, also had the chance to capture the raw moments of the late National Artist working in his studio.

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Aside from his discovery of the Angono petroglyphs in 1965, Botong became known for reviving the art of mural painting when he established the modernist movement in painting, along with visual arts titans Galo Ocampo and Victorio Edades. It was his inclusion in this “Triumvirate of Modern Art” that pushed him to merge the art of mural painting with Filipino identity.

Breaking away from the realist style of Amorsolo and finding his own modernist idiom, Botong showed the importance of the mastery of art by drawing from one’s native roots. C.B. ENRIQUEZ

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