Texts and Photos by Euden Valdez
THE first thing you will notice upon entering Angono’s famed Blanco Family Museum is its symbol—a bright orange carp that is peculiarly upside down. It will make you ask, “What is the meaning behind this upside down fish?”
The answer is simple yet true to Blanco Family. Museum curator Michael Blanco tells Traveling Journo Ph that the symbolpays homage to his great grandfather Juan, a fisherman who was short, stout and bald. When resting in his boat at the shore of Laguna de Bay, he resembled a bloated dead fish locally called the bunggan.
The bungganhas stuck with the family so it naturally became the symbol for the museum, which was constructed and opened in the 1980s.
More importantly, the image also represents the family museum’s colorful and vibrant canvasses. Four-hundred paintings depicting and immortalizing the traditions of our Filipino ancestors from Angono and beyond.
Get a glimpse of the Blanco Family Museum through this virtual tour:
Meet the Blanco Family
The Blanco Family is Angono’s most celebrated family of painters led by the late patriarch, Jose “Pitok” Blanco. A graduate of Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas, Pitok lived during the heydays of Angono’s art scene—way before it was Art Capital of the Philippines. He was 20 years younger than National Artist for Visual Arts Carlos “Botong” Francisco, who was also a son of Angono. In fact, he used to follow Botong around, eventually being influenced by his works.
Just like most folks of lakeshore Angono, Pitok was also a farmer and a fisherman only he finished Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas. When he decided to become a full-time painter, he made it a point to personally train his seven children. They all naturally followed the footsteps of “The Father,” “The Teacher,” and “The Master.”
It was in 1978 that Pitok together with Glenn, Noel, Michael, Joy, Jan, Gay and Peter Paul held their first ever family exhibit at the National Museum! They were also invited to paint as family in China, Singapore and Malaysia, showcasing to the world the Philippines in their signature realist strokes.
Peter Paul, the favorite model
After familiarizing onself with the Blancos’ two generations of history and five decades of artistry, it is time to see their collection of artworks beginning from the youngest to the eldest.
The seventh child, Peter Paul was the youngest to get into arts. At 11 months old, he was already drawing at the Blanco household’s walls! By the time he was 9 years old, he already already exhibited his works.
And because he was bunso, he became the favorite subject of his siblings! Thus, he appears several times in different paintings at the museum.
Gay Blanco, the youngest daughter
Gay is the youngest of two daughters. She painted at the age of 3 and her favorite subjects are mother and child.
Among her works are mother and child from Angono, Mindor, Samal Island and Ifugao.
Jan, and his love for birds
Of the Blanco siblings, Jan is the one who found liking in birds! He paints the feathered animals with much precision and passion. His made his first ever at the age of 15 and it showed Peter Paul and his roosters.
At 18, during his family’s exhibit in China, he witnessed his favorite subjects in a different light—being butchered at a market. He was so affected that he sketched the scene before his eyes. Upon arriving home, he immediately went to paint what became a vivid and detailed piece of work titled “The Merchant.”
Joy, and her southern tribes
Despite graduating from Business school, Joy chose to become a full-time painter just like her older brothers and father.
Prominent in her paintings are people, whether they are passing the day in the countryside or celebrating grand fesivals. She has also been fascinated by different tribes during her family’s many travels around the country. This has resulted to paintings of Yakan and T’boli women in their traditional garb with geometric patterns and colorful accessories.
Michael, the museum curator
Michael, the third eldest child, currently manages the Blanco Family Museum as resident curator. Before taking on the responsibilty, he has been known among the family to excel in portraits.
Pitok himself told Michael to specialize in portraits after seeing his portrait of younger brother Jan, which he made at a young age of 12. He went on to prove his special skill at the age of 18 when he painted his grandparents Atang Mael and Inang Elang. He was able to capture the textures and colors of their age.
Needless to say, Michael also painted landscapes like “Beginning of a New Day,” his family in Batanes, or “Escape to Higher Ground,” the eruption of Mt. Mayon.
TJPh has had the pleasure of meeting Michael who hopes to sustain the Blanco Family Museum not only through their family exhibit but also through exhibits of fellow Angono artists. They have unused space for such. The Blanco Family also gives back to community through the school it established just in front of the museum. Catering to pre-school to secondary school, it hones young students in academics and of course, the arts.
Noel, the lover of water
Noel is the second eldest son of the Blancos born on the eve of Christmas thus his name. He did not immediately went to learn painting but once he began, he became multi-awarded immediately.
Just like his father and older brother, most of his works are murals of natural landscapes. However, those with bodies of water became his favorite. An example is “Gantungan,” an oil on canvass made when he was 17.
Glenn, and his lauded thesis
As the oldest, Glenn painted the longest among his siblings. He and Noel were also trained the most by Pitok. They would religously paint from 8 am to 5 pm in a day just to master the technique of realism. The eldest sons even had to finish a mural each as thesisbefore they were allowed by their father to exhibit solo.
Glenn’s thesis is a true testament to the family’s art heritage. Titled “Anak ng Magkakaingin,” it shows the Blanco Family’s mastery of Philippine landscapes of countryside.
Loreto, the last to paint
Loreto, the late wife and mother, always supported her family’s artistic endevours. She was present at home nurturing the talents of her husband and children, and she was with them at international giving them moral support.
So it was a suprise in the family when finally, Loreto decided to pick up the brush and paint later in her life. She painted portraits of women who were like her.
Jose, father, teacher and master
Last but not the least is Jose, or Pitok whose magnificent murals line up the walls of the museum. Start with his early works dating back to 1960s. Unfortunately, his very first sketches and paintings were stolen from the museum in the 1990s.
A true sight to behold was the “Angono Fisherman’s Festival,” a mural effectively showing the lakeshore heritage of the town. Four hundred detailed faces of Angono locals—young and old, women and men who are mostly fishermen—portraying different emotions as they fluvial parade made its way in Laguna de Bay. The festival is held every November in celerbation of San Clemente, the patron saint of fishermen, thus of Angono as well.
Next to it is another mural of Angono’s festival, this time honoring San Isidro, the patron of farmers. It is the Carabao Festival celebrated every May.
More local sceneries from the olden Angono are painted, as well as tribal practices from around the Philippines are displayed.
Without a doubt, a tour of Blanco Family Museum is enough to tell one Angono’s rich heritage on arts and agriculture, as well as the beauty of the Filipinos all over the archipelago.