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Discovering the Philippines’ Art Capital

Immerse yourself in Angono’s culture of artistry

I wrote once, “Angono’s strength lies not in its topography, but in its culture.” Having lived all my life in this lakeside town in the province of Rizal, I know this to be true. While it lacks the mountains of its neighbors and, save for Laguna de Bay, there are no astonishing bodies of water, my hometown’s collective and enduring effort to nurture creativity and imagination more than makes up for it.

Angono’s deep affinity for the arts can be first gleaned from the origins of its name. Celebrating imagination, the town’s name came from “Ang Nuno.” Nuno – a creature from Filipino folklore often depicted as an old man with a long beard, donning a salakot (traditional hat) and a walking stick, was said to be frequently seen in the former fishing village. At present, images of the nuno are plenty around town, with renditions ranging from statues to murals. But Angono’s status as the country’s Art Capital goes further, even further than the two National Artists – Lucio San Pedro for Music, and Carlos “Botong” Francisco for Visual Arts – it had produced. The culture of art is alive and persistent in this town, and here are some activities you can do to experience this first-hand.

Witness a lakeside sunset

The Angono Lakeside Park, known to locals as “Wawa,” rests on the banks of Laguna de Bay where the sunset is almost always stunning. On top of that, Wawa has a playground, a zip line rig, and stalls of street food. 20-minute boat rides across Laguna Lake are also available for just PhP20 per person! This place, popular among families and teens, would be a fitting final stop after a daylong art-venturing.

Go museum-hopping

A visit to the many museums and art galleries should not be missed when in Angono. Blanco Family Museum houses a permanent collection of works by Jose “Pitok” Blanco and his family of artists. Also, check out the home of Botong, which is now a heritage museum maintained by his artist grandson Totong. For a different art experience, there’s the Tiamson Art Gallery where artist-musician Orville Tiamson conducts “Art Jams” – art lessons interspersed with music therapy.

Blanco Family Museum
1312 Ibañez St., Brgy. San Vicente Angono, Rizal
(02) 651-0042

Carlos “Botong” Francisco Second Art Gallery
Doña Aurora, Poblacion Itaas, Angono, Rizal

Tiamson Art Gallery
203 Doña Nieves St., Brgy. Sto. Niño, Angono, Rizal
(02) 651-0066

Stroll the Street Gallery

In Brgy. Doña Aurora is a length of cobbled road, flanked by walls of sculptures lifted from the works of Botong. Dubbed the “Art Gallery on the Streets,” this free-for-all, open-24/7, permanent outdoor exhibit features some of Botong’s masterpieces brought to life in stone and cement by local sculptors led by Charlie Anorico. The gallery fittingly runs the span of the street where Botong used to live, beginning on Angono’s main roadway and ending just across Saint Clement Parish.

Sample the local fanfare

Angono’s creativity is displayed in media other than canvas and clay, as the town’s native delicacies and food scene also showcase the town’s artistry.

There’s the balaw-balaw – a dish made from fermented shrimp and rice, similar to shrimp paste; the much sought after fried itik (duck); minaluto – a local take on the Spanish paella; and the delectable creamy coconut milk-based rice cake kumanoy, also known as inutak. Homegrown restaurants such as the 2017 Golden Globe Awardee for Best Affordable Restaurant in Rizal, Wings on the Go, and popular dessert place Kim Is Hungry are also perfect rest stops after a day of art appreciation.

Wings on the Go
213 E. Rodriguez Street Brgy. Sto Nino Angono, Rizal
Tuesdays to Sundays, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
(02) 651-3051 and (0926) 533-2794

Kim is Hungry
2nd floor, Paulina Bldg. M. Diaz cor. A. Ibanez, Brgy. Sto. Nino, Angono, Rizal
Tuesdays to Sundays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
(0916) 271-7551

Visit the country’s oldest artwork

It’s best to begin a trip to the art capital with a visit to the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs – the oldest known work of art in the Philippines. The rock carvings were discovered by no less than Carlos “Botong” Francisco during a boy scout trip in 1965. Declared a National Cultural Treasure in 1973, this collection of 127 carvings are dated to the late Neolithic period – almost 12,000 years ago. The engravings are strewn across a shallow rock shelter and are said to be associated with sympathetic healing. The petroglyphs are also on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The site is located within a private complex near the Thunderbird Resort in Brgy. Bilihiran, Binangonan, Rizal. It is open from Mondays to Fridays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on weekends by appointment. Call the National Museum Office for schedules at (02) 527 4192.

BONUS: Party with the Giants

Perhaps the best showcase of Angono’s creativity is during the annual Higantes Festival. A month-long celebration held in November, the celebration culminates into a grand parade featuring higantes or giant figures made of plastic resin. The festival also highlights the fluvial procession that involves the launching of a makeshift raft called pagoda, carrying images of the town’s patron St. Clement into the Laguna Lake. Basaan or splashing revelers with water is also an anticipated feature of the festival.

 

By CELINE REYES
Photos by CELINE REYES and DENNIS MURILLO

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