Tuesday, September 28, 2010


KA-ARTE MO! An advertisement of "El Arte", owned and operated by academically-trained sculptor Maximino J. Jingco of Betis, touts the services of the shop. The artisans made monuments, wooden statues, mrble figures, and many more. Dated 1933.

Sculpture is an art where Kapampangans reign supreme as masters. Paete may have their manlililoks, but their works are often imbued with folk quality, while the carvers of northern highlands limit their carving to ethnic and souvenir art. Kapampangan sculptors on the other hand, are a versatile lot—sculpting everything from religious statuaries, rebultos, furniture, monuments and decoratives.

Many of the early sculptors were untrained and unschooled, most often coming from Betis, regarded as Pampanga’s old carving district. There was a lot of wood in those days, coming from logs that floated on Betis River, cut from the forests of alta Pampanga and the nearby provinces of Bataan and Zambales. The historian Mariano Henson notes: “In the matter of carving images, altars, ornaments, furnitures, the people of Betis during the 17th and 18th centuries, again are mentioned here to be masters in the art of their own time”.

It is no wonder that the 19th century works of Kapampangan sculptors and carvers were kept in Spanish museums. Some of the sculpted pieces featured in a 19th c. Madrid exhibit included a bamboo woodcarving made in Mexico, a pair of polychromed wooden busts of El Mediquillo (Medicine Man) and La Comadrona (The Midwife) from Sta. Rita, and another pair of tipos del pais figurines from the same town.

There was a demand for religious sculptors about this time, and Isabelo Tampinco filled this need. Born in Binondo but descended from Lakandula, Tampinco was the first to popularize the use of Filipiniana motifs like anahaw leaves, banana and bamboo in his carving, known today as estilo Tampinco. Considered as his obra maestra are the decorations he did for the church of San Ignacio, as well as the magnificent image of San Ignacio itself, both destroyed in the last war.

One of his workers was a talented young man from Guagua, Maximiano Jingco. Born on 6 July 1904 to Sabas and Irinea Jingco, Maximino grew up in Manila, finishing his primary schooling in Quiapo in 1914. He finished his secondary course at Manila High School in 1917. Unlike unschooled artisans, Maximino attended the University of the Philippines and enrolled in Sculpting, one of the few Kapampangans to do so (Note: Graduating from U.P. even earlier was Hipolito Lampa of Bacolor, who finished Fine Arts in 1916). In 1926, Maximino finally became a successful “graduado en Bellas Artes”.

Commercial workshops or talyers of sculptors sprouted in Quiapo, mostly catering to the santo trade. Maximino chose to specialize in secular art (non-religious) and, in 1927, he opened his own shop back home in Guagua—“El Arte, Taller de Escultura y Pintura”. A 1933 ad described his shop thus: “Iting taller a iti metung ya caring peca maragul a oficina quieti Capampangan a maliaring tatanggap qng obrang escultura antimo ding macatuqui: Monumentos, Estatuas en Madera, Marmol. Pintura, at aliua pa. (This shop is one of the largest offices in Pampanga which has the capacity to accept commissioned sculptures like the following: Monuments, Statues in wood and marble, Painting and others.) Jingco lived by his motto: “Magluid qñg capanintunan” (Long live livelihood) and his business prospered for many years.

Equally successful was the prodigious Juan Flores (b.1902) of Sta. Ursula, Betis. He started as an apprentice in the shop of Maximo Vicente, and progressed to being a restorer of santos and ecclesiastical arts for Luis Araneta and went on to help build the Betis woodcarving industry. His carvings adorn many churches, palaces and hotels here and abroad. In 1972, he even won a sculpting competition in the United States organized by the University of the California. Back home, he and his Kapampangan team helped refurbish the Malacañang Palace, carving wooden ornamentations and wooden panels for the various rooms, including the three wood and glass chandeliers in the Ceremonial Hall.

Juan Flores passed away in 1995. Happily, his torch has been passed on to contemporary mandudukits who are active to this day: Spanish-trained Willy Layug (an architecture graduate from U.P.), Boyet Flores ( a Flores descendant), Peter Garcia, Salvador Gatus and Nick Lugue of Apalit. In their hands, Kapampangan creativity lives on.


AL said...

Could you tell us how to find the best woodcarvers in Macabebe, Guagua and Apalit? I have been to the shops lining the main highway, but not to any of the actual woodcarving shops. Your blog, by the way, is so rich in details of Kapampangan history; being half-Kapampangan myself, (I grew up in Tarlac), I felt a surge of pride while reading your articles. More power to you!

alex r. castro said...

Hi Al,
The good thing is, these carvers are well known that I found them by just asking people around town. For example, Nick Lugue's shop is in San Vicente, Apalit, just next to Apalit Doctor's Hospital. Boyet Flores is in Brgy. San Ursula, Betis, at the back of the church, and he may even connect you to his other family of carvers. Along San Fdo., just across Pepsi plant is Ardie de Dios's shop. Along Olongapo-Gapan,near Bacolor, Willy Layug has his Betis Galleria. The Dungcas are also there.