Sunday, December 16, 2012


SARMIENTO-PANLILIO NUPTIALS. The celebrated wedding of noted town beauty Luz Sarmiento and businessman Jose Panlilio took place at the grand San Guillermo Church in April 1934. They built their home in Bacolor and became active participants in various socio-civic activities of the town.

The Commonwealth years were a period of plenty for Bacolor and many of its residents, already known for their artistry and gentility, enjoyed new-found affluence reaped mostly from their rich agricultural lands. The Panlilios were among the most prominent, led by the patriarch Don Domingo Panlilio who took special pride in his children: Jose (Pepe), Francisco (Quitong) and Encarnacion (Carning). Unfortunately, they would be orphaned early.

On the other hand, were the more modest Sarmientos-- Cipriano and Ines (nee Lugue of Apalit)—who would be blessed with girls noted for their beauty, but most especially their elder daughter named Luz (born 23 July 1934). Lucing’s grade school years were spent at the local St. Mary’s Academy, after which she attended Assumption Academy in neighboring San Fernando for her higher education.

While a student of that school, Luz was elected Miss Bacolor 1933 and was a runner-up at the Miss Pampanga 1933 search. In 1934, the premiere magazine, The Philippine Free Press, conducted its own Miss Free Press search , and Luz was named Miss Pampanga, based on pictures sent to the publication. That same year, however, she again decided to try her luck at the Manila Carnival of 1934, with the full support of her newspaper-sponsor, La Opinion.

 With such credentials, it was no wonder then that young men came in droves to woo her. But in the end, she chose a kabalen—the tall and very eligible Jose “Peping” Panlilio, no less. Lucing and Peping were married at the San Guillermo Church on April 1934. Sister Angelina stood as the maid of honor, while Encarnacion and Araceli Sarmiento stood as bridesmaids. Best Man was Peping’s brother, Francisco, attended by ushers Aquilino Reyes and Mariano Liongson, The principal sponsors included Mrs. Sotero Baluyut (the governor’s wife) and Dr. Clemente Puno, who was the sanitary division president of Guagua, Bacolor and Sta. Rita at that time.

The couple made their home in Bacolor, taking residence in the magnificent Panlilio-Santos mansion, which featured painted portraits of the family’s ancestors (Jose Leon Santos and 2nd wife Ramona Joven) by the 19th century master Simon Flores.They had one child, Jesus Nazareno, was born on 9 January 1935.

The couple’s prominence grew as their businesses expanded that came to include landholdings and various commercial estates. Peping passed away in 1961, but Lucing carried on. She became a well-respected community leader known for her business savvy that enabled her to sustain and grow the family enterprise through War and illness.

 As an ardent devotee of the La Naval Virgin of Bacolor, it was Lucing who propagated further this Marian devotion, improving the image with gifts of vestments, jewelry and carroza. To this day, "La Naval de Bacolor" is an annual religious spectacle that Marian devotees eagerly await. The grand dame of Bacolor passed away in August 1998.

 Today, at the Museo De La Salle in Dasmari├▒as, Cavite, several rooms in the re-created Santos-Joven Panlilio House, which was saved from the lahar inundation by her grandson Jose Ma. Ricardo, are dedicated to their memory.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

*318. JOSE BUMANLAG DAVID: Painting Immortality

THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE. Early work of Jose Bumanlag David, painted in his 20s, as it appeared as a reproduction color print on Graphic Magazine in 1934. David was well-known for portraits of ethnic types, the fad of the times. but eventually became even more popular when he painted portraits of ordinary people at his shop near Clark Air Base

Through the years, Pampanga’s art scene have been enlivened by a few master artists whose signature styles and subjects have earned them acclaim and following. National Artist Vicente Manansala is known for his nudes done both in the realist tradition and in modern cubist forms. Bencab’s trademark pieces are artworks showing Filipino characters and their colonizers drawn from history. Elias Laxa is famed for his seascapes while contemporary artist Claude Tayag draws his subjects from our colorful folk arts and festivals.

In the field of portraiture—where technical accuracy, mastery of light, tone and mood are required of the artist, one Kapampangan painter stands out—Jose Bumanlag David. Though he painted a variety of subjects throughout his long, prolific career, it is in portraiture that he found recognition, thanks largely to his American clientele.

 My first brush with this accomplished visual artist was in the mid 90s, when I went to a art gallery in Balibago near the Abacan Bridge to have some prints framed. There, amidst the clutter of acrylic paintings and kitschy copies of European masterpieces, I found a small vintage ethnic painting so popular in that era, signed in graceful cursive script by one “Jose B. David, 1955”. It is a portrait of a young lakan, perhaps still in his teens, attired in tribal clothes, complete with a potong, necklaces and earrings.

 The portrait captured the likeness of a proud, handsome royal right down to his earthen complexion and his stare that pierces through you despite a half-smile. The gallery owner was just too happy to part with the old painting for Php 200, and my only regret was not asking if this portrait had a matching “lakambini”, as it was the custom of artists in those days to paint “his and hers”paintings.

Thus began my search to know more about this gifted painter—Jose Bumanlag David. The future visual artist was born in Mexico, Pampanga on 26 July 1909. His early schooling began at the Mexico Elementary School and San Fernando Intermediate School. He then enrolled in Pampanga’s premiere high school—the Pampanga High School from where he graduated in 1929. In college, he chose to take up Fine Arts—a course that was not exactly desirable in those days; painting was not considered a profession and painres were treated with disdain (“wala kang mapapala sa hampaslupang ├Żan!”).

 Nevertheless, David went on to enter the U.P. School of Fine Arts where he quickly made a name for himself as a promising art student by winning medals in various inter-school art contests. He graduated in 1934 and started painting popular subjects like common folks in rural settings, historical tableaus and ethnic scenes. His paintings caught the eyeof leading dailies, and his artworks were featured regularly on the glossy, color sections of the Philippine Free Press. In 1939, Jose David and Wenceslao Garcia held a joint exhibition at the U.P. Library Gallery which drew much praise from the public.

Soon, his works were being collected by noted art connoisseurs like Jorge Vargas. At the 1941 National Art Competition held by the University of Santo Tomas, David won 2nd Honorable mention for his ”Presentation of the Santo Nino to the Queen of Cebu”(Religious Category) and 3rd Honorable Mention for his “Man of the Soil”(Filipiniana Category). His output was so prodigious that pre-World War II, his works could be found in the classrooms of many Manila schools and at the offices of the Department of Education, health and Public Welfare. After the War, he re-established his profession by relocating in Angeles, where he conducted art classes at the Clark Air Base.

It was to be a long and fruitful stay—thirty years in fact, from 1947 to 1977. He took a break to finish a management course in 1964 at the Air Force Institute at Gunter Air Base University, Alabama. Afterwhich, he established his studio near the base and, beginning in 1971 till 1982, he gave private art classes to bored American wives of U.S. military personnel and their other family members. One of his last one-man show was held in 1990 at Galerie Andrea in 1990. Many of his portraits of American military officers used to hang in various Clark Air Base buildings and those of Filipino heroes at the Scottish Rite Temple.

After his death, his studio closed but many galleries around the city continued to carry some of his prized artworks that were popular as tourist souvenirs. Today, his paintings rarely surface in the local market. A few pieces could still be seen at the U.P. Filipiniana Museum, part of the vast Jose B. Vargas art collection donated to the state university. Jose Bumanlag David, the master portraitist who so deftly immortalized on canvass the likenesses of thousands of faces—young, old, man, woman, Filipino, American—has also earned immortality himself as Pampanga’s most accomplished portraitist.