Trivia about Great Achievers in Philippine Art II


GERARDO DE LEON (B. September 12, 1913, D. July 21, 1981)

Master Filmmaker. Gerry’s first job was as a piano player at Cine Moderno during the era of silent movies. After finishing high school, he decided to become a doctor and enrolled at the U.S.T. College of Medicine. For a few years he concentrated on his studies; but the spell of the movies lured him. He became a professional actor and scriptwriter. His first directorial job came in 1939 via the movie, Ama’t Anak. His biggest pre-war hit was Ang Maestra, starring Rogelio de la Rosa and Rosa del Rosario. De Leon went on to make over eighty movies from the 30’s to the 70’s. His last unfinished film was Juan de la Cruz starring Fernando Poe, Jr. in 1976. He was named National Artist in Film in 1982.

FRANCISCA REYES AQUINO (B. March 7, 1899, D. November 19, 1983)

Champion of Folk Dance. In 1920, Francisca finished her secondary education at the Manila High School and in 1923 her HSTC at the U.P. She earned her BSE diploma the following year and her MA two years later after working on her thesis, “Philippine Dances and Games.” On July 3, 1954, President Ramon Magsaysay presented her with the Award of Merit (The Dance) in MalacaƱang. In 1962 she received the Ramon Magsaysay Award; being the first Filipina to receive such honor. She was cited for pioneering in the recording and research of native songs and cultural dances that were handed down through the generations among the ethnic groups in the country. She was named National Artist in Dance in 1973.

PABLO S. ANTONIO (B. January 25,1901, D. June 14, 1975)

Pioneer in Modern Philippine Architecture. Young Pablo worked his way through night high school as a draftsman at the Bureau of Public Works. Then he enrolled at the Mapua Institute of Technology where he took up architecture. He became a full-fledged architect in 1927.

His major works included the Far Eastern University Administration and Science Buildings (1934-1951) and the Manila Polo Club (1947). Antonio changed the landscape of the City of Manila and other parts of the country with two towering strengths: originality and integrity. He created buildings, houses, and other structures with a common yet uncanny sensibility that had withstood the test of time. He was named National Artist in Architecture in 1974.

JOSE GARCIA VILLA (8. August 5,1912, D. February 7,1977)

Consummate Artist of Poetry. Jose graduated from the U.P. High School and enrolled at the U.P. College of Medicine in 1925. But he never finished his medical studies. His first interest was painting but he turned to writing after reading Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio”. He studied at the University of New Mexico and later at Columbia University. He taught poetry at the City College of New York (1964-1973).

He also worked in the Philippine Mission to the United Nations (1954-1963) and became vice-consul in 1965. In the art of poetry, which he perfected, he introduced the reverse consonance rhyme scheme and the “comma poems” which glorify the punctuation mark by poetic use. He was named National Artist in Literature in 1972.

HONORATA DE LA RAMA (B. January 11, 1902, D. July 11, 1991)

Queen of Zarzuela. At age seven, young Atang was already being cast in Spanish zarzuelas as well as the veladas, a literary musical program. In 1919, at age 14, she sang “Nabasag ang Banga” in the zarzuela Dalagang Bukid, which she later starred in the movie of the same title. Whence, she was the first female actress in the very first Tagalog film produced by Jose Nepomuceno, the “Father of Philippine Movies.” The box-office provided proof that she became the inspiration and lifeblood of the more than fifty zarzuelas in which she starred. Atang did not perform only for a living, she propagated and popularized the zarzuela and kundiman because she believed that these two expressed the Filipino identity. She was named National Artist in Theatre and Music in 1987.

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