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Victorio Edades' 'Academic Tree' of all the arts |

Arts and Culture

Victorio Edades' 'Academic Tree' of all the arts

- Rommel Earl Digo -

MANILA, Philippines - National Artist Victorio Edades’ (1895-1985) life and work as an educator and administrator in the University of Santo Tomas (UST), coupled with  his  modernist crusade as a painter and academe opened the way to new artistic idioms, as well as  broadened  the subject of art to translate seamlessly into other academic and professional disciplines that span the entire range of human experience. 

It’s been two decades of Edades collaborating or crossing paths with many UST graduates who eventually found their biographies at the CCP Encyclopedia: architect Leandro Locsin,  Madam Purita Kalaw Ledesma, interior designer Edgar Ramirez and his restoration of the National Museum’s Hall of the Masters, architect Francisco “Pandot” Ocampo (who along with Edades, was one of the pioneer faculty of the UST in 1930), Dalena, Orlina, Magsaysay Ho, Architect Jose Maria Zaragoza through his masterpiece the Meralco building in Ortigas, architect Juan Arellano through editing an articleon the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cesar Legaspi, H.R. Ocampo through various collectors, interior designers Berenguer Topacio and her furniture which has been advertised worldwide, and Hubilla, architect Manosa, Lazaro Soriano, Olmedo, Baldemor, Jerry Navarro, interior designer Wili Fernandez thru an article by another UST Graduate Rodrigo Perez III,  architect Juan Nakpil through his iconic Quiapo Church. Some names might not be familiar, but the works of these UST alumni are monuments to Edades’ legacy as an academician.

The Edades Projects had its genesis in 1972, when the project head Norma Liongoren, together with husband-painter Fred, sought him out in Davao City where he resided upon retirement from UST College of Fine Arts and Architecture. Being kindred spirits they were welcomed warmly in the Edades home.

Just like Edades, Norma Liongoren is a fellow Dagupeno and now a Davaono, having just moved to the city of durian and Waling-Waling. Later, upon resettling in Manila, Norma Liongoren was able to convince the now Davao-based artist to exhibit again in Manila in 1976 after a long hiatus. The year 1976 was the same year Edades was bestowed the National Artist Award, the third to be honored in Visual Arts, after Amorsolo (1972) and Botong Francisco (1973). 

In 2010, Norma Liongoren was invited by Rockwell Land to be their consultant in  creating an art event related to the National Artist after whom they have named their next high-rise condominium, the Edades Tower and Garden Villas at the Rockwell Center.

She recruited me and the noted interior designer and educator Mary Ann Venturina Bulanadi, who has made substantial research on the pioneering faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Architecture and Fine Arts  in this endeavor. The exhibit did not quite push through as planned but  we decided to push through with holding a major retrospective somewhere else.

A photo of young Victorio Edades painting at his San Juan Addition Hills studio. From the book Edades: National Artist by Purita Kalaw

In 2011, with the help of the staff of the National Museum, the Edades Tea Party was held last July 29 at the prewar Addition Hills residence of the National Artist. We would  set the tone for what was to become an adventure, a crash course in “urban archaeology.” The Edades Projects will not be just about paintings… it will be about discovering literally heaps of priceless ephemera produced by the artist himself, hidden for decades in various private addresses from Luzon to Mindanao, all just waiting to be exhibited for the very first time.

We found ourselves looking at the lists of the various cultural institutions, museums and collectors names at the back pages of a book (Edades’ Kites and Visions by Lydia Rivera Ingle) along with other books and brochures on Edades, and tracking the whereabouts of all those names  took about half, maybe even an entire year.

The invite was effective…in fact maybe it was a bit too effective. 

“All ye, my former colleagues and students at the UST College of Fine Arts and Architecture, come to an afternoon of tea and fond memories at my old house in 27…Come as you are, bringing memorabilias of that period like photographs, autographs, ephemera, sketches and even early works  under my tutelage are very much encouraged.”

It certainly created all kinds of responses.

And little did our team know that from this point, our first windfall of sorts would come from an unexpected source, not from the visual artists, as Norma Liongoren , who has known many of Edades’ patrons even longer than the three decades of continuing existence of her gallery,  but from the interior designers, led by Ms. Morey.

The letterss of Edades to  Belen Morey from 1970 to 1977 are a real pot of gold, a treasure trove of personal letters and correspondences from Edades, with some  very revealing facets on his knowledge of himself, no less.

We had to do our homework early as far as gathering early publications on Edades so I headed for some of Metro Manila’s major cultural libraries. Aside from Edades’ much discussed debates with Guillermo Tolentino, the pages of the Sunday Times Magazine and This Week, both from 1947 onwards, revealed other articles written by the likes of Rod Paras Perez, even to Father Rodrigo Perez and Aida Rivera (now Ford), the sister of Lydia Rivera Ingle. We simply had to contact these people for leads as to their recollections about Edades during the mid twentieth century. Rod Paras Perez (who has also written a book and some magazine articles on Edades) died of a massive heart attack earlier last year, and little did I know that my phone call to Father Rodrigo Perez might have been one of his last phone conversations.

Recreated Edades Studio at the CCP exhibition

Aida Rivera Ford kept on following up with Norma Liogoren: “When are you coming to Davao, Norma?” Eventually, her memoriabilia of ephemeral notebooks and  ad hoc notes by Edades which he himself titled “The History of Modern Art” arrived in Metro Manila from the Ford Academy of the Arts in Ladislawa Village in Davao, and it was another great find. It included his lectures in interior design and architecture, supplemented by excellent architectural renderings of various historic buildings around the world.

Our third big find was a very large painting which has not been seen in a gallery before, at least not in half a century perhaps. It didn’t have a title so Norma Liongoren christened it “Going to Market” since it depicted three women, painted almost in the manner of Gauguin, literally  going, well, to market. The work very much revealed Edades’ admiration for the style of  the Tahiti-based French painter.

“Edades: From Freedom to Fruition,” which was held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), gave new relevance to the legacy of the National Artist, not just as the Father of Philippine Modern Art, the archtetypal OFW, and the archetypal environmentalist. With his  modernist crusade as a painter and academe, Victorio Edades opened the way to new artistic idioms, as well as  broadened  the subject of art to translate seamlessly into other academic and professional disciplines that span the entire range of human experience.

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