Honey Jarque Loop (The Freeman) - February 16, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Any wish list of things to do would certainly include travels at the very top. The opportunities that travel offers - the adventure to have, the new culture to discover, the novelty finds, the gastronomic encounters, the educational and even spiritual experience - appeal to all ages.

Once in a while, a travel destination fulfills multiple purposes. One such place we recently visited is Antipolo, about 25 kilometers east of Manila .The city prides itself as the pilgrimage capital of the Philippines. The Marian image of the Virgin of Antipolo, also known as Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, brought from Mexico in 1626, is enshrined at the Antipolo Cathedral. Devotees trek to the cathedral en masse on two occasions every year, during Holy Week and on April 30, on the eve of the Antipolo May festival. There is an existing custom of having new cars blessed at the Antipolo Church in a belief that this will ensure the safety of the vehicle and its passengers.

The second most visited tourist spot both by locals and foreigners alike is the Silangan Gardens, a one hectare parcel of land that is home to the non-profit Silangan Foundation for Arts, Culture and Ecology, spearheaded by neurologist and foremost art patron Dr. Joven Cuanang.

A passionate supporter of Philippine contemporary art, Cuanang first opened the Boston Gallery out of his own home in Quezon City, to provide a venue for aspiring artists whom commercial galleries did not welcome into their rosters. After the success of the Boston Gallery, his beautifully landscaped Antipolo property, which lies nestled within a sprawling terrain, was transformed into another gallery to showcase the growing art works of talented artists. Thus Pinto Art Gallery was born.

Dr. Cuanang's extensive collection, the core of which he acquired in the 1990s needed the proper setting, one that would allow him to share it with the public. Not long after, he began construction of the Pinto Art Museum (PAM) designed by Antonio Leaño, the same artist-architect who conceptualized Pinto Art Gallery and Dr. Cuanang's Ilocano-Mexican home.

The architectural complex is composed of interweaving exhibition spaces. Leaño makes use of high ceilings which are reminiscent of colonial Spanish architecture. Mediterranean inspirations are likewise integrated through the white façade, antiquated steeple, open porticos and strategically placed stylized columns. Visible throughout the development of PAM is Leaño's affinity with organic elements through the alluring peeks of the picturesque garden and the clerestory windows that provide cross-ventilation. The stones and boulders unearthed during construction were kept and integrated within the structure.

To the right of the entrance is a chapel that houses some antique wooden statues. In front is a bust of Dr. Jose Rizal which was unveiled during the 150th birth anniversary of our national hero.

The museum complex can be reached through wide concrete steps that follow the downward incline of the landscape. On display are the diverse artworks that Cuanang has collected from 1986 to the present.

The first gallery, painted in white, features a massive collaborative mural entitled Karnabal that is 480 inches long and 144 inches wide. The sixteen artists who participated in this masterpiece are part of the Grupo Salingpusa . To the left is a narrow portal that leads to a spacious gallery filled with paintings mostly done by Elmer Borlongan. Other notable artworks are from artists Rodel Tapaya, Niel Manalo, Karen Flores, Marika Constantino, Ferdie Montemayor and Geraldine Javier.

Connected by walkways and footpaths is the third gallery which exhibits more contemporary works by Ruiz Tence Ruiz, Leeroy New and Joven Mansit.

True to its purpose and commitment, Dr. Joven Cuanang's Pinto Art Museum has opened doors not just for the aspiring artists who have now become such accomplished artists but also for people to connect more deeply to the world of Filipino contemporary art.

The Silangan Gardens and the Pinto Art Museum is located at 1 Sierra Madre Street, Grandheights, Antipolo City, and is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance fee is Php 150.00 for adults and Php 75.00 for students. Senior citizens get a 20% discount.

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