The creative and interesting realms of Modern Sculpture in the Philippines has become the subject of nobility, pride and integrity because of its notable pioneer in the person of Napoleon Abueva. He is a notable sculptor who was deservingly given the distinction as the Philippines’ National Artist for Sculpture. Historically, he is adjudged by many Filipino historians and national artists’ luminaries as The Father of Modern Filipino Sculpture. Above all, he is the only Boholano who was ever bestowed the accolade as a National Artist of the Philippines when one speaks of Filipino visual arts masterpieces.

He is considered as the Dean of Filipino Modern Sculpture,

He is considered as the Dean of Filipino Modern Sculpture,

Napoleon Abueva was born on January 26, 1930 in Tagbilaran, Bohol to Teodoro Abueva, a politician in the province of Bohol and Purificacion Veloso. Although they belong to an illustrious wealthy clan, his life had dramatically changed after the Second World War. he became a poor and an unwilling victim of the Japanese imperial forces’ atrocities. When his father became the leader of an underground movement, their once happy and peaceful family life was suddenly disturbed by Japanese authorities. As a result, his beloved parents were captured, tortured and mercilessly silenced in Valencia, Bohol. Abueva was only 14 when this tragic incident happened. However, he and his grandmother were never spared from the brutal hands of Japanese authorities. They were unfortunately captured in Ilaya, Duero. In those days of difficult trials, they were both held in captivity alongside with his grandmother. But after a few days, his beloved relative was immediately released. As far as he is concerned, he was not yet freed by the Japanese authorities. Instead, he was hogtied and tortured for several days. From that bitter experience of his, he began to build his dreams not only for him-self but for his country above anything else. Abueva began to discover and learn the rudiments of primary education at the Tagbilaran Elementary School and later at the University of Southern Philippines, the Holy Name College and the former Rafael Palma College; which is at present, the University of Bohol.

Since he had been blessed with a God given and homegrown talent, he was given his first major break in the field of visual arts in the year 1951. Initially, he bagged the Pura Villanueva Kalaw Scholarship grant. From then on, Abueva pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines of which he successfully completed in 1953. After a few years, he was offered a Fulbright-Mundt Smith Scholarship from 1954 to 1955.

Abueva’s Timeless Artworks

He was one of the youngest National Artists of the Philippines, when he was given this prestigious award at the age of 46. Among his most recognized artworks were: Kaganapan (1956), Kiss of Judas in 1955, The Transfiguration, that can be found at the Eternal Garden Memorial Park, Fredesvinda in Fort Canning Singapore, The Nine Muses of the UP Faculty Center and lastly, was The Sunburst at the Manila Peninsula Hotel.

Awards and Recognition

At the height of his much celebrated career in Philippine Visual Arts, Abueva was able to indelibly mark his passion and incredible legacies in the world of sculpture when he was rightfully bestowed these international Awards and recognitions such as First Prize and Special Award for Kaganapan, in the Semi-Annual Exhibition by the Art Association of the Philippines, First Prize Award for “The Kiss of Judas”, this was during the Religious Art Exhibition held in Detroit, Michigan, Most Outstanding Alumnus of the School of Fine Arts, UP Golden Jubilee Award, the Republic Award for Sculpture and other related accolades or distinctions to name a few

To wrap up, Abueva and his splendid artworks will always signify the eternal integrals of a strong national character of the Filipinos, the importance of having a mother and how Filipinos should treat themselves with humbling pride and dignity in the face of sociological challenges and adversities. Remarkably, he will never be forgotten by millions of Filipinos who constantly treasure his unsurpassed legacies in reforming the Philippine society and its people through his awesome and meaningful artworks though these are are abstracts of the real socio-political situations during his heydays. May his impeccable inspirations propel each Filipino to be patriotic in both heart and soul. After all, social and economic reforms are like sculptures which have to be perfectly moulded with political will and unity to become realistic.

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