National artist Abueva dies, 88

Published February 17, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Krizette Chu and Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos

Napoleon Abueva, National Artist for Sculpture, passed away Friday morning. He was 88.

Malacañang extended its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Abueva who died of a lingering illness.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, who knew Abueva personally, issued the statement Friday afternoon, saying the works of the country’s national artist will not be forgotten.

Napoleon Abueva
Napoleon Abueva

“We join the entire nation in mourning the passing of an exemplary artist, known as the Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture. Mr. Abueva’s unparalleled contributions in the realm of arts will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of every Filipino,” Roque said.

“He will forever be honored as a renowned virtuoso whom future generations of Filipino artists will look up to. We pray for the repose of his soul,” he added.

Malacañang also remembers Abueva as an artist who paved the way for the recognition of authentic Filipino talent in the global art scene, with his works installed in different museums. The modernist sculptor, considered as the father of Modern Philippine Sculpture, was the youngest National Artist awardee at the age of 46.

He is widely credited for shaping the Philippine sculpture scene, making use of local and indigenous materials from hard wood like molave, acacia, ipil, kamagong, to other more modern resources like metal, steel, cement, marble, bronze, and brass. In 1951, he introduced an early innovation called buoyant sculpture, jutting out from the surface of a pool, and in 1980, was one of the first Filipinos to put up a one-man show at the Philippine Center in New York.

One of his pieces, The Sculpture, is at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Some of his major works include Eternal Garden Memorial Park, UP Gateway (1967), Nine Muses (1994), UP Faculty Center, Sunburst (1994) at the Peninsula Manila Hotel, the bronze figure of Teodoro M. Kalaw in front of the National Library, and murals in marble at the National Heroes Shrine, Mt. Samat, Bataan.

In January this year, his eldest daughter Amihan took to Facebook to ask for blood donors for her father after a bladder surgery. The Boholano artist has been confined at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) since last December 31 for pneumonia.

Abueva, who just celebrated his birthday last Jan.26, also had a stroke in 2014.

His interest in sculpture began at an early age but this was interrupted when the second World War broke out. Abueva himself was imprisoned and tortured while his parents were reportedly killed by the Japanese.

Guillermo Tolentino, another national artist who was the one who created the ‘Oblation’ at the University of the Philippines entrance was also his mentor.

The wake for the late national artist will be at the Delaney Hall of UP’s Church of the Holy Sacrifice.

Final necrological service will be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and interment will be at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (National Heroes’ Cemetery) in Taguig City on February 25.