Visit the National Museum of Bohol to see rare artworks of National Artist Napoleon Abueva

Published October 25, 2021, 11:33 AM

by Noel Pabalate

They say you’ve never seen Bohol if you haven’t visited the Chocolate Hills, sighted the endangered tarsiers, dipped on its pristine beaches, dined on the floating restaurant on Loboc river, witnessed the swarm of fireflies at Abatan river, and prayed in one of its centuries-old churches. But could there be one other reason to say you’ve been there?

Indeed, there are a lot of things you shouldn’t miss when in the Heart of the Philippine Islands. One of these is seeing the collection of artworks by National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon Veloso Abueva at the National Museum of Bohol (NMB).

If you think you don’t need to visit it because you’ve seen Abueva’s artistic ingenuity by seeing UP Gateway and Nine Muses when at the University of the Philippines, passing The Transfiguration at the Eternal Gardens Memorial Park, staring at the Sunburst while dining in The Peninsula Manila, or posing for a photo in front of the murals at the National Heroes Shrine at Mt. Samat, you should think twice because the art pieces on display at NMB’s exhibition dubbed “Pagpauli,” are different yet equally impressive even though they are smaller in scale.

The 1973 Transfiguration sculpture in fiberglass and 1990 self-portrait bust in bronze

Pagpauli,” which means “homecoming” in the local Boholano language, is an exhibition paying homage to the renowned sculptor who is a native of the province. Organized by the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) in partnership with the Abueva family, the exhibit shares the National artist’s most comprehensive and significant works of art from his personal collection in Duero, Bohol and in Quezon City.

Known as the Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture, Abueva has two works in the exhibit that features his modern style: the stainless steel and fiberglass geometric sculpture representing family groups. Interpreted abstractly, the contour of the figures harmoniously slant toward each other, creating a unified form. Some of the late artist’s busts selection, however, including his self-portrait in the gallery, reveal that he didn’t hesitate to draw influence from the classical and the romantic to continue making three-dimensional portraits.

The Stainless Steel and Fiberglass Family Group abstract sculpture

Other notable works are his furniture sculptures, made from indigenous hardwood molave and magkuno, which according to Abueva are primarily sculptural and incidentally functional.

One of his furniture sculptures in the exhibit

Also included are other masterpieces, like a wooden triptych panel and a huge wooden door. The former features mother and child, father and son, and his own family tree, while the latter represents his spirituality.

Carvings on wood panels: 1973 Narra three-sided house post Father and Son, Abueva-Valles Family Tree, Mother and Child; and 1993 Red Narra Door of the Temple of the Child Jesus

Considered as the best Abueva exhibition in the country, Pagpauli,” which was inaugurated in July 2018 (five months after his death in February 2018), highlights the sculptor’s mastery of his craft while projecting his character as a family man, religious person, and a humanist—a combination you rarely see in one person. Isn’t that a another good reason why NMB should be on your list of places to visit when in Bohol?

NMB is encouraging locals and tourists to check “Pagpauli” and their other exhibitions in observance of Museums and Galleries Month. The museum is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. only. Guests are expected to strictly observe health protocols.