Philippine Art in a Historical Perspective

by Angel Grace D. Untalan, DECEMBER 2021

Subjects and styles of art evolve from pre-colonial times to modern times. Influences around the globe affected the manner and experience we relate to in absorbing various art forms. of

This month, we celebrate National Arts Month pursuant to Proclamation No. 683 issued by the Philippine President on 28 January 1991.

Developments in the culture of art shaped national historic events, as well as institutional establishments that have stood the test time.

The Spanish occupation during the period of 1521-1565 began to build the bureaucracy of colonial occupation composing of religious, civil, and aesthetic structures.

Up to the mid-19th century, the subject of Philippine art was mostly religious, considering the impact of colonization.

Indigenous arts and crafts, on the other hand, formed part of the early woodcarving, textile weaving, earthenware pottery, and jewelry tradition that was shared with the rest of our neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

Way back, educational institutions participated in nurturing Filipino talents, especially in the study of paintings as a form of art.

The country’s pioneer art school, Academia de Dibujo y Pintura, founded in 1823, paved the way for academe and State intervention in the culture of humanities, arts, and letters construction.

In 1888, the Malolos Republic created a short-lived Escuela De Bellas Artes. The Academia de Dibujo y Pintura of 1823 eventually became the Escuela Superior de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado.

The Second World War leading to the country gaining its independence spurred the quest of several talents in redefining Philippine culture and art.

After the Japanese occupation, the devastated Manila began allowing artists to share art through the annual exhibition organized by the Arts Association of the Philippines.

In Reuben R. Cañete’s discussion of the Philippine Arts & Culture in the Socio-Historical Context of Nation, Region & Globalization, we learn that the National Museum of the Philippines was originally founded as a museum for ethnography, as well as natural history.

It was only during the 1920s and 1930s when various directors started collecting artworks that included art.

As one of the oldest institutions housing the National Art Gallery, it eventually expanded in the 1950s and the 1970s to establish a national art collection systematically.

Performing arts centers were also envisioned as state institutions which led to the creation of a Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Similar to the National Museum, it also had its own national collection based on modern and contemporary art, in contrast with the latter’s 19th and 20th-century art collection.

The government strengthens its support for cultural development by allowing the passage of the Law Creating the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) or Republic Act No. 7356.

This legislation superseded the Presidential Commission on Culture and Arts established in 1987 through Executive Order No. 118.

On 26 April 2019, Republic Act No. 11333 transferred the regulatory functions of the National Museum to the NCCA.

The formation of the NCCA was a crucial development in the pursuit of equalizing the attention provided to indigenous and traditional art forms.

To date, it is the overall policy-making body, coordinating, and grants giving agency for the preservation, development, and promotion of Philippine arts and culture.

For this year, NCCA organized a National Arts Month event showcasing seven flagship projects from each of the national committees on different artistic disciplines. The activities run from the first week of February until March.

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About the writer:

Angel Grace D. Untalan. A Legal Management graduate with an inclination to pursue the field of higher arts. She is moderately comfortable with social interaction, but can also relish her time off from the crowd. Her works are influenced by distinguished screenwriters such as Gene Roddenberry, George R.R. Martin, and Quentin Tarantino. She aspires to become a law practitioner at The Hague, who has published papers in a Scopus-indexed journal at some point in the future.

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