RIZAL | Botong Francisco's House and The Second Gallery



Owing to the mural sculptures flanking its cobbled walkway, Angono’s Doña Aurora Street is an eye-catching thoroughfare. The street’s array of concrete reliefs on residential fences, chiseled by the town’s homegrown artists, depicts the paintings of Botong Francisco, Angono’s illustrious son who himself resided along the avenue. In his house that also became his studio, he brought into existence works of art that bear paramount importance to the Filipino culture and from which younger artists and citizens of his hometown find inspiration and pride.

One of Angono's street murals inside the gates of Botong Francisco's house
One of Angono's street murals is inside the gates of Botong Francisco's house


Carlos Modesto “Botong" V. Francisco

Botong was born in November 4, 1912. A known muralist and an Angono native, his subjects encompassed scenes from daily life and folk customs of his suburban hometown, unique Filipino traditions, and significant events in Philippine history. His large-scale, mostly commissioned artworks adorn government buildings, corporate headquarters, universities, and private and public museums.

Botong Francisco's "Bayanihan" displayed inside the house
Botong Francisco's "Bayanihan" displayed inside the house

His most prominent works belong to the roster of National Cultural Treasures. The “Filipino Struggles through History”, a series of paintings commissioned by the Manila city government in 1960s, depicts selected historical events from the pre-colonial Kingdom of Tondo until the Philippine Independence in 1946. Portrayed in “The Progress of Medicine”, a four-panel painting commissioned for Philippine General Hospital (PGH), is the chronology of healing practices from pre-colonial Philippines up to the modern medicine. The National Museum of Fine Arts took over the upkeep of these cultural gems to avoid further deterioration and make them more accessible to the public, providing in turn more durable replicas for the “unfriendly” environs of their first homes in Manila City Hall and PGH.


Botong’s artistry also reached the realm of Philippine cinema. He partnered with Manuel Conde, filmmaker and fellow National Artist, and their duo produced Genghis Khan in 1952. Though operated on a shoestring budget, the film gained a spot in history by becoming the very first Filipino motion picture to enter the world stage through the prestigious Venice Film Festival. Botong took part in research, some writing, and the film’s production design.

Botong in Rover Scout uniform
Botong in Rover Scout uniform (second to the left)

Aside from his valuable artworks, Botong, also an active Rover Scout, was known for yet another cultural treasure, the Angono Pertroglyphs—ancient artistic carvings on rock formations situated in the mountainous municipal borders of Angono and Binangonan—which he discovered during a field trip with the boy scouts.

Botong died in March 31, 1969 leaving a rich legacy not only to his hometown known today as the country’s art capital but also to the Filipino identity. His remains lie in Angono of his birth. In 1973, he was elevated posthumously to the Order of National Artists. In 2002, his second cousin and close friend, kababayan, and fellow National Artist Lucio San Pedro was interred beside his tomb.


Botong's last unfinished work, "Kamote Diggers", presented to the President Marcos


The House and Studio of Botong Francisco

According to Totong Francisco, Botong’s grandson who manages the house-turned-museum, the ancestral structure is 90 percent original. Some renovations were undertaken before his lola opened the house to the public in 1970s, at the time the family received Botong’s posthumous National Artist conferment.

Botong Francisco's house in Angono
Inside Botong Francisco's house

The silong of the bi-level Francisco residence used to be the atelier that gave birth to Botong’s obras maestras. Within the corners of the house, one can find Botong’s memorabilia on display—his garments and some trinkets, his palette boards, drawing table, shabby wooden chair and easel, and various token of recognitions he received during his lifetime and thereafter. The library on the upper floor holds pieces of antiquarian books. Mounted on the walls is a paradox of the black-and-white photographs visually telling Botong’s life and the vivid replicas of his notable paintings.

Totong Franciso entertaining house visitors
Totong Franciso (in blue) entertaining house visitors
Portrait of Botong Francisco
Portrait of Botong Francisco
Some of Botong's old photographs
Some of Botong's old photographs
Botong's National Artist medal
Botong's National Artist medal

The exhibit is not that huge, but it’s more than meets the eye. Totong has background stories behind every piece on display; such stories serve as window to Botong’s colorful life and give guests an engaging tour around the National Artist’s abode.


Totong Francisco’s The Second Gallery

Carlos Francisco II, or Totong, did not only inherit the name but also his lolo‘s love for painting. Botong aside, Totong’s the only member of the Francisco household to carve out a career from painting. Like his lolo, he takes on commissioned work but he also paints to merely express himself. His works incline to abstractionism.

Totong Francsisco's "Metamorphosis"
Totong Francsisco's "Metamorphosis"
Totong Francisco's "Fragments of Nature I"
Smudge of acrylic from one of Totong's works
Smudge of acrylic from one of Totong's works
Inside The Second Gallery
Inside The Second Gallery

Beside the familial house, on a former garage, is Totong’s own showroom “The Second Gallery” where his works are on display for house visitors to behold and for art collectors to swing by and make a purchase.

The author with Totong Francisco
The author with Totong Francisco


How to Get to Botong Francisco's House-Studio

Address: Doña Aurora St., Brgy. Poblacion Itaas, Angono, Rizal
Drive: https://waze.com/ul/hwdw4suh2p (using Waze app)
Commute: Take Angono-bound jeepney or UV Express at the terminals in Mandaluyong (at SM Megamall, Robinsons Galleria, Starmall EDSA Shaw or Greenfield District) or at terminals near Marcos Highway in Pasig (at Sta. Lucia East Grandmall or Robinsons Metro East) then alight at Doña Aurora Street (located just before Angono Public Market). Landmark: busts of Carlos Francisco and Lucio San Pedro at the street’s welcome arch.

Fee(s): FREE
Contact(s): Botong Francisco Studio/The Second Gallery (Facebook page)


References:
  • PTV. Genghis Khan ni Manuel Conde: Ang unang pelikulang Pilipino sa pandaigdigang film festival [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GmGBry8aAg
  • Ayala Museum. (2019, August 4). Botong Francisco A Nation Imagined [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUq6G_gpojM
  • Martin, Mayo Uno L. (2004, March 22). In Focus: Interview with National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro. Retrieved from http://gwhs-stg02.i.gov.ph/~s2govnccaph/about-culture-and-arts/in-focus/interview-with-national-artist-for-music-lucio-san-pedro/
  • National Museum of the Philippines. (2017, September 20). Angono Petroglyphs. Retrieved from https://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph/nationalmuseumbeta/ASBMD/Angono.html
  • Gallery Big. (n.d.). Francisco, Botong. Retrieved from http://www.gallerybig.com/gallerybigbotong.html
  • Charie. (2018, July 29). The Art of Carlos Botong Francisco – Progress of Medicine in the Philippines. Retrieved from https://www.travelswithcharie.com/2018/07/the-art-of-carlos-botong-francisco.html
  • Charie. (2018, May 20). Filipino Struggles in History – Carlos “Botong” Francisco. Retrieved from https://www.travelswithcharie.com/2019/05/filipino-struggles-in-history-carlos.html


DJ RIVERA

Filipino, dad, office guy, hobbyist. Writes computer programs on weekdays, works on just about anything on weekends. Click here to know more.

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