No blank stares at the Blancos'

The house I grew up in lies right at the border of Angono, Rizal and Antipolo City, the first is famous for its artistic locals and another for its pilgrimage sites and native food. I never realized that just a few meters away was a colorful art district where every block has a worthy gallery and chance exhibits. It took me 15 years before I discovered it, and that's when I'm already living in Quezon City. Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

First stop: The Blanco Family Museum. I swear they'll get you wishing you had some of their genes.

The Blanco Family Museum in Angono, Rizal looks unassuming from outside.
Inside, it's a maze of passages lined with works of prodigious skills.
It's amazing that when the Blanco kids were only 6, they could draw better than you do now. I mean, I'm not the stick figures level type at least, but the Blancos' work made me feel like mine's enough to be on tissue paper.
"Yakan of Basilan" (1990) by Peter Paul Blanco when he was 10 years old.
"Panag-arawan" by Jan Blanco, when he was only 13 years old.
Peter Paul, Michael, Jan, Glenn, Noel, Gay and Joy's earlier creations seem to be on modernist canvas, although of course they weren't aware of it then. Their later works are realist. They even go as far as photorealism, like their works depicting China.


Okay, so this one's not quite photorealist yet, but we're getting there.

The guide said Jose "Pitok" Blanco, would require his children to complete a thesis, or a mural-sized work like this one.
We met Michael Blanco, one of the children of the late great Jose "Pitok" Blanco. He welcomed us into their museum, which they also turned into a school. He talked about his parents, and how they were fond of each other even in old age, and that they couldn't eat without the other.

The elderly Blancos retired in Batangas till the end of their lives. The children now have their own professions, but also return to painting from time to time. Michael paints and teaches art full time, while refurbishing and expanding the museum. "Nakita n'yo na ba yung mga paintings ng tatay? Ang lalaki, 'di ba? (Have you seen father's paintings? They're all huge!)," Michael asked, enthusiastically. It's amusing to hear him talk about his dad, even after he passed away, like an keen fan would.

Detail of one of Pitok Blanco's paintings. Recurring themes of his work are rural life and religion. And how the heck did he make that hay? Hey!

"Fiesta sa Angono" by Pitok Blanco is an enormous realist work. Characters in the scene are real town folks at that time. Many faces are also of his wife and children, especially the youngest son, Peter Paul, who appears more than 4 times in the painting.
Jose Blanco, who worked in an advertising agency for a time just like other great Filipino artists, wanted his children to have the discipline he acquired in the corporate-creative world. He discouraged waiting for artistic moods or inspiration before they can create something of value. Michael said his father, while kind, is stern in training them. Whenever Michael and his siblings looked at mediocre artistic works to imitate, their dad would ask them to check at Rembrandt and the old masters instead.

"He wanted us to learn from the best," Michael recalled. And among the best are what they became. #

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