13 Jan2014


If you are a fan of sculpture or the arts, you MUST see this retrospective exhibit of Napoleon Abueva at the Metropolitan Museum, Manila. Tito Billy is my mother’s younger brother, and was always a favorite “Tito” to the nephews and nieces — how could he not be, with horse-drawn chariot rides around the U.P. oval, the most amazing workshop to play in, and an imagination so wild he was the ultimate adult kid. The quintessential absent-minded professor, he was for a time, the Dean of the College of Fine Arts in U.P., and many of today’s younger artists probably had him for a class or two and realized genius and madness are truly not set too far apart…


The self-portrait/bust of the artist up above, with the following on the plaque below it. Born January 26, 1930 (PGH Ward) and Tentative and Optimistic Date of Death November 9, 2020 (I.C.U. Makati Medical Center). He hopes to make it to 90 years old. And he’s still around, albeit less active than he would like, at 83 years of age. His coffin has been carved and at the foot of his bed for at least two decades, it is utterly beautiful, and I only worry about the pall-bearers (it’ll have to be on a horse-drawn set-up or a pick-up truck) who have to lift it when the time comes. National Artists are apparently accorded the option of being buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery), but I wonder where he will choose his final resting place. But enough of that, more on the wonderful exhibit.


Abueva’s modern takes on the carabao are amongst my favorite pieces of all time, this smooth beast in bronze. He has similar pieces in alabaster, marble, wood, etc.


A cousin of ours, carved in hardwood.


Planting rice, a truly marvelous piece, from a private collection.


Our great-grandmother, apparently, I am guessing on the Lloren (married to Abueva) side of the family.


One of Tito Billy’s favorite pieces which depicts his spouse pregnant. This is also one of my favorites. It has been displayed in the Abueva living room for decades and honestly, this is the first time I have seen it cleaned up (for the exhibit) and it looks even better than usual.


A Ring Around the Rosies piece in bronze — so happy and carefree, subjects buck naked and anatomically correct, including the dog.


A family group executed in stainless steel, for display in a yard or garden ideally.


Tito Billy ventured into unusual pieces in wood, such as this catapult of sorts, one of several in the exhibit. Not sure if it was meant to launch coconuts at the enemy, but it simply shows that range of things that caught his fancy.


A monumental, ginormous altar made out of huge pieces of hardwood and brass or bronze. I think this one is from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. Not my type, but again, indicative of the breadth of works he completed during his career.


A modern carving of “A Chapel” that hangs on a wall…


…two faces carved out of adobe…


…all on display on the main floor of the Metropolitan Museum. It is a nice selection of his works, presented in a very spacious and light environment.


Three nudes carved in hardwood, just look at the grain in that wood…


…Mrs. MM’s favorite piece, an “allegorical harpoon” from the permanent collection of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.


One of Abueva’s iconic benches, best for public spaces or doctor’s waiting rooms as people can all sit facing different directions and not feel compelled to converse with each other if they don’t want. I want to acquire one of these benches but don’t have a place big enough to put it!


Two of our Australian cousins who were in town for a visit and we took them to the exhibit. The Abueva retrospective runs through the end of February 2014, and the entrance fee at the museum is PHP100, and well worth it.



  1. Netoy says:

    All i can say is “WOW!”. Beautiful art pieces!

    Jan 13, 2014 | 10:50 am


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  3. Dreaming! says:

    I wish I could see this. The timing is bad for me :-(. I’ll post it on FB.

    Jan 13, 2014 | 12:12 pm

  4. Avid Thinker says:

    Would surely like to visit if schedule permits. It’s amazing to look at the photos, how much more in the actual setting!

    Jan 13, 2014 | 6:13 pm

  5. Lee says:

    This is great. Will share this post so that my Manila based Bacolod friends can enjoy the Abueva experience.

    Jan 13, 2014 | 6:43 pm

  6. natie says:

    Definitely well worth the price.. Cheap compared to the NY Museums–prohibitive, if there’s a group of you, and you have to PARK!!!!

    With the Three Nudes, I did more than look AT THE grain of the wood..! (Oh, snap! No she diint)

    You have the genius-gene, MM!!

    Jan 14, 2014 | 5:31 am

  7. marilen says:

    Thank you, MM for the great photos. Could not be there but this is the next best thing!!
    Abueva is a national treasure!

    Jan 14, 2014 | 7:48 am

  8. Mrs Froggie says:

    I had the honor of being able to go to his home and see his art works in one of our field trips when I was a student in the University of the Philippines, Diliman. He truly is a very talented artist! So he is your uncle! Really, he is a treasure of our Philippine heritage to be proud of!

    Jan 14, 2014 | 2:45 pm

  9. millet says:

    beautiful! here in davao, we have an almost permanent exhibit of abueva sculptures at the malagos gardens.

    MM, totally unrelated to abueva, but lechon-related -i had a good laugh over this: http://9gag.com/gag/aD0nR8Z

    Jan 15, 2014 | 8:53 am

  10. Ariel Nievera says:

    When I took some classes with him at UP in mid 70s, he commuted to school by horse and chariot

    Jan 15, 2014 | 4:45 pm

  11. Marketman says:

    Ariel, :)

    Jan 15, 2014 | 10:36 pm

  12. manny says:

    wow! big fan here… and just super thrilled that we must be distant relations. tito billy is my dad’s second cousin. (my paternal lola who is vicenta veloso from cebu married jesus chaves from balingasag.) maybe you should also do a piece on his brother tito teddy who did floral settings while living in new york.

    Jan 17, 2014 | 10:59 am

  13. Marketman says:

    manny, yes, we must be distant relatives through the Veloso side of the family… Teddy was marvelous, and artistic in his own way. And few outside the family would know he dabbled in sculpture in his very early days as well… we are lucky to have one bronze nude of Tito Teddy’s that is quite beautiful.

    Jan 17, 2014 | 11:05 am

  14. MP says:

    Yehey, I can still catch the exhibit when I get back to Manila on the third week of Feb!

    Jan 17, 2014 | 1:01 pm

  15. bien aragon says:

    I recommend the Abueva exhibit wholeheartedly , I just hope that those who come to see it will have a better experience than my wife and I had yesterday, Jan 24. We drove all the way from QC and got to the museum before noon, only to see a sign that there was a private function and the museum would be closed to the public from 11 am to 2 pm. My wife checked the museum website before we left and there was no announcement of the closure.

    Anyway we accepted that and just killed time and returned at 2 pm. We were told that the function was still going on. Only after expressing our disgust were we allowed to enter and view the exhibits in the basement and second floors (the function was in a very small area of the first floor).

    Whose whim or caprice was it to turn a public museum into a private dining hall? We were told that these were top BSP or MB officials discussing sensitive matters. If so, shouldn’t they use the more secure rooms in the BSP complex? I do know they have a lot of that since I attended meetings there before. This is just another example of how public officials treat their premises as private property and the public as dirt. It made us feel like the homeless people camped in the stinking alley beside the BSP compound.

    Jan 25, 2014 | 10:25 am


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