Rizal is referred to as the “cradle of Philippine art,” and deservedly so. For one, it is also the hometown of famous local artists who have made remarkable contributions to the country’s culture and heritage. This includes National Artist for Painting, Carlos “Botong” Francisco.

If you’re looking to dive into the work of our artistic greats—what inspires them, who were their mentors, and what style they employed—an hour-long road trip to the province just east of Pasig might be in order.

Here are some places you can go to:

Blanco Family Art Museum
312B A. Ibañez St, Angono

The Blanco Family Art Museum houses the Angono Fishermen’s Festival, a painting that shows hundreds of real locals from Angono and their activities. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

In Angono, which is considered the “Art Capital of the Philippines,” you can find Blanco Family Museum.

The place is brimming with hundreds of eye-catching paintings and sculptures made by the patriarch of the family, Jose “Pitok” V. Blanco, who brought the site to life.

Upon entering, the first thing you will see is a hall to your left, filled with canvasses representing our culture and tradition. These works show different livelihoods and pastimes in Angono such as fishing, farming, mountain climbing, swimming. Celebrations like the famous Higantes Festival, where giant paper-mâché puppets parade the streets, are also depicted.

The first gallery houses the many obra of Pitok’s seven children. The paintings are arranged according to the ages of the siblings, starting with the youngest Peter Paul. The following pieces belong to Gay, Jan, Joy, Michael, Noel, and Glen.

Their mother, Loreto or “Loring” also has her own section of mature woman’s paintings. There, she tells you a story about human warmth that comes from a mother’s hands.

The family’s artworks are in the style of realism or naturalism, which they execute with amazing precision. As such, you might have a hard time figuring out whether the artwork in front of you is a painting or a photograph.

Make sure to take a long look at the 244 cm x 453 cm Angono Fishermen’s Festival. This sought-after piece of art shows hundreds of real locals from Angono, and each face in the canvas is unique.

Michael Blanco, who also manages the museum, says it took eight months for his dad to finish the painting.

Apart from the Blancos, submissions by local artists are also on display. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

In the other galleries, you’ll see hundreds of contemporary artworks submitted by locals. The Blanco family helps the artists sell these by hosting exhibitions.

Before leaving, make sure to throw your support by purchasing postcards, which are miniatures of the Blanco family’s paintings. They also sell maskaras and key chains to remind you of your trip there.

The general admission fee is Php 50.00 only, but if you wish to have a tour inside the museum proper, it would be Php 150.00. The museum gives discounts to students, senior citizens, and PWDs.

Inside the museum is BRKD Cafe that serves a variety of coffee drinks and sandwiches. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

If you feel hungry after the tour, you can dine within the vicinity at BRKD Café, where they serve coffee and sandwiches.

Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco’s Ancestral House
Dona Aurora Street, Angono

Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco’s Ancestral House has two floors showcasing the late artist’s works and sculptures. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

While in Angono, check out the ancestral house of Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco. The late muralists’ home has been open to the public since he was recognized as National Artist for Painting. (Fun fact: Botong was also Pitok Blanco’s mentor).

The bi-level studio houses an assortment of Francisco’s paintings, sketches, framed old photographs, and trinkets.

Every piece of artwork will connect you to history and culture of the Philippines. Among Francisco’s famous paintings, for example, you’ll see a duplicate of the famous “Bayanihan.” This depicts the spirit of communal unity that’s innate to Filipinos.

According to Carlos “Totong” Francisco II, who is the National Artist’s grandson and the current caretaker of the house, the art pieces in the area are all replicas. The original canvases were commissioned and therefore hung in different establishments across the country.

For instance, Botong’s “Filipino Struggles Through History” was commissioned for the Manila City Government in 1964. It is currently in the city hall’s Bulwagang Gat. Antonio Villegas, and has been declared a national cultural treasure.

Artwork aplenty can be seen with every head turn. On one side, there are other paintings like “Maria Makiling,” owned by Paulino Que, one of the country’s foremost art collectors and connoisseurs.

Compared to Botong, Totong leaned more in the Abstract Impressionism style than in objects, people, and sceneries. He has a showroom dedicated to his thought-provoking canvasses.

One of his pieces to visit is “Romancing the Uncertain.” The artwork represents a persona that is being engulfed with flowers and thorns. According to Totong, it depicts someone’s open-mindedness to accept the uncertainty that makes them resilient.

Totong shares that those on display at the home are replicas. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Totong’s art pieces can be purchased from the studio or online. Prices start around Php 20,000.00. You may access the museum for free, but to help the family maintain their ancestral house, you are free to donate.

Angono’s famous street murals that depict the cultural tradition of its villagers are found along Doña Aurora Street. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Upon leaving, take a quick stroll around the house to see the famous Angono Street Murals. These concrete obra, installed on the walls, were based on the actual paintings of Botong.

Nemiranda Arthouse
31 Doña Aurora St, Angono

Similar to the Blancos, works by Nemi Miranda and his children are featured at their exhibit space. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Not too far from Botong’s Ancestral House is the Nemiranda Arthouse. Founded by the famous painter and sculptor Nemesio “Nemi” Miranda, Jr., the gallery houses his artworks as well as pieces crafted by his five children: Katrina, Zarah, Paul Greco, Don Nemesio III, and Chesca.

Miranda is known as Angono’s Father of Imaginative Figurism because of his unique style of not referencing when creating his art. “I don’t use photographs. So it’s within the soul of me that sees the human form.”

Most of the subjects of his paintings are nature goddesses, mythical creatures, and mother and child. Upon marveling through Miranda’s artworks, you’ll notice doves in every piece representing his soul as an artist. Other pieces include larger-than-life sculptures such as “Si Malakas at Maganda” and “Sirena.”

The Nemiranda Arthouse has a whole section dedicated to paper-mâché art. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

There is also a section where you can see huge paper-mâchés of former Philippine leaders and personalities, similar to what you see in the Higantes Festival. Miranda is one of the artists who established the said celebration in Angono. He organized the festival with the help of the Higante Makers and Sculptors Society he founded.

The entrance fee for visitors is PHP 50.00 only.

After feeding your eyes with these artworks, make sure also to satisfy your palate with good food. Nemiranda Cafe and Restaurant is an in-house diner that serves local dishes like Beef Laoya, Sinampalukang Manok, Pinakbet with Liempo, and Turones.

Balaw-Balaw Restaurant and Art Gallery
16 Doña Justa Subdivision, Phase I, Manila East Highway, Angono

Sculptures dominate the second floor of Balaw-Balaw Restaurant and Art Gallery. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Speaking of combining good food and art: Balaw Balaw Restaurant and Art Gallery was founded and designed by the late homegrown painter and sculptor Perdigon Vocalan. The artist was also mentored by Botong.

Vocalan was known for his impressionist art, and you can see examples of this scattered around the restaurant even as you enter.

There is a spectrum of influences that can be seen on the second floor. An abundance of paintings and sculptures related to mythical creatures like mermaids are there alongside religious pieces such as ones depicting Jesus Christ. And, similar to Nemiranda Arthouse, Higantes or huge paper-mâchés made by local artisans are also around.

The place also serves as a venue for art classes to help local artists polish their skills. While in the area, make sure to purchase paintings or sculptures, or paint your higante figurine.

Paper-mâché art are also available for purchase at Balaw-Balaw. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Exotic dishes can be had at the museum’s restaurant. Some of the dishes that you can try are Adobong Palaka; Kamaro or crickets found in rice fields cooked in garlic and seasoning; and Crispy Fried Itik or duck. The ideal budget for a family of five is Php 800 – Php 1200. (Read more: Best Restaurants in Rizal for Your Quick Escape from Manila).

Pintô Art Museum
1 Sierra Madre St, Grand Heights Subdivision, Antipolo

Pintô Art Museum houses works by Mark Justiniani, Elmer Borlongan, Emmanuel Garibay, Demetrio Dela Cruz, Geraldine Javier, and many others. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Quite near Manila, Pintô Art Museum is an exhibition space that houses a plethora of artworks by Dr. Joven Cuanang. Among the pieces found on the site are made by Mark Justiniani, Elmer Borlongan, Emmanuel Garibay, Demetrio Dela Cruz, and Geraldine Javier.

The 1,200-square-meter site is wide enough to make you feel that the showrooms have no end, and each artwork can be enjoyed in different ways.

Mark Justiniani’s “Core” gives the impression of depth when observed up front. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

For example, Justiniani’s “Core” in Gallery 7 creates an illusion, making you feel like you’re standing on a thin sheet of glass above a deep hole. The room is dark for you to focus only on the installation.

In Gallery 5, you’ll see Antonio Leaño’s “Forest.” The room will make you feel disconnected from the world for a moment because it has limited visibility. All you can see are bamboo trees and ponds that make the surroundings tranquil.

The elements in Antonio Leaño’s “Forest” give off a feeling of tranquility. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Pintô also opened its newest attraction called “Arboretum,” a place for plantitos and plantitas to enjoy. The area’s aim is to rescue the rare and endangered Philippine plants such as Begonia, Selaginella, and Alocasia Portei.

Pinto Arboretum is one of the newest attractions in Pinto Art Museum that houses Philippine botanic diversity. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

After the tour, grab a bite at Earth Cafe within the premises. They offer coffee, tea, burgers, and sandwiches.

The entrance fee starts at Php 125 for students. Adults and senior citizens can enter the museum at Php 200 and Php 250, respectively.

Have a Safe Trip!

Art galleries in Rizal are ready for art enthusiasts! Customers are required to wear a face mask and shield, and practice social distancing at all times. The places set sanitary and contact tracing procedures such as registration at the reception and using alcohol to sanitize hands before entering the premises. To know more about Rizal, visit www.rizalprovince.ph/

To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.