Bahay Kubo and the Filipino Concept of Space
Under one roof

By Augusto F. Villalon

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A traditional bahay kubo which can still be seen in most rural areas of  the Philippines

THE WAY we live tells us who we are, so our homes are dead giveaways. The way we arrange our homes show how we like to live and how we relate to the other people who live with us. The positioning of furniture and choice of embellishments are personal choices. However, the arrangement of the different spaces inside a house and their varying degrees of privacy
demonstrate the lifestyle patterns of each culture.

The traditional bahay kubo follows the centuries-old Southeast Asian rural archetype of the single-room dwelling where all family activities happen in one space. After sleeping mats are
rolled up in the mornings, the same space is given over to daytime activities that sometimes spill outdoors to the shaded areas underneath the house.

The rural bahay kubo evolved into the bahay na bato, where the size of the house was enlarged but much of the single-room lifestyle remained. It was not uncommon for sleeping mats to be
laid out in the living room for the children every night.

Unlike today's homes with separate rooms for parents, children and other family members, the ancestral home's two or three large bedrooms were shared. Rows of canopied four poster beds
were laid out in the rooms with each occupant assigned his own aparador to keep his things. Although the wooden walls visually separated the different rooms, a strip of calado fretwork
between the ceiling and the tops of the walls circulated both air and sound freely around the interior. So much for privacy. However, in houses like these, residents found enough privacy
to conceive, deliver and nurse babies, to care for the sick and the aged.

Communal space

Unlike the westerner who places a premium on privacy, the Filipino prefers living space that is communal, surrounding himself with people all the time.

The idea of locking the front door, leaving the house in the morning and returning to an empty house in the evening is not even thought of. Someone is always at home, whether family,
distant relative or household help.

Maybe the Filipino fears being alone. He makes certain that members of his family keep him company at home. Within his home, everything seems to happen at the same time. Children
shriek, adults talk, servants shuffle. The decibel level is at the same extreme as the radio or television set that is constantly going.

Three or more generations of the same family live their separate but interconnected lives under one roof, most of the time hanging out in one room. When in need of solitude, a thin cloth
curtain strung over an opening stakes out a private section. Temporary as the privacy may turn out to be, the fluttering illusion of an unlatchable door screens the rest of the family out.
Blissful seclusion means not being able to see the others, but still remaining within full hearing range. In the one-room bahay kubo, privacy is sometimes achieved by turning one's back to
the room, by facing the wall for a few moments of solitude, but the separation is never total.

Filipinos follow the Asian concept of shared space and limited privacy. The traditional Japanese houses are essentially designed as a single space that can temporarily be separated by sliding paper screens that unify the house and garden into one single area.

To westerners with a non-Asian concept of space, sections of downtown Manila appear chaotic. Houses, apartments, shops, markets, all seem to burst with people. Crowds are everywhere.
The hustle and bustle of the people reflects in the architecture. There is a jumble of buildings, unruly roof lines jutting out everywhere, balconies and laundry hanging over sidewalks and
streets under a spaghetti of electrical wiring that dangles over neon signs. There seems to be no order at all. Everything visually and noisily competes with each other. Narrow sidewalks are filled with hawkers occupying the space normally reserved for pedestrians.

How different this cityscape is from the orderliness of, say London or Frankfurt, where rows of buildings are clearly demarcated form one another, and sidewalks are wide promenades dotted with clean benches, and people are sprinkled into the streetscape. In contrast to that, we thrive in crowds that teem, enjoying close contact with each other, jostling each other when we walk down a street. We tolerate closer contact with each other, unlike westerners who maintain
more space between each other, as a buffer to avoid close contact among themselves.

One for all

In the western mindset, a man's home is his domain, his castle that is built to last forever. It is where privacy is at a premium. European homes prefer enclosing spaces from each other:
everything is definite and separate, the living room, dining room, kitchen, the bedrooms. Everyone goes into the corridor, disappears into his private room, and closes the door behind

This lifestyle is the opposite of the traditional Filipino way of living, where bedrooms do not necessarily open out into an internal corridor but to an external one, the volada, a narrow,
enclosed balcony that runs along the exterior of the upper floor of the bahay na bato, linking the bedrooms and the other rooms of the house to each other.

In earlier days, the señora of the house would look out of her window every morning, waiting for her favorite hawkers to bass on the street below. From the comfort of her living room, she
shopped and haggled while picking up the latest street gossip. In some neighborhoods of Manila hawkers still come around, and residents remain in contact with each other even if their
homes are new and designed in the rigidly partitioned western manner, the traditional pattern of living is still Filipino, where everyone still crowds into a few rooms to sleep, where there are
people at all times, and where life is not bound by the walls of the house but goes out to include the lives of the neighbors along the street. In the Filipino lifestyle, it is all for one and one for all.

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June 21, 1999
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The ‘bahay kubo’: form need not always follow function
By Augusto F. Villalon

WHAT people in other countries call
vernacular architecture we call folk architecture here, but mostly we identify the rural bahay kubo as a "native" house.

Vernacular architecture goes beyond the bahay kubo. From its origins as a rural bamboo and nipa house, it evolved into the urban bahay na bato (house of stone) during the Spanish colonial era. From there, certain features evolved into the houses built in the early part of the 20th century during the
American regime.

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Image from Philippine Daily Inquirer

Very simple
The traditional features of the native house have always been the steeply pitched roof supported by a wooden post-and-lintel construction that allowed the raising of the single
room of the dwelling on stilts off the ground, providing an open space directly underneath.

The house is very simple: usually a square or rectangular structure built of bamboo, wood and roofed (and sometimes walled) with thatch that encloses a single room
that could be small enough to shelter just a man and wife or, on the other hand, it could be large enough to sleep the patriarch and matriarch of an extended family that includes their children and their children’s families.

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Image from Philippine Daily Inquirer

There is a wealth of folk knowledge that surrounds the bahay kubo. Folklore and beliefs determine the orientation of the house on a site, rituals accompany its construction,
communal ties bring neighbors together to construct the house, and custom dictates the lifestyle lived within the small confines of the structure. So it can be said that these
houses are shaped in response to the local culture.

However, geography and climate, available natural building materials and local construction skills, could be also said to be the determining factors of the bahay kubo. Responding to climate, the most dominant element of the house is its thick roof of thatch that insulates the interior from the tropical sun, rain slides off its steep roof and wide overhangs protect the walls from water, the floor of bamboo slats conducts air into the house even if all openings are shut.

The houses, therefore, are a result of many influences: cultural, environmental and technological. This is a case where form does not necessarily follow function because the form of the house dictates how its inhabitants function within it.

Cebu version

A way of life evolved in response to the single main room within the bahay kubo. In the book "Cebu, More Than Just an Island" (Ayala Foundation, Makati, 1997), respected Cebuano architect Melva Java describes the Cebuano payag (bahay kubo):

"The dwelling consists of one main room or guinlawasan which comprises the main body of the house. It is usually left bare except for a long bench that is attached to an adjacent wall. This is the family room, the center of activity, where residents eat and spend the night huddled close to one another.

"To achieve privacy, the Cebuanos have devised a meaningful body language. One ‘disappears’ or becomes‘ no longer present’ by simply looking away. This is done when a daughter is in the company of a suitor, or when one changes clothes, or when a son sits by the window to be alone with his thoughts."

The interior of the single-room dwelling illustrates the sophisticated approach of the Filipino toward space. Unlike the western concept of space where each space is assigned a function—sleeping, dining, cooking, etc., Filipino space is open and multifunctional. An eating area is cleared away at night and sleeping mats rolled out for the family to sleep on, or where turning one’s back on the central shared space of the room creates privacy. It is a simple open space but its usage is complex—where walls are not necessary for privacy, where spaces layer upon each other, where a big communal space gives way to smaller individual spaces.

Rodrigo D. Perez III writes of the bahay kubo in "Folk Architecture" (GCF Books, Manila, 1989): "The utter simplicity of the house is all the more impressive in the perfect correspondence of exterior form and interior space. The exterior form defines the totality of space in the one-room dwelling, while the interior space enjoys the full expanse of the structure. There is no dead or buried space within.

"Though small in scale, the native house reveals a sense of architectural mass. It embodies an appreciation of the power of simple volumes—pyramids and the combination of rectangular and triangular masses."


One can speak of the bahay kubo in architectural or cultural terms, even look at it as something that we have in common with our neighbors since it appears in one form or another in all Southeast Asian countries.

However, in this day and age, these traditional houses have become an anachronism. The more fortunate of their residents have, over time and generations, built new houses of cement roofed with galvanized iron roofing. It matters little that the new house is not safe from floods, oven-hot in the summer and that typhoon rains deafen the residents as it drums on the thin roof. The concrete house is the supreme status symbol.

The less fortunate have moved to the fringes of cities, where they live in urban versions of the bahay kubo, temporary shanties constructed of whatever material they have salvaged.

The traditional bahay kubo, or payag in Cebuano, stands either alone or in small clusters in rural areas, some of them a distance away from the nearest road, without water supply and sewage, without electricity and communication. Life in a bahay kubo is not easy.

It might be time to take a good look at traditional architecture, to find ways for rural life to continue in the bahay kubo and to bring in elements of the 21st century so that the residents will not feel left out of the mainstream. If steps are not taken, then we might as well write an epitaph for traditional architecture.
January 8, 2001

Philippine Daily Inquirer Online Edition

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Striking example of modern Filipino architecture
By Marge C. Enriquez

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Images are from the Philippine Daily Inquirer Internet Edition, June 20, 1999

THE architects and designers of Francisco Mañosa & Partners live what they preach, especially in applying the Filipino aesthetics.

''We try to convince anyone who approaches us to patronize what's ours. Our weather calls for tropical houses and the use of indigenous materials. You can't go wrong with this philosophy. There's nowhere else we can build these types of homes,'' says Maria Cecilia ''Chelo'' Hofileña, head of the Mañosa's interior design department.

Her abode in Parañaque is a perfect example of modern Filipino architecture. She'd rather have an airy house, and fill spaces with rattan furniture and plants than import a chandelier and
have crystals flowing in the wind. Hofileña says the chandelier's foreign origin becomes more pronounced.

However, she's not eschewing the idea of chandeliers and Italian marble, if there's a reason such as decorating a thematic restaurant or home or designing for a play.

''I don't see the sense of having a French look in the tropics,'' says Hofileña. She'd rather go to France to appreciate it in its context.

In turn, while traveling, she not only gets to understand the way other people live but she also learns to appreciate what is Filipino.

Asked what's her definition of our indigenous architecture, Hofileña says it's a house that's airy and attached to the earth with familiar materials such as reeds and palms.

The bahay kubo exemplifies this. But it is often looked down as a flimsy hut for plebeians unsuitable to city living.


But this is because people's minds have been conditioned by the story of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf. The antagonist blew away the houses of twigs and woods. Thus,
they were conceived as frail. The wolf failed when the third pig built a stone house.

Hofileña believes that a house doesn't have to be completely solid or all-cement. ''You can reinforce a wooden structure to give it strength. But it shouldn't deprive you to enjoy
ventilation by having windows.''

She says design evolves, and there are ways to stylize the bahay kubo concept and adapt it to the milieu. For instance, the traditional bahay kubo has bamboo slats on the floor. In a
modern house, these slats can be translated into planks. This is what she had done to her house.

''I can't afford molave and narra. I'd go for other types of wood which are within my reach such as the tanguile and bamboo. They stand out in how they are used,'' says Hofile?a. ''As these
materials are upgraded or used in an unfamiliar way, people will give them a second look.''

Natural colors

The colors are natural since the materials are from the earth. Adding contrast to the color scheme is the landscape. ''Because the colors are from nature, the house looks restful. There's no jarring color,'' says Hofileña.

There are no curtains. Like in most ancestral homes, moldings hold up the ceiling.

When Hofileña renovated her home in Parañaque, she took note of what most Filipino homes need today: cross-ventilation so that the house isn't like an oven in summer, and multipurpose

''Some homeowners give us a long list of rooms and end up wondering why their houses are so huge. You end up building more rooms than what's actually needed. Many activities can be cramped in one room. Space is expensive. I'd rather use the space for a garden that I can
look at for days instead of building a room where I rarely enter,'' says Hofileña.

The living room is like a gazebo, without any doors and windows. The flooring is made of stone. The eaves of the roof extend far out to shield the area. When the typhoon signal hits 3, that's the only time the furniture are brought indoors.

Visual surprise

Because the living room is on the side of the house, one can enjoy the garden. Since the houses are not close to each other, Hofileña blocks them off with greenery. The pond is not only
soothing to the senses, but is also a visual surprise in the metropolis.

In the second floor, one can still enjoy the greenery, as the azotea cum family room overlooks the pond. To block off the sight of the garage, a mirror was built on a wall of the multipurpose room to reflect the image of the garden.

Hofile?a developed a clever way of using the space in her daughter's room which is a long hall with partitions. The designer built a movable wall which is adjusted when there's a visitor at home. When there are no guests, she pushes the back wall so the daughter can enjoy more space.

The ceiling is decorated with reflectorized stars so it looks like an evening sky. In the dining room, doors can be drawn away and hidden so guests can enjoy more greenery.

Unlike other homes which brandish their artworks and furniture, Hofileña keeps everything simple. Although her items are not expensive, they're stylish. Edwardo Yrezabal designed the rattan furniture which blends with the stone and wood architecture.

She favors personal things to status symbols and collectibles, particularly family photos. Books and handicrafts also decorate her house. ''There's so much beauty in something simple,'' says
June 21, 1999
Philippine Daily Inquirer Internet Edition

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Leyte's 'tuba' painter
By Vicente S. Labro

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Internet Edition, 4 March 199

FROM THE GLASS to a painting brush.

This is what Leo Villaflor did to the Waray's popular native wine, tuba (coconut palm wine).

Leo has been using tuba to paint for about a decade now but his first big break came only in 1994 when a Dutch persuaded him to have his works exhibited in Amsterdam. All 25 paintings on display were bought there.

Four years earlier, in 1990, a theater manager from London who was fascinated by Villaflor's unique medium bought one of his tuba paintings. Villaflor later learned that his painting had been displayed in a London museum.

But to the 55-year-old painter, the best recognition he got so far was being invited to the ''100 Years 100 Artists: An Expression of the Filipino Soul'' in September last year at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The event was one of the highlights of the Centennial celebration.

He was introduced as ''Leyte's tuba painter.'' He presented a painting of a Spanish-era house which has an architectural design that is unique like his medium. The house, which can still be found in Carigara, Leyte, was built with its posts exposed.


''Tuba painting is very challenging because when you paint with tuba you are limited to monochromatic color, and this is where your ability as an artist can be seen,'' says Villaflor. ''If the hues aren't good . . . your work will be dead.''

For a lighter shade of red, Villaflor uses diluted tuba; for crimson, pure tuba; for a dark tone, larog or dregs of tuba. And for the darker red tone, he applies pounded barok (tanned bark
used for tuba coloring) mixed with very little water.

Villaflor stresses that tuba painting is ''light fast,'' meaning it does not easily fade.

Leo says it is his quest for a truly Filipino identity in his work that prompted him to use indigenous materials. He admits, though, that another reason he shifted to tuba was because of
the high cost of painting materials in such medium as oil.

Be creative

''As an artist you must be creative. You have to stretch your imagination on (the) possible medium, style you can use,'' he says.

Aside from tuba, Leo also uses other indigenous materials in his art work. He has used soot and squid ink for black color, dried tobacco leaves mixed with a small amount of water for light brown and other indigenous natural dye for certain colors.

Villaflor's discovery of the use of soot was accidental. It happened during a brownout and after he lighted a kerosene lamp. He saw that the soot coming from the lamp stuck to a plywood board that was painted in white. He started scratching the board and a black-and-white art work came out.

Recently, Villaflor started doing his tuba painting on bamboo sheets. He experimented on the use of bamboo sheets, the thin membrane that comes out of the lower nodes of the tangnan
bamboo variety, which he painted on with watercolor or tuba.

He then dries and flattens the sheet before framing it.

Bamboo sheets, he says, are very receptive to pen and ink, watercolor or tuba.

Currently, Villaflor has another interest--sculpted terra-cotta, the clay material he obtains from nearby Tanauan town. Villaflor mounts his terra-cotta art work in ceramic tiles or glass. He has
so far done terra-cotta of horses and old churches in Eastern Visayas.

Terra-cota art work

All of his terra-cotta art work are orders from his clients, he says.

Villaflor has grown as an artist, a feat for a man who has no formal schooling in art and who is a late bloomer.

Villaflor started painting when he was already in his late 30s. In 1979, he was able to sit in for five Saturdays in a class of Cebu master artist Martino Abellana at the University of the Philippines-Cebu College of Fine Arts. This further developed his skills.

Villaflor is one of the few respected visual artists in Eastern Visayas today and he is the only known tuba painter in the country.

Though he still drinks tuba, Villaflor says more of the native wine now goes to his art work.

Philippine Daily Inquirer Internet Edition
March 4, 1999

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Why painting is simply not enough for Tam Austria
By Alex Y. Vergara


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PAINTER Tam Austria's diverse, at times esoteric, beliefs are reflected in his art, writings, even in his home.

After more than three decades as one of the country's leading exponents of figurative oil paintings, Austria will launch his first book on philosophy this Friday, 6 p.m., at the Shangri-La Hotel Manila.

It will coincide with a family art exhibit featuring the works of Austria and his two adult children Michaelangelo and Sistine Anne.

Titled ''Recreamindoism Rena,'' the book is a product of Austria's fascination with various isms--realism, creationism, naturalism, nationalism, intellectualism, modernism, optimism.

''Philosophy has a strong impact on our lives,'' he explains. ''My main objective is to inspire others through principles and thoughts.''

Aside from dabbling into poetry and fiction, the painter has long immersed himself in the writings of such great thinkers as John Dewey, Santayana, Zola, Flaubert, Berkeley and Kant. He even quotes liberally from the Bible.

Austria, in fact, has coined the word recreamindoism from these beliefs. The result is an amalgam of thoughts best absorbed by like minds.

For sure, it's no how-to art book. But the author does give ideas, however vague and winding, on ways to harness one's inner gifts. He also constantly professes his belief in God's power as
the ultimate source of creativity.

''It's better to have positive influences than negative ones,'' says Austria. ''It's the (positive) spirit that enters our minds and bodies through the infusion of great values.''

If anything, the book allows Austria's admirers to probe into the mind of one of the country's artistic geniuses.

Austria's detailed oil paintings of rural scenes have been hailed for their life-like qualities. His images mother and child have been compared by some critics to Botticelli's soulful images of
naked women.

For someone who came from humble beginnings, Austria's rise both artistically and financially, is, indeed, amazing.

Through sheer talent and hard work, it's probably safe to say that the Tanay, Rizal native has become one of the wealthiest and most successful Filipino painters today.

Imposing fortress

From the outside, Austria's Antipolo home resembles an imposing fortress surrounded by lofty stone walls and intricately designed iron gates. Yes, the house has three main

Upon entering it, one really gets the impression that Austria is also into other businesses for him to acquire and maintain such a huge and well-furnished property.

The Moorish-inspired house designed by Austria himself stands on a 1,500 sq m lot. In front of it is a sprawling garden with lush trees, manicured lawn and Austria's stone sculptures. Several bas-reliefs also by Austria adorn the driveway.

There's also an outdoor checkerboard floor where the Austrias hold evening parties. Guests include fellow artists and their wives who love to go ballroom dancing. Several vehicles are
parked in two separate garages.

On the contrary, says wife Divine, Austria has built his fortune exclusively through painting. Still, the UST Fine Arts graduate has tried to remain humble and unassuming.

''My idea of a good time is reading a good book,'' he says. ''I also love to write my thoughts on the computer.''

The artist's eclectic taste in furniture and accent pieces is also evident. In the receiving area, for instance, a modern sofa, Persian carpet and huge Oriental jars vie for space. Several
accent pieces and souvenirs from various countries are also displayed.

Defining feature

The Austrias travel regularly abroad to stage art exhibits and to propagate their artistic philosophy.

Son Michaelangelo or Mike, 31, who used to star in the defunct TV show ''Kadenang Kristal,'' recently featured his paintings in Michigan.

Sistine Anne, 23, is holding her first show after finishing Fine Arts from UP. Like her father, she also pays close attention to details. But unlike him, her subjects are mostly inspired by
19th-century Europe. They're very soft, feminine and colorful.

''To be honest, I'm still finding my style,'' she admits, while painting at their second-floor living room.

To give this particular area a rural feel, Austria used strips of bamboo for the floor and dried nipa for the ceiling. A stair also made of bamboo lead to the living room.

Furniture pieces, however, are anything but native. Even plaid curtains look contemporary.

The home's only defining feature are Austria's colorful paintings. They're everywhere--in the lanai, sala, kitchen, perhaps even the bedroom.

If recreamindoism could be translated to architecture and interior design, Austria's home must be it.

April 19, 1999
Philippine Inquirer Internet Edition

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Christie's auction a triumph for Philippine art
By Lito B. Zulueta

Fierce bidding for a small Anita Magsaysay-Ho jacked up the price to P15 million, a new record for a Filipino painting. Suddenly, the major auction houses of the West are casting
more than a cursory glance at Philippine art.

THE SPECTACULAR sale of an Anita Magsaysay-Ho oil painting during the recent Christie's auction of Southeast Asian art is sending shock waves across the local and
regional art scenes.

Christie's officials couldn't hide their elation at what they called the "surprise" of the session: the painting, titled "In the Marketplace," initially estimated at 18,000 to 25,000 Singapore dollars (around US$10,000
to $15,000) eventually fetched S$669,250, or about P15 million.

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Christie's called the bidding "fierce" which was eventually won by an "institution."

Some non-Filipino works offered for auction got higher prices (the Dutch painter Walter Spies' haunting Balinese paintings, "Ploughing Farmer" and "Sawahs im Preangergebirge," fetched
S$773,750 and S$828,750, respectively), but the outcome for the Anita Magsaysay-Ho painting was incredible considering its estimated price had been much lower.

Moreover, there was a failure in bidding in certain works that had been expected to attract fierce bidding. "Provenance" by the Indonesian master Raden Sarief Bustaman Saleh, estimated
at S$48,000 to $70,0000, did not get a buyer. Two years ago, a Saleh work fetched S$2 million.

The dramatic achievement of the Filipino work has reinforced international respect for Filipino art, according to Ramon Orlina, president of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP). "I am
quite happy," the glass sculptor says. "It means that Pinoy art--and the artists--will be more and more exposed to the world."

The impact of the stunning achievement still has to wash off, however. Looking back now, many believe that the fantastic sale had been prefigured by the fact that Anita Magsaysay-Ho's
work was chosen by Christie's to be the cover of the catalogue for the auction.

But Orlina says just the same that the feat was still dramatic considering the work was small (28x30 in.) and executed in tempera, which means it's not as lasting as oil.

Very Filipino

Painted in 1955, "In the Marketplace" captures a typical scene in the market where women - both the vendors and the buyers - haggle animatedly. It is a lively canvas: the viewer can almost overhear the intense exchanges.

Perhaps it is this sense of sight and sound that explains collectors' aggressiveness at outbidding one another. That and its obvious intrinsic merits as an art work.

"Maganda if you really look at it," Orlina says. "The theme is very Filipino. The colors are very Filipino-orange and red."

The AAP president says interest in the work was much like the interest generated years ago by Vietnamese art. "The Vietnamese have their own style. Now, with this sale, foreigners now seem to have gotten a hold on the Philippine style."

It also helps that there's good economics as far as Magsaysay-Ho's works are concerned. Since the painting is nearly 50 years old, done at the peak of the painter's creative career, it's considered a rare find for collectors. Moreover, there are not too many works by the painter around. Magsaysay-Ho, unlike certain veterans, has not mass-produced herself. Already
an octogenarian, her production has understandably slowed down so that her works have become rarer and easily, more and more expensive.

"So it's a matter of supply and demand," Orlina says. "Her works are scarce, and the market becomes less and less easy to satisfy. So collectors fight over her."

Taking notice

Although Orlina believes that the sale does not automatically mean that other works by the artist "will go up that way," it means that collectors, particularly foreigners, will take greater
notice of Filipino works.

Judging from the auction, that seems to be the case. Other Filipino works were sold within the estimates set by Christie's.

Amorsolo's 1941 work, "A Lady by the Cooking Fire," estimated at US$30,000-40,000 was sold for
$41,700 or about P1.7 million. An undated oil landscape by Juan Arellano, estimated at US$9,000 to 10,000 was sold for $9,625.

Carlos "Botong" Francisco's watercolor, "Blood Compact," was sold for US$6,500 against the
estimated price of $6,000 to $7,000. A 1966 oil on canvas by Federico Alcuaz sold for US$11,500, well within the estimate of $9,000 to 12,000.

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Orlina, too, is happy that Christie's was impressed by the strong sales of Philippine art so that the venerable auction house might be wooed to hold their auctions right here.

Although Christie's had assisted the AAP in a rare auction last year, the event was really a charity benefit. "Now they can really look at the Philippines as a market," says Orlina, who points out that Christie's had already held a commercial auction in Thailand.

Happy days for forgers

The downside to all these, however, is the probability that the market will suddenly be awash with fake Anita Magsaysay-Ho's.

Orlina says Philippine art should learn from the lesson of the Amorsolo episode. When Christie's first introduced the master in its auctions, an Amorsolo easily fetched P4 million. When Christie's tried to repeat the feat with five Amorsolos in its next auction, Orlina, who was consulted in the authentication process, was shocked to find out that three of the paintings
were fakes.

"From then on, the value of an Amorsolo dipped," Orlina says.

But Magsaysay-Ho may escape Amorsolo's predicament because she's still alive and is still around to authenticate her own works.

Orlina says that rival auction house Glerum asked him two years ago to authenticate an Anita Magsaysay-Ho that did not subscribe to the characteristic style of the artist.

"It was a nude and as far as we know, Anita has not painted nudes," he says. The canvas seemed to have been painted according to the Balinese style in colors that one could hardly
associate with the artist.

But a check with the artist herself showed that the work was authentic. "It turns out it was commissioned by the G.I. boyfriend of the model," Orlina says. "It was circa 1940s, so the
mature Anita Magsaysay-Ho had yet to evolve."

To prevent forgeries from undermining the growing international recognition of Philippine art, Orlina says that the AAP is trying to establish a "collecting society." The device is really to protect commercial exploitation of art works by profiteers and unscrupulous people, such as when an art work is used in a commercial endeavor without authorization from the artist. With the society, artists can press on with their claims for royalties and protect their intellectual property.

The art underworld can be checked by the collecting society since artists will be
compelled to register their works with the AAP and submit representations of the works for easy filing and classification.

Suspected fakes can be checked against the catalogue so that forgeries can be minimized, Orlina explains.

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Moreover, art schools should develop sounder scholarship so that there can emerge experts on the masters. "If we have experts, then any alleged work by a master that departs even for
a little from the style of the master can be easily determined," the AAP president says.

from Philippine Daily Inquirer Internet Edition
11 October 1999

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