The oldest artwork in the Philippines can be found in this little town 35 kilometers east of Manila.
This is the town of Angono in Rizal where the 127 stylized carvings of animals and stick figures, collectively known as the Angono Petroglyphs, can be found. The Angono Petroglyphs, said to be dating back to 3000 BC, is now included in UNESCO’s World Inventory of Rock Art and on the List of 100 Most Endangered Sites of the World in 1996.
It is just apt that the oldest artwork is located in this town that has produced two National Artists and many other painters, visual artists, muralists, sculptors, musicians and composers and folk artists.
Even the way its name was created has some artistic thought into it: it is said that it was named after “Ang Nuno” or those mythical creature of the past that dwell in a punso or a mound of earth. It is usually an old man with long gray hair that can cast a spell on those who desecrate his dwelling.
Angono started as a pueblo of the town of Taytay and Binangonan in 1766 before it officially became a town in 1938 during the term of President Manuel Luis Quezon.
Today, Angono is home to 135,000 people. It has become suburban somehow, but has maintained its small town vibe. It is an ideal place to visit for a day where every street corner practically breathes with creativity.
How to get there
There are several ways to get to Angono. Whichever way is selected, it is best to leave Manila early to avoid the traffic going there.
From Manila, find the way to Ortigas Avenue then continue driving to Cainta, and at the end of Ortigas Extension, turn right to Taytay. Angono is the next town after Taytay.
An alternative way is to use the new C6 road. Enter C6 via either Bicutan Exit at SLEX or via the narrow access road from Taguig City proper to C6. This circumferential road is work-in-progress but lets motorists avoid the heavy traffic of Ortigas. From Taguig, continue the lakeside drive to portions of Pateros, Pasig and Taytay before finally exiting at the boundary of Angono.
To reach the Angono Petroglyphs, turn left on the second road after Balaw Balaw. It is actually the road that climbs up to East Ridge Golf Course. The petroglyphs are located on the left of the road before the Antipolo exit of East Ridge.
What to see, what to do
Start the tour of Angono at the oldest artwork in the Philippines. There is a tunnel about 100 meters from the entrance to the pathway going to the small museum that oversees the petroglyphs. A museum guide is usually present to make a short briefing on the cultural significance and history of the petroglyphs. After that, visitors are free to roam the area to inspect the 127 figures of the petroglyphs.
On the way down, make a stopover to visit the Blanco Tree and Resto at the gate of East Ridge. It is also a good place to get a good view of the whole town of Angono and Metro Manila.
Once inside Angono town proper, visit the house of Carlos “Botong” Francisco, a National Artist for Visual Arts. He is the Philippines’ most distinguished practitioner of mural painting. He is known for his paintings of historic events in Philippine history like the blood compact in Limasawa and the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal. Unfortunately, none of his paintings can be found inside his house. The small gallery contains his old paint brushes and palettes, some souvenirs when he worked as production designer in Sampaguita and LVN studios, and some of the books about him.
The street (Dona Aurora) where Botong’s house is located has been converted into a gallery where works of Botong are depicted in sculptures. This is Angono’s way of paying tribute to one of its important sons. At the end of the street is another tribute to another one of its important residents: Lucio San Pedro, National Artist for Music. San Pedro’s “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan” is immortalized in a concrete mural at the corner.
Also worth visiting is the Blanco Museum. The Blancos are a family of artists. The father, Pitok, is known for his mural-size paintings depicting the daily lives and joyous occasions of the people of Angono. His seven children and also his wife are all painters, and their works are exhibited in their house that doubles as family gallery.
Other artists in Angono worth visiting in their own galleries are Nemesio Miranda Jr., Perdigon Vocalan and Orville Tiamson.
But there is one Angono original art that has now dominated most of the fiestas of the Philippines: the giants or “Higantes.” It started in Angono during Spanish time to mock the oppressive hacienderos. Now every November, the Higantes Festival is held in Angono where these towering figures go around town sashaying to the beat of the music.
Where to stay, what to eat
Most of the towns attractions can be visited in a day so there is no reason for staying overnight in Angono.
For the adventurous foodie though, the towns offerings are nothing short of creative. At the public market, there are several types of kakanin and suman in fiesta colors to try in-between museum tours. Almost every local carinderia has its own version of the fried itik (native duck).
But the restaurant that challenges one’s tolerance for exotic food is Balaw Balaw. The restaurant serves uok or beetle larva, the infamous bats and balls soup made from cow genitals, bayawak or monitor lizard, sizzling balut and deep-fried frogs.
Balaw Balaw is inside the museum of Perdigon Vocalan. In case the exotic cuisine offered at this restaurant is too much to fill the stomach, his artworks are more than enough to feed the soul, like the all the other works of the artists in Angono. Truly, the art capital of the Philippines.