NATIONAL Artist for Sculpture Napoleon Abueva passed away early Friday morning at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) in Quezon City. He was 88.
Known as the “Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture,” Abueva was born on January 26, 1930 and hails from Bohol. To date, he holds the distinction of being the youngest National Artist awardee at the age of 46.
It can be recalled that in early January, news of Abueva’s deteriorating health was made public when his daughter Amihan used his official Facebook page to seek blood donors for his transfusion. She detailed that her father had been in hospital since December 31 where was being treated for pneumonia.
While a January 31 update indicated that Abueva’s breathing had improved, he nonetheless succumbed to the lung infection that is fatal for the elderly leaving behind his wife, Cherry, and three children, Amihan, Mulawin, and Duero.
Shortly after several condolences from both colleagues and admirers were posted online, Amihan confirmed her father’s passing on Facebook where she also wrote, “My family and I are very grateful for the friendship and love you have all extended to us.”
By Friday afternoon, Amihan released details of her father’s wake at the Delaney Hall [adjacent to the UP Chapel Parish of the Holy Sacrifice], with the internment date to be announced.
Among Abueva’s best known works are Kaganapan (1953), Kiss of Judas (1955), Thirty Pieces of Silver, The Transfiguration, Eternal Gardens Memorial Park (1979), UP Gateway (1967), Nine Muses (1994), UP Faculty Center, and Sunburst (1994) at The Peninsula Manila.
His Sandugo or Blood Compact shrine in Bohol, Tagbilaran City is considered a landmark both for his work of art and as the site of the first international treaty of friendship between the Spain and the Philippines Filipinos.
A revered artist, Abueva was honored with numerous arounds in his lifetime, including the Ten Outstanding Young Men in the Philippines, 1959; Cultural Heritage Award, 1966; Gawad CCP para sa Sining, 1976; ASEAN Awards for the Visual Arts in Bangkok, Thailand, 1987; and Fourth Asean Achievement for Visual Arts in Singapore, 1995.
All through Friday, tributes and condolences poured in for the National Artist.
Fellow sculptor Ramon Orlina was among the first to do so via Facebook as he wrote, “Please pray for the eternal repose of the soul of our beloved N.A. Napoleon ‘Billy’ Abueva who has joined his Creator. Our deepest condolences to the family.”
The Metropolitan Museum of Manila tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of National Artist Napoleon Abueva. Rest in Peace, Mang Billy. Salamat.”
National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) posted on its website, “Abueva has helped shape the local sculpture scene to what it is now. Being adept in either academic representational style or modern abstract, he has utilized almost all kinds of materials from hard wood (molave, acacia, langka wood, ipil, kamagong, palm wood and bamboo) to adobe, metal, stainless steel, cement, marble, bronze, iron, alabaster, coral and brass.”
Rock Ed Philippines founder Gang Badoy Capati, meanwhile, recalled how the late Abueva designed the death mask of the late National Scientist Professor Alfredo Lagmay, when the latter died in 2005.
“He arrived madaling araw with his toolbox and a pail of plaster. He asked permission from the family (of course) and went about it quietly,” she shared with The Manila Times via Facebook Messenger.
“He quietly poured plaster on Lagmay’s face (in repose) & peeled it off. He left as silently as he arrived. He made a death mask for his friend,” she further tweeted.
Malacañang also paid tribute to Abueva, leading the nation in mourning the passing of an “exemplary artist.”
“Mr. Abueva’s unparalleled contributions in the realm of arts will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of every Filipino,” the Palace statement said. “He is remembered as the youngest Filipino to become a National Artist, who shaped the local sculpture scene to what it is now, utilizing almost all kinds of materials indigenous or native to the Philippines.”