While it can be said that Armida Siguion-Reyna lived more in the cinema and musical arts, leaving her indelible mark in those two worlds as actress, singer and producer, the much-missed film and TV personality also lived among great paintings and sculptures, albeit during her private time and in spaces away from the spotlight.
The pieces from her personal collection up for bids at Leon Gallery’s upcoming Magnificent September Auction form part of her delights in that private universe, as asserted by her son Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, director of several memorable films she produced (“Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit,” “Saan Ka Man Naroroon,” “Ikaw “Pa Lang Ang Minahal” among them) as well as of a number of episodes of her landmark TV program, the musical "Aawitan Kita."
“My mother was fond of the pieces included in the auction,” Carlitos tells ANCX, Leon Gallery’s partner for the auction happening September 11. Among these are National Artist Fernando Amorsolo’s stunning “Lavanderas” which hung in her home’s master’s bedroom, and a joyful and sensual piece by Antonio Garcia Llamas which used to catch the eye of everyone who passed thru the entrance foyer of the Siguion-Reyna residence in Forbes Park.
Meanwhile, her beloved works by the Spanish-born Juvenal Sanso made for soulful backdrops to the house’s dramatic staircase. And there’s also the white marble Code of Kalantiaw sculpture by Napoleon Abueva, a gift from the artist to Sig, or Atty. Leonardo Siguion-Reyna, Armida’s better half.
Carlitos gamely shared more about his mother’s connection to the art world in the following exchange, in the process giving us a glimpse of the private, contemplative, Armida Siguion-Reyna who, in her own quiet way, championed the Filipino visual artist.
1. Having grown up around your mother’s (and father’s) art collection, how would you describe her taste when it comes to art? What do you think draws her to an artwork?
My mother’s taste was personal, rather than based on academic or orthodox foundations in art. It was eclectic, comprising traditional, classic, or modern figurative works, to more abstract pieces. She liked art that made her feel good, although this didn't mean pretty, Hallmark-card images of landscapes or flowers. Rather, I think what drew her to certain works was a recognition of a distinctive personality popping out of the canvas. Some would call this a “voice” or personal stamp, a quality which she herself had in abundance.
2. Do you know of an artwork that’s particularly special to her?
I remember a visit to the Rijksmuseum where she was much taken by Rembrandt’s “Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild” and “The Night Watch.” These are group portraits: the first portrays six inspectors of woven cloth products seemingly in the middle of a meeting, as they momentarily take notice of the artist; the second presents about 20 members of a military company preparing to move out on a mission, with the major focus on the two central figures, a captain issuing orders to his lieutenant.
I recall my mother relating to the subjects and contemplating what they were thinking, who the mystery figures with secrets were, who was up to something good or mean. She felt the subjects were real and in the room, here and then.
When the museum guide spoke about how the military company who had commissioned “The Night Watch” resented the artist for highlighting the two central figures in sharp focus, while relegating the remaining 18 or so of them muddied in the peripheral shadows, my mother giggled and spoke some words about celebrating stars even back then.
3. Do you have particular memories about the pieces from her collection included in the auction?
My mother was fond of the pieces included in the auction. I recall she was very much drawn to the untitled work depicting three women against a background of foliage, painted by Antonio Garcia Llamas (who also did an oil portrait of her in the 1960s). That piece always occupied a major display space in all three versions of my parents’ home interiors through 55 years. When I was about ten years old, my mother laughed when she caught me practically hypnotized and staring at it for too long.
Juvenal Sanso’s “Midnight Hues” was also special to her. I think the mysterious feel of it attracted her into a dreamlike world.
Finally, I feel the nostalgic tone of works such as Fernando Amorsolo’s “Lavanderas” connected her with memories of youth in Malabon and—along with other local pastoral moments in Philippine paintings, dance, and music—constantly inspired her through 35 years of her musical-cultural contribution, the television show “Aawitan Kita.”
4. Who are her favorite artists and were there Filipino artists she was friends with?
Most of my mother’s favorite artists and friends in the arts came from music and film.
There was mutual respect and warmth between her and her favored composers Constancio de Guzman (who wrote a song, “Armida,” as homage to her), Restie Umali, Leopoldo Silos, Mike Velarde, and lyricist Levi Celerio, which sustained long-standing collaborations through many years of “Aawitan Kita.” The same could be said of her relationship with another favorite composer, Ryan Cayabyab, who wrote the music scores of many of the films she produced for Reynafilms, Inc.
She had a fighting cat-and-dog relationship with filmmaker Lino Brocka that was always based on mutual respect, and the common ideals of high-level filmmaking and freedom of expression in the arts. (Read about Armida and Lino here.)
In the visual arts, my mother counted the works of Anita Magsaysay-Ho as among her favorites, featured them, and paid homage to the artist in her show, “Aawitan Kita.” Aside from those featured in the auction, my parents’ collection also included works by BenCab, Cesar Legaspi, Romulo Olazo, Malang Santos, Edgar Doctor, among others. They enjoyed hosting creative get-togethers and hosted a few Saturday Group and other artist sessions from the 1970s to the 1990s.
The Magnificent September Auction is happening on September 11 beginning at 2PM. Check out the offerings by going to leon-gallery.com or click on this link. The event is presented by the country’s premiere auction house Leon Gallery together with ANCX.ph, the urban man's guide to culture and style, the lifestyle website of ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel.