Monique Siguion-Reyna Villonco doesn’t exactly keep a list of favorite artists. What she has are artworks that are, in her words, “nice to have around.” Meaning, those that add to her life, those with a sense of humor or tell a story, or lead her to think of seizing the moment and not take things for granted.
Like the Clairelynn Uy painting she has at home, a merging of cartoon and pop art. “It’s a reminder that we live in a chaotic world,” she says, “people disappoint, plans don’t work out, hearts get broken, friends leave. But once in a while, something really amazing happens and if you don’t hold yourself together, and you don’t keep going, you’re gonna miss those moments.”
The photographer—the daughter of lawyer Sig and the actress-singer-producer Armida Siguion-Reyna—also has a couple of Lao Lianbens that’s been with her since the 80s. Those give her a sense of calm.
And then there’s her portrait by Ang Kiukok, which she started out hating but now hangs proudly at home. It shows Monique at 18. “The business colleague of my dad told him, ‘Sig, you know, I’m helping out this artist. He’s painting my daughters so have your daughter painted also.’” But the young lady wasn’t very pleased with the idea. “I was quite unhappy doing that because at 18 you want a nice birthday gift, right? You don’t want a portrait.”
She still remembers how it all happened. “Ang Kiukok came to our house. He was there for exactly five minutes. He made me sit in the garden because I guess he wanted the natural light.” The artist took a photo of his subject using black and white film. “Two months later, that very colorful portrait arrived,” Monique tells ANCX, pointing at the artwork behind her. “I never really got to know him. I never got to ‘sit.’”
The girl’s displeasure came out in the work. “I was so serious,” Monique recalls. She hated the portrait so much. She looked so “masungit” in it. When she got married, her dad told her to bring the portrait with her anyway, so she rolled it up and stored it some place. She almost lost it. When she finally came to her senses, or “when I finally grew up,” she says, Monique looked for the artwork, found it, and had it framed. “A few years later, wow, (Kiukok became) National Artist.”
We asked Monique to be one of our tastemakers for the upcoming Leon Gallery Magnificent September Auction happening this September 11, and she named for us her favorites from the offerings. Like her favorite paintings, they make her laugh, or tell a story, or make her think of taking hold of a moment.
42 | Code of Kalantiaw by Napoleon Abueva
The marble sculpture is a gift from the artist to Monique’s father. Although she’s aware of the story of the Code of Kalantiaw, and how it’s authenticity was later debunked, the artwork reminds Monique of Abueva himself.
“Mr. Abueva was actually a good friend of mine because I used to paint with the Saturday group in the house of Cesar Legaspi,” says the photographer. “I was very young. I must have been in my 20s. I don’t know how I got included there. Sometimes when the model wouldn’t show up, they would just say, ‘O Monique, you na lang.’ I guess I was a better model than a painter. That’s why I have a lot of portraits by the Saturday group, and Abueva was one of them. At that time, he wanted to do bronze heads and he asked me, ‘Would you mind if you come to my house?’ Which I did for eight Sundays. I would go to his house in Tandang Sora. I thought it was just going to be one or two hours, three hours max. No, I was there every Sunday afternoon for 5 hours. The bronze head sits in my living room today.”
41 | Untitled (Nude) by Antonio Garcia Llamas
“Only because I remember how much my mom liked that painting so much,” says Monique of this oil on canvas work by the European-schooled painter known as “the Filipino Gauguin.”
23 | Egg Vendors by Anita Magsaysay-Ho
“I like anything she does. I like the humor in her art,” says Monique of Anita. In this 1955 egg tempera work, she is taken by the expression of the woman holding the egg. “It seems like the most important thing to her,” says Monique. “But I also see the sense of humor of Anita.”
Monique knew the artist well. “Her daughter is a good friend of mine,” she says, referring to Doris Magsaysay Ho. “Many years ago we were in Hong Kong and we were invited by the family to dinner. It was quite a formal dinner, and I ended up sitting beside Anita. And we survived that dinner because the whole time we just talked about ‘The Bold and The Beautiful’ because she was such a fan of that drama.”
74 | Composition 25P by Le Pho
“I like the nostalgic feeling that it evokes. I’m not familiar with the artist but it’s nice, it gives a nice feeling. Nice to have around.”
80 | À Paris Avec Une Amie Polonaise Et Un Italien by Annie Cabigting
“I don’t really know why I was attracted to that but I love it because I’ve seen those types of paintings, of a person in a museum looking at a famous painting,” says Monique of this oil on canvas Annie Cabigting dated 2011. “But I enjoy it because there is humor in it.” The piece also reminds Monique, herself an artist who likes to draw, of the familiar terror of facing a blank canvas and one’s search for inspiration. “Oh my god, I know what that’s like!” she says. “It’s the same process that you go through. It invites those thoughts in my head.”
The Magnificent September Auction is happening on September 11 beginning at 2PM. Check out the e-catalogue and auction 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.
[Artwork images from the auction courtesy of Leon Gallery. The rest of the images courtesy of Monique Villonco]