National artists pay tribute to ‘funny, kind’ Abueva

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2018 02:24 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2018 11:06 PM

A state necrological ceremony was held for late National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon Abueva at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News


MANILA - Tears of mourning and joyful recollection were shed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ main theater Saturday as artists, family and friends of National Artist for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva attended a state necrological service in his honor.

The late sculptor’s casket took center stage and was showered with white and red rose petals minutes after his colleagues recalled how “funny,” “child-like,” “passionate,” and “hardworking” he was during his days.

Among national artists who attended the ceremony and laid roses before Abueva’s casket were Virgilio Almario (Literature), Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera (Visual Arts), F. Sionil Jose (Literature), Bienvenido Lumbera (Literature), Alice Reyes (Dance), and Ramon Santos (Music).

President Rodrigo Duterte was represented by his spokesperson Harry Roque at the service.

Almario, in his eulogy, recalled how Abueva once asked for his help in naming a sculpture of a woman that was to be placed inside the University of the Philippines.

“Sabi ko ‘Magdangal’ ang ipangalan dahil 'yun ang katangian na dapat magkaroon ang mga Pilipina, ang pagiging marangal,” Almario said.

“Ang sagot niya sakin, ‘Magdangal? Eh si Jolina ‘yun e,’” he added, chuckling at the memory.

Abueva’s apprentice, Luis Yee Jr., described the Boholano artist as kind and very considerate.

“‘Ni minsan, for 3 years na tumira ako sa kanila, hindi nagalit. Never siya nagalit,” Yee said.

“He wanted to pay his workers on time even if he had to sell his works at a very low price," he added. 

"He always gave food to his workers and ate with them,” Abueva’s brother Jose said in his eulogy.

“He wanted to share the credit with his fellow artists. He would even include their names in the sculpture. If he could afford it, he would buy a piece of an artist’s work even if he (artist) was new and unknown to support them,” he added.

Abueva, the Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture, also dedicated his craft to beautifying and enriching the country, his colleagues said.

Among his notable works are the Sunburst sculpture installed up the ceiling of the Manila Peninsula hotel in Makati City, Teodora M. Kalaw’s bronze statue in front of the National Library in Manila, the crucifix and altar in the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Quezon City, the 9 Muses sculpture in front of the UP Faculty Center, the metal installation in front of the Commission on Audit's office in Quezon City, and sculptures on the facade of the Insular Life Building along Ayala Avenue in Makati City.

“Lahat ng kaniyang likha ay inuugnay niya sa mga Pilipino,” Lumbera told ABS-CBN News.

“Walang humpay na pagtatrabaho at laging inaalala niya ang pagmamahal sa bayan,” said Lumbera, who described the sculptor as his “idol”.

Reyes called Abueva a “renaissance man” who was admired for his works and his character.

”I loved that he was so child-like. He sang, made poetry and he was kind. I always loved his spirit,” Reyes said.

The tribute for Abueva culminated at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, where his casket was welcomed with a 21-gun salute. He was laid to rest at high noon.

Abueva, 88, died on February 16 due to a lingering illness. He was survived by his wife Cherry and children Amihan, Mulawin and Duero.

The hearst carrying National Artist for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva arrives at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City before his burial on Saturday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

The hearst carrying National Artist for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva arrives at the Cultural Center of the Philippines for necrological rites on Saturday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

The body of National Artist for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva arrives at the lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Saturday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

National Artist for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva lays in rest at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City before his burial on Saturday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

National Artist for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva lays in rest at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City before his burial on Saturday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

The casket of National Artist for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva is carried out of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City to be transported for burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Saturday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Guests view the body of National Artist for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva before he is laid to rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City on Saturday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

National Artist for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva is accorded honors befitting a hero before he is laid to rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City on Saturday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Guests pay tribute to National Artist for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva as his casket is lowered at the Libingan ng mga Bayani at Taguig City on Saturday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News