Angono: Matters of the Art

I’m supposed to go to a pre-Valentine date, but a last-minute call for a work meeting have her taking a rain check. I refuse to wallow on the situation, though, and instead make the proverbial lemonade out of lemons. Having nothing else to do for the day, I set out to Angono in Rizal province.

The reason I choose this place is twofold. First, I’m currently exploring Rizal (along with Cavite on alternating weeks), having had finished visiting all cities and towns in Bulacan last year. Second, Angono is dubbed the Art Capital of the Philippines, so what better way to observe the National Month of the Arts, right?

The cultural feel is very much evident as soon as you enter the town from Taytay. Whereas Taytay (as well as neighboring Cainta) is much urbanized and pretty much an extension of Metro Manila, Angono has a relatively mellower vibe, especially when leaving the highway and entering the street of Doña Aurora. A labyrinth of streets lined with stores selling artworks and crafts eventually leads to the municipal hall, where a giant text of Angono in rainbow colors greet visitors. A statue of national hero Jose Rizal, after whom the province was named, stands in the middle of the plaza, where a few souls rest under the shade.

A few minutes’ walk west of the municipal hall, I find the Blanco Family Art Museum. The Blancos are hometown celebrities, and their works are displayed inside. Upon entering, I am greeted by a couple of higantes figures. The higantes is a festival held in town every November to commemorate Pope St. Clement I. The event is known for the large papier-mâché figures (hence, higantes, a corrupted Spanish for giantes) paraded around town. Outside the festival, these figures are used as decorations in a few establishments.

I ramble around the museum a bit, appreciating the works, which include paintings of all Blanco children, as well as of guest artists. Some of these works are even for sale, ranging from PHP 2,500 to PHP 5,000.

The museum compound also houses a cozy cafe with a nature theme. I have a glass of strawberry milk while resting a bit in the midst of a tree-lined pathway while looking at a koi-filled pond.

Weary legs rested, I resume my walking tour and head further west to the lakeside park. It’s easy to forget that Angono is a lakeside town, sitting on the edge of Laguna de Bay. The tranquil waters of the lake soothes all heaviness away, especially with the sight of Metro Manila’s skyscrapers in the distance. It seems to remind me that, “Hey, you’re away from the city. Leave all problems at home. Just enjoy the moment.” So I do, along with boys fishing in the lake and a young couple doing a photoshoot nearby.

I do have to peel myself away, though, so I return to the main road. I cross to the other side and have an afternoon snack at the charming Balaw Balaw Restaurant. It’s filled with all colors imaginable, though, as I’m the only customer this afternoon, also feels lonely (a feeling I definitely can use without, hah). The place mainly serves traditional Filipino favorites and doubles as an art gallery. I have an order of maruja (deep-fried battered bananas) and a glass of iced tea.

For those who prefer their art appreciation in the confines of an air-conditioned building, SM Center Angono, a few meters north, also has an exhibition of works by the Blancos. It serves as a nice microcosm of the town, albeit without its quaint charm. I again rest here for a bit before making the long way back to Ortigas and, eventually, home.

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