(My friend ,Ton wrote a moving piece, paying tribute to her dad, the sculptor, Ros Arcilla, Jr. right after he passed away last two years ago…I was moved by what she wrote and wished it could have been published in a major daily.  This may not be what I had in mind but at least somebody [probably an art major] who may want to research on current Filipino sculptors may hopefully find this information useful…With her permission, I am posting a copy of her In Memoriam for her dad. -SL)

In Memoriam:

Rosalio B. Arcilla, Jr.

May 1, 1939-July 24, 2006

By Fortune Arcilla-Concepcion

Rosalio Beltran Arcilla, Jr. was born on May 1, 1939 in Caramoan, Camarines Sur.  He was the fourth of nine children sired by Rosario Arcilla, Sr. and Trinidad Beltran.

At an early age, he was showing signs of artistic promise by moulding figures out of clay.  His grade school notebooks were filled drawings and sketches while his high school years provided him with the opportunity to showcase his talent through his school paper and by undertaking art projects for school plays as well as in town fiestas and special events.

Arcilla and Ninoy’s bust which now stands at the NAIA (photo via CRANE)

In 1960, he graduated at the University of the Philippines with a BFA, Major in Sculpture.  I remember him reminisce how he had been tempted to take up Fashion Design but was afraid, to my amusement, that he would turn into a bakla.  He knew a lot of designers then who were of the third sex.  And he was serious about it!  I still wonder, sometimes, how our life would have turned out had he pursued it.

Every time I dwell on my father’s youthful days, I cannot help but be proud of how a probinsyano like him had the guts to brave the jungles of Manila.  He used to regale me with details of how, to earn extra money and keep up with his rich friends, he would write stories and illustrate for Extra, Sampaguita, and Family Komiks.  It gave him unending pleasure writing and drawing for these publications and getting paid for it at the same time.

When I look back on his accomplishments, I know these pages are not enough to cover the breadth and depth of them, nor can I capture my father’s spirit or his inspirations for those wonderful pieces of art he created.  My recollections are only glimpses of his genius, although I can say authoritatively that his foremost inspirations centered on love, family and parenthood.  I guess it was his way of paying homage to his parents and expressing his love for us, his family, that he rendered these themes over and over again in countless sculptures.

I remember all of the projects he had undertaken while I was growing up.  The bronze sculpture of a lady with a jar in her arms that was privately commissioned by Skyland Plaza in Makati; the 8-foot tall figures of Handiong and Daragang Magayon from Bicol’s myths and legends and now standing in the provincial capitol of Camarines Sur; the Bonifacio Monument in the old PNR site that took years to build and many more years to be fully paid by the government.  I also recall with much clarity how I envied him for having gone to Paris to study at the Ecole de Beaux Arts and to travel to nearby European cities to visit museums and artists’ studios.  I used to pore over the pictures of his stay in the City of Lights.  I can still see in my mind that picture of him at the airport looking so groomed and cosmopolitan, every inch the artist.  We were witnesses to these moments of triumph and success but were never privy to plans that fell through or projects that never materialized. He felt that he did not have to share those with us.

Arcilla’s 18 foot high bronze sculptural relief, Bonifacio and the Katipunan’s Initiation Rites in Tondo (picture via Traveler On Foot)

There are certain memories that stand out vividly in my mind when I think of my dad.  My earliest, fondest memory was of riding in circles in a slightly rusty tricycle in our garage when I was five.  My dad was working with clay, surrounded by his various tools and humming smartly while he molded and shaped his medium.  He had a look of deep concentration and satisfaction on his face that only kids who are hard at work playing can understand.  Now that I dwell on it, I am thankful to have this wonderful image of my father, the artist, at work.

I recall his endless sermons that I had to “endure” while growing up.  There was one time when he was mad at something my brothers, sisters and I did.  I do not recall exactly what but I distinctly remember sitting in a circle with them while my dad launched into his hour-long lecture on proper behavior.  I also remember thinking that, to make up for my part in the misdeed, I would sit there and listen no matter how long his sermon took.  The others, sly foxes that they are, had quietly slipped out one by one, unnoticed by either of us.  Yes, I did miss an hour-long, lecture-free play time they so thoroughly enjoyed but I am glad I stayed.  I learned a lot from him.  About how we must always be respectful of others, especially our elders; how our deportment must always be above reproach as all of our actions are a reflection of our parents; how I must strive to be independent so that in the event that I get married to the wrong man, he will never be able to drive me out of the house (he suggested I should be the one to do it); and how I must never allow anyone to take away my kumpyansa.

Arcilla’s sculpture, “Family” in Changchun City in China (photo via CCFAO)

I remember so well how he loved telling ghost stories on stormy nights when electricity was out.  How he always insisted that the entire household pray the Rosary together every Friday evening.  He loved to hear us recite the prayers and have a special after-Rosary “snack.”  It did not matter that it was bicho-bicho, pulvorones or ice cream so long as we kids had something to look forward to.  I also recall feeling special to be assigned to memorize and recite the prayer of St. Francis at the end of the recitation of the Rosary.  Dad, do you remember?

Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we born to eternal life.

Dad, this prayer has not been something to recite so much as a guide to life that I know you tried to lead, the life that I also follow and the things I seek to teach my children.  They may not have met you but I will make sure they never forget their grandfather’s gentleness, generosity of spirit and love that continue to touch and sustain us.  We will miss you so much but are comforted in the knowledge that you are now resting in God’s arms.

You have always been our source of strength and inspiration.  I will be miss seeing you draw, of our reading newspapers together very morning, of listening to oldies music each and every Sunday, watching you dote on and enjoy your grandchildren.  I will hold these memories forever in my heart.  You may rest in peace knowing you did your best, both in your personal and professional life.  I love you, Daddy.

Thank you to all of you who paid respect and remembered my father.  To you whose life he touched with his art, his boundless generosity and his unquestioning loyalty, may you be inspired to live your life fully as he did and may you find full expression of spirit as he was able to do with his art. –Ton Arcilla-Concepcion (August, 2006)

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