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Martino Abellana

The Dean of Cebuano Painters

Martino Abellana (1914-1986) is a central figure in the development of most Cebuano artists. Born to an artistic family, he was exposed to art early. His father, Teofilo, a school principal and assiduous reader, was the sculptor of Carcar, and his elder brother, Ramon a dentist by profession, is also a sculptor as well as a musician and composer of original pieces. Even his grandfather, Saloy Abellana, was an apprentice to Isabelo Tampingco in Manila. An all-around artist, he was a composer, painter, sculptor, embroiderer of liturgical vestments and an expert in arnis de mano. A painting of his was brought to the Manila Carnival to represent Cebu. Another artist of the Abellana family was Sindulfo Abellana to whom Romulo Galicano, another well-known Cebuano artist, was an apprentice.

The recognized "dean of Cebuano painters", Martino Abellana was a mentor to an entire generation of painters. He finished his formal art education at the School of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines where he was under the tutelage of those artist-gentlemen of the Old School: Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino, as well as Vicente Rivera y Mir, Ramon Peralta, Irineo Miranda, and Pablo Amorsolo, brother of Fernando. Among his classmates were Cesar Legaspi, Carlos Francisco, Ricarte Puruganan, Simon Saulog and others.

After his graduation in 1938, he taught freehand drawing and rendering to architectural students at the Cebu Institute of Technology when it was still a humble cluster of quonset huts on Ramos Street. Sometime later, he joined a group of artists doing mural paintings with muralist Architect Enrique Ruiz as contractor and designer. This group included Vicente Manansala, Victor Loyola, Marcelino Sanchez, Arsenio Capili, Lu Ocampo and Recarte Puruganan. Two big murals were finished when war abruptly ended the group's activities. One was a religious mural for the San Marcelino Church and the other was for the Time Theatre owned by the Aranetas, both in Manila. During the war Abellana's artistic activities were limited to sketches and studies and a few portraits. With the coming of Americans after the liberation, Abellana was always in demand to do portraits specially with the American Officers. The Fifties saw Abellana garnering a number of awards. Among them was successive first prizes awards in the Art Association of the Philippines annual art contests in 1952 and 1953.

Later, he became the head of the fine arts program of the University of the Philippines in Cebu where he left his greatest legacy by influencing an entire generation of Cebuano painters. When Martino Abellana died in 1986, an uneding line of artists, old and young, paid their last respects to the maestro of Cebuano art. Today he is honored by having an annual art competition made under his name.


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