A generation ago, say Antipolo and the Hinulugang Taktak Falls comes to mind. Not anymore. Pinto Art Museum on Sierra Madre Street in Grand Heights Subdivision is now Antipolo’s biggest crowd drawer. I should qualify that—Pinto Art Museum is now Antipolo’s biggest singular crowd drawer. Collectively, the drinking establishments that line Sumulong Highway are still the biggest crowd drawers.
Trust me, I’ve been an Antipolo resident for almost 19 years now and the Sumulong drinking crowd, mostly city folk who drive up the hills at night and especially on weekends, has not thinned over the years. But, in that time, Pinto Art Museum has gone from non-existent to a curiosity to a point of reference and tourist attraction.
Our house is five minutes away from Pinto Art Museum. Three minutes and a few seconds actually if there are no tricycles whose drivers act like the own the roads. That’s three minutes something by car. Within walking distance, yes, but there is a steep incline which makes traversing the distance by car a better idea. I’m a writer, not an athlete, after all. On occasions when I have to give directions to our house, I just say it’s near Pinto and people don’t ask too many questions anymore. Pinto is that popular.
What many people do not know is that before Pinto was an art museum, it was an art gallery. The difference? Nothing is for sale in a museum; most everything is for sale in an art gallery.
We tried to go there once but it was closed. I had to content myself with taking photos of the facade.
The three photos above were taken in September 2, 2007. I never thought I’d ever publish them but, for context, that was Pinto circa 2007. We were so frustrated at not being able to get in that day that it would take 10 and a half years before we would try again.
A few days ago, we went back to Pinto. Four exhibits just opened and I wanted to see them all. And, my, how Pinto has changed! Evolved would be the more appropriate term. Evolved physically and substantially.
Today, Pinto Art Museum is a series of buildings amid lush gardens. The mission-style architecture is evocative of the time of Zorro.
I stared at the bell tower for a long time and thought about John “Scottie” Ferguson thinking he saw Madeleine fall down to her death. In case you’re wondering, no, visitors can’t fall off the bell tower. It’s off limits to the public. Alex tried to go up, and…
That was as high as she could go.
Pinto has six galleries, a Museum of Indigenous Art and another for the Mindanao Collection. But the art isn’t just on the walls and floors and shelves inside those galleries. The whole place is a massive work of art. And you can take that humongous artwork, tear it piece by piece and find art within art.
The architecture itself is something to inspire awe. And then, there are the details… The fountains scattered around…
The sculptures that adorn the buildings… The roof of this building is the stage of the amphitheater above it.
The well that, by itself, is a piece of art. I wonder how many visitors who passed that well noticed the figures around it before they decided to toss some coins and, presumably, mumble a wish.
Even deep in the foliage, there is art.
I first saw this image from the angle in the photo above. With the house yonder on higher ground, it looked to me like the sculpture was placed there to so that it would look like the man was trying to climb up to get into the house.
I took photos from different angles and noticed the chain on his foot.
Perplexed, I took a photo from third angle. And that was when I discovered the plaque that explains what the sculpture is.
The sculpture is an image of the cruel King Sisyphus of Corinth. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned by Zeus to repeatedly push an enchanted boulder up a hill as the boulder repeatedly rolled back down. It is from Sisyphus that the term “Sisyphean task”—an impossible task—was coined.
The amphitheater is small but there is a marvel of engineering—quite magical, really—on that stage.
Art, architecture, engineering, mythology… what else does Pinto Art Museum offer?
History. But only if you look closely and pay attention.
At the entrance of the building that houses the Mindanao Collection, the tiles look very similar to tiles in old Spanish buildings. In truth, the similarity is more than visual. Historically, the tiles share a common ancestry.
Not that that kind of tiles reached Mindanao via Spain. No, Spain never really conquered Mindanao they way it did Luzon and the Visayas. I’m talking about the shared Islamic history of Mindanao and Spain. Spain was ruled by Islamic Arabs (sometimes referred to as “Moors”) until the fall of Granada in 1492 after which Spain became a unified nation.
So, the tiles… While their appearance may be popularly referred to today as “Spanish”, they are actually more Middle Eastern / African in design. It was brought to Mindanao with the spread of Islam; it was brought to Spain by the conquering Islamic Arabs.