Pinoys mourn artist Anita Magsaysay-Ho

MANILA, Philippines - She was the only woman in a group of 13 that challenged conservative art after World War II in the Philippines. Modernist Anita Magsaysay-Ho, who died on Saturday, May 5, would later be known as the first Filipina artist to gain recognition internationally.

The legacy of Ho, who would have turned 98 on May 25, immediately inspired tributes from Filipinos.

“If textbook history lists Victorio Edades as the 'Father of Philippine Modern Art,' perhaps Anita Magsaysay-Ho should be considered the 'Mother,'” historian Ambeth Ocampo told Rappler.  

Ocampo, who formerly chaired the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, said Ho should have been declared National Artist like 5 other painters in her group called the 13 Moderns.

The 13 Moderns included National Artists for Visual Arts like Carlos “Botong” Francisco, Victorio Edades, Hernando Ocampo, Cesar Legaspi, and Vicente Manansala.  

“(If) not for a technicality on her citizenship, Magsaysay-Ho truly deserved to be in the pantheon unlike a handful who owe their medals to political patronage rather than talent and recognition from their peers,” Ocampo said.

Artist Rock Drilon shared the same sentiment. On his Facebook page, he wrote, "She's a victim of our laws' continuing discrimination against women. She couldn't be named National Artist because of her citizenship, which in turn was due to her marriage to a Canadian citizen. Why is that? Romulo and Edades also married foreigners." 

'Paramount figure'

The Lopez Museum Manila (@lopez_muse), for its part, hailed her as the doyenne of Philippine modernism. “We celebrate her illustrious life and works,” the museum said.

The Ayala Museum (@ayalamuseum) tweeted, “To a paramount figure in Philippine art, thank you, Anita Magsaysay-Ho. Rest in peace."

Other admirers of her art mourned her passing. (See Storify link below.)

[ View the story "Netizens pay tribute to Anita Magsaysay Ho" on Storify ]

Writing for the NCCA, University of the Philippines art professor Eloisa May Hernandez explained the trademark of Magsaysay-Ho.

“Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s works are characterized by sharply outlined figures of bandanna wearing peasant women going about in their daily chores  running after chicken, planting, harvesting. The women are thin, with long necks, slant eyes, and flat noses,” Hernandez said.

She said, “They are definitely Filipinas.”

The artist's wake is being held at the Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, Makati City. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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