Negros Occidental

Maestro Nunelucio: Negros Island’s social-realist art icon 

Ambo Delilan

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Maestro Nunelucio: Negros Island’s social-realist art icon 

HAPPY AND HONORED. Sagay's visual art icon Lucio 'Maestro Nunelucio' Alvarado in high spirits after he was honored by the Sagay city government on Negros Island.

Sagay City Information Office

Meet 74-year-old Lucio Alvarado from Sagay, Negros Occidental. Despite battling dementia, he supports himself through his art and earns widespread respect for portraying social realities in his works.

BACOLOD, Philippines – Negros Island has an artist who, for over five decades, has quietly waged a societal revolution through his mesmerizing paintings.

Meet Lucio Alvarado, known in Negros as “Maestro Nunelucio.” Hailing from Sagay, 77.31 kilometers from Bacolod, the 74-year-old maestro, despite battling dementia, has not only sustained himself financially through his art but has also won the respect of people in Negros for his unique crusade to illuminate social realities that touch lives, directly and indirectly.

“He is our pillar of arts in Sagay,” said Helen Arguelles, Sagay’s information and tourism officer, who has been following Maestro Nunelucio’s works.

Negros Island artwork Maestro Nunelucio
SOCIAL COMMENTARY. One of Maesteo Nunelucio’s colored artworks which serves as a social commentary. Sagay City Information Office

Described as a social realist-turned-art maven, Maestro Nunelucio stands out among Negros’ visual artists. 

“I can’t think of another visual artist of Maestro Nunelucio’s caliber,” said Sagay Vice Mayor Leo Rafael Cueva.

Hill Benitez, a visual artist now based in the United States, said the septuagenarian is like wine whose artworks sharpen as he ages.

Benitez, inspired by Maestro Nunelucio since the 1980s, now heads the Hill Benitez Art Foundation International.

Edbon Sevilleno, a Negrense artist based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said the maestro’s works depict social realities that resonate with Filipinos from all walks of life. 

“They are timeless and distinctly Filipino,” he said.

Despite accolades and recognition, Maestro Nunelucio’s continuing journey has not been paved with academic degrees. 

In the 1960s, he took up a course in fine arts in painting at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, and, on another occasion, advertising at La Consolacion College-Bacolod (LCC-B) on a Kabayao-Ledesma Scholarship Grant. He did not graduate from either institution, but it did not become a stumbling block to his artistic journey.

“His life is a canvas of greatness,” said Arguelles, reflecting on his influence not only as a prized artist on Negros Island but also as a respected figure among global art enthusiasts.

Maestro Nunelucio’s socially-conscious artworks have awakened masses to societal issues, earning him exhibitions in prestigious venues like the National Museum of the Philippines, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Singapore Art Museum, and Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan.

Syano Artlink, in documenting his biography, recognized him as an important figure in contemporary Philippine art.

Syano Artlink said he is internationally known for his progressive artworks depicting the labor and struggles of sugarcane workers and marginalized sectors in Negros.

Maestro Nunelucio Negros
REALITIES. Lucio Maestro ‘Nunelucio Negros’ Alvarado’s black and white painting about social realities on Negros Island. Sagay City Information Office

His commitment to social consciousness has earned him three national art awards, including the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) 13 Artist Art Award and the Philip Norris ASEAN Arts Award.

From humble beginnings, Maestro Nunelucio’s art journey began with a solo exhibition in Quezon City in 1979, captivating audiences and sparking interest beyond Manila. His works have since graced exhibitions worldwide, from Australia to San Francisco.

As he battles health challenges, Maestro Nunelucio continues to impart art to children in his hometown, ensuring contemporary arts remain vibrant in Sagay City.

In a fitting tribute on June 11, Sagay City honored Maestro Nunelucio during its 28th charter anniversary with an art installation titled “Haligi” (Pillar). Erected near his home in Purok Bougainvillea, “Haligi” stands as a reminder about his contributions to the local art scene and community.

“Haligi is a tribute to Maestro Nunelucio for his immense contributions to the art industry and community,” said Negros Occidental 2nd District Representative Alfredo Marañon III.

Maestro Nunelucio is a revered art luminary in Negros, deserving of enduring respect and admiration, Arguelles said. – Rappler.com

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