Today in Philippine History, January 26, 1930, Napoleon Abueva was born in Tagbilaran, Bohol

Wednesday January 25, 2012 () Last updated February 16, 2018 15:57:41

On January 26, 1930, Napoleon Abueva, the "Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture", was born in Tagbilaran, Bohol.

In 1976, at the age of 46, he was named National Artist of the Philippines for Visual Arts by the late President Ferdinand Marcos. He was the youngest recipient of the prestigious award.

Napoleon Abueva   
Napoleon Abueva   

Finishing his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1953 and his eventual pursuit of his studies abroad, Abueva helped shape the local sculpture scene in the Philippines.

Adept in both academic representational style and modern abstract, Abueva has utilized almost all kinds of materials from hard wood (molave, acacia, langka (jackfruit) wood, ipil, kamagong, palm wood and bamboo to adobe, metal, stainless steel, cement, marble, bronze, iron, alabaster, coral and brass.

Notably, Abueva received much recognition as early as his college years, during which he was mentored by Guillermo Tolentino, the first National Artist for Sculpture and creator of the UP Oblation.

For three years in a row (1951-1953), he won first prize and best entry awards in sculpture in the Art Association of the Philippines annual competition.

The Bibingka Vendor by Napoleon Abueva.
Childbirth, 2001 by Napoleon Abueva
Lovers, 2001 by Napoleon Abueva
Mother and Child, 1953, by Napoleon Abueva.
The Transfiguration at the Eternal Gardens Memorial Park (1979)
The Transfiguration at the Eternal Gardens Memorial Park (1979)
Abstract Tower (2001)
Abstract Tower (2001) by Napoleon Abueva.
Sandugo Shrine (Blood Compact between Datu Sikatuna and Legaspi), Tagbilaran, Bohol by Napoleon Abueva.
Bridge of Love, 2001.
Death mask of Ninoy Aquino and Fernando Poe Jr.
Death mask of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. (1983) and of Movie star and once presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. (2004).

One masterpiece he dedicated to the Boholanos is the "Sandugo" or Blood Compact shrine in Bohol, Tagbilaran City, a landmark at the site of the first international treaty of friendship between Spaniards and Filipinos. The Blood Compact Shrine is one of the tourist attractions in Bohol, an expression of Abueva's awareness of his roots, and a manifestation of his artistic talents.

He performed the death mask procedure of opposition leader Ninoy Aquino in 1983, as well as that of Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004. Both masks are now displayed at the Center for Kapampangan Studies, Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac. He also made the death mask of Cardinal Sin.

His other major works include Kaganapan (1953), Kiss of Judas (1955), Thirty Pieces of Silver, The Transfiguration at the Eternal Gardens Memorial Park (1979), UP Gateway (1967), Nine Muses at the UP Faculty Center (1994), Sunburst (1994) - Peninsula Manila Hotel, the bronze figure of Teodoro M. Kalaw in front of the National Library, Murals in marble at the National Heroes Shrine, Mt. Samat, Bataan, 14 Stations of the Cross at the EDSA Shrine, Fredesvinda in Fort Canning, Singapore (1981), Lovers (2001), Bridge of Love (2001), Childbirth, Mother and Child (1953), Bibingka Vendor.

The honors and awards accorded to Abueva are tremendous. Among them are:

  • First Prize, Sculptural Exhibition by the Art Association of the Philippines (1951);
  • First Prize in the Fifth Annual Art Exhibition (1952); First Prize and Special Award on the Fourth Sculptural Exhibition (1952);
  • Awardee, The Unknown Political Prisoner, in the International Sculpture Competition by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1953);
  • First Prize and Special Award, Kaganapan (Marble), in the Semi-Annual Art Exhibition by the Art Association of the Philippines (1953);
  • First Prize, Kiss of Judas (Wood), in the Religious Art Exhibition in Detroit, Michigan, USA (1955);
  • First Prize, Water Buffalo (Marble), in the Annual Show, at St. Louis , Missouri, USA (1956);
  • First Prize, Figure (Wood), in the Annual Show of the Art Association of the Philippines (1957);
  • Most Outstanding Alumnus of the School of Fine Arts, U.P. Golden Jubilee (1958); Republic Award for Sculpture (1959);
  • Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) Awardee in Sculpture (1959);
  • Winner, U.P. Gateway Design Competition (1962);
  • Winner, Cultural Heritage Award (1966); ASEAN Awards for Visual Arts in Bangkok (1987); Fourth ASEAN Achievement Award for Visual Arts in Singapore (July 1995).

Napoleon Abueva is married to Cherry Abueva, a psychiatrist, and has three children, Amihan, Mulawin, and Duero. Before his stroke in 2008, he used to teach at the Industrial Design department of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde School of Design and Arts.

Abueva died of lung infection on February 16, 2018 at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute.


  1. Philippine News Agency archives
  2. Wikipedia
  3. (Photo credit)
  4. (Photo credit) for Abueva picture.


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