Nineteenth-Century Masters of Angono Art

Cover: Hardcover


Nineteenth-Century Masters of Angono Art


With Foreword by Elena Rivera Mirano, PhD

Series: Fifty Shades of Philippine Art
Copyright © 2023 Vibal Foundation, Inc.
128 pages; 22.86 x 30.48 cm


Dating back 5,000 years to ancient petroglyphs carved on cave walls, Angono’s long artmaking tradition has produced two National Artists, numerous art galleries, and the famous Higantes Festival. The town gained renown as the “Art Capital of the Philippines” after Carlos “Botong” Francisco’s modernist paintings captivated the art world. However, even a master like Botong stood on the shoulders of Angono’s giants who came before him—artists like Juan Senson, Pedro Piñon, and Moises Villaluz Sr. The works of these old masters, Angono’s own “triumvirate,” are little acknowledged and seldom studied, apart from a few pieces which have ended up in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas collection as cultural treasures.

Nineteenth-Century Masters of Angono Art endeavors to write anew the town’s art history, showcasing the lives and oeuvres of these foundational artists. Author James Owen Saguinsin has spent more than twenty years doing research in Angono and its neighboring towns, interviewing local residents and relatives of the artists, and scouring old bodegas and family homes for artworks that have managed to survive war, calamity, and the ravages of time and neglect.

Illustrated with more than 100 artworks—most unearthed by the author and documented here for the first time—this book explores the history of Angono, the role of Senson, Piñon, and Villaluz in shaping the town into the national art center it is today, and their contribution to the Filipino artistic identity.

Our contemporary artists surely stand on the shoulders of Botong Francisco.
But Botong stood on the shoulders of these great masters who came before
him. Much more than just a historical presentation of the life and works of
Senson, Piñon, and Villaluz, this book makes us realize the greatness that
runs in our blood…. The greatness of Angono does not depend only on the big
names that made, and continuously make, our town known. It lies in every
simple and ordinary citizen of Angono.
— Fr. Reginald Rivera Malicdem
Rector of Manila Cathedral


This book of my kabayan, James Owen G. Saguinsin, who dedicated twenty
years of his life to accomplish this worthy endeavor, discovers not just the
forgotten artists and artworks but also the forgotten life and faith of the
people of Angono…. [It] reminds and challenges each one of us to continue
to search for unsung artists who made a great impact in our present era.
This book is also leading us into reflection on the effects of faith and culture
on art and art on faith and culture. Through this book, we can have a
dialogue with the past to understand the present.
— Rev. Fr. Reynante U. Tolentino
Shrine Rector and Parish Administrator at the
National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage


Inspirado ako sa sinulat mo. I see its achievements and through it I’m taking advantage to introduce and define Art History sa Filipino art scene. Ang libro mo is the example to separate Art History from puro dada dada…. Tunay na Art Historian ka.
— Santiago Albano Pilar's personal message
prior to his death




Foreword by UP Professor Emeritus Elena Rivera Mirano    vi
Preface    viii
Acknowledgments    xiv
Introduction   xvi

I. Familiar Masters    3
Juan Senson    4
Tandang Juancho    7
The development of a genius     15
Pedro Piñon    18
Moises Villaluz Sr.    24
Life in Los Baños    27
Moises’s touch on the modern Botong    29

II. Of Power Struggle and Influences      33
Hacienda de Angono      34
St. Clement Parish Church of Angono    43
Academia de Dibujo     61

III. Aura of the “Unknown” Artists    69
Early Scholars of the Nono masters     75

IV. Process of Authentication     81
Senson, Piñon, and Villaluz Chronology      100

List of Images     102
Bibliography      106
Index 107



James Owen Gragera Saguinsin is an associate professor at the Far Eastern University, where he teaches art appreciation, and where he served as chairman of the Department of Literature and Humanities from 2010 to 2014. He is the founder and director of the Angono Cultural Heritage Office, which focuses on preserving the town’s cultural identity. 

Saguinsin obtained his bachelor’s degree in art studies and master’s degree in art history from the University of the Philippines Diliman. In connection with the author’s undergraduate thesis titled “Buhay at mga Gawa ni Juan Senson,” Juan Senson’s artworks were exhibited at the St. Clement Parish Church in 2001. The author’s master’s thesis, titled “Juan Senson at Pedro Piñon: Mga Di-Kilalang Manlilikha ng Sining noong Panahon ng Kolonyalismong Kastila at Americano,” eventually led to an exhibition of Senson’s works at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in 2009 titled Juan Senson: 19th Century Master of Angono. For his achievements as an art historian and a cultural worker, Saguinsin was awarded the Natatanging Alumni Award by the UP Diliman College of Arts and Letters in 2018.

As the great-grandson of Pedro “Dendong” Kapili Gragera, the first known genealogist of Angono (b. 1911 d. 1995) who researched and wrote the first family tree of the Gragera clan, the author has been instilled with the value of preserving heritage.





Press Release: Vibal Foundation Celebrates National Arts Month with the Launch of Nineteenth-Century Masters of Angono Art

Read Jaime Laya's article on Angono Art history based on Saguinsin's Nineteenth Century Masters of Angono Art

Read's feature on the book and launch



Fifty Shades of Philippine Art is a series of affordable and concisely written books on fine, modern, or popular art. Among its titles are Heritage Churches of the Cagayan River Basin by Javier Galvan (2022), Isabelo Tampinco by Santiago Pilar (2018), Toti Cerda by Laya Boquiren (2019), Francisco V. Coching by Andrea Peterson (2019), Damián Domingo by Luciano P. R. Santiago (2020), Philippine Cinematic Art by Andrea Peterson, Gaspar A. Vibal, Christopher Datol, and Nick Lajom (2020), and The Art of Window, Display, and Design (2021) by Chito Vijandre and Ricky Toledo.


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