Originally published in Sunburst Magazine. March 1979.
Photography by George Tapan and Resty Guevarra.
Luis Ma. Araneta, the genteel and generally acknowledged numero uno of private antique collectors in the Philippines, could very well have the same outlook as the above Italian in amassing his own vast collection. A patrician by birth and manner, Araneta regards his relics as “a part me, my sensitivity to what represents man and art, especially to that which we call Filipino”.
The Filipino is a vague shroud behind which hovers the mysticism and snob appeal of antique collecting. Mga lumang bagay-bagay, the almost derogatory Tagalog term for anything old, has been the bone of conetnion and debate among many collectors for 2 decades now. What started as atrickle in the fifties is now a confused fad. Legitimate art enthusiasts are swept aside in the stampede of hoarders, hustlers, investors, unscrupulous dealers and artistic mafiosi.
Today, no abode of the Filipino nouveau riche can rise without an anonymous painter’s obra from the 18th century or a Sung or Ming vase (usually bought at padded prices) and a plethora of fakes and instant antiques assembled by those creative artists of Rizal and passed off to the flush but unknowing as the real thing.
Don Luis, as he is fondly called by most acquaintances—or ‘Lui’-- to his friends, enthuses: “”I am glad that the awakening that has made me realize the value of these objets d’art is now a common experience”. His awesome museum is now made possible, a quixotic enthusiasm. He brought to it from the start an in-born artistic talent (he is an architect) and a millionaire’s checkbook.
The Araneta collection has thus become perhaps the most talked about in the country. The ramblings house (palazzo might be a more accurate term for it) in McKinley Road in Forbes Park teems with priceless discoveries—ageless santos in ivory and wood prominently displayed side by side with old Damian Domingo, Amorsolo, Hidalgo, Luna masterpieces as well as the efforts of anonymous painters. Luis Araneta’s antiques has made him humane, he says.
|Photo from the Pagrel Exhibit Catalog, Intramuros,|
|Photo from the Pagrel Collection Exhibit Catalaog, Intramuros.|
Additional photos from the PAGREL COLLECTION Catalog.