Conversations about: Simon Flores y de la Rosa, 1839 – 1904, painter

From around 1850 to 1900, a talented artist was busy painting all those stately portraits of — well, not all, but mostly — ugly and fat, or ugly and thin, rich Pampango dons and donas, senoritos and senoritas, in mostly vertical but also curiously horizontal modes [ "memento mori" ].  When not busy with portrait commissions, he was occupied painting murals in several Pampanga churches like Bacolor and Betis.  His name was Simon Flores y de la Rosa and he was from Paco, Manila and he had married a Pampanguena named Simplicia Tambungui y Pineda from Guagua town [ what an authentic "Queni" surname, you can't get more Capampangan than that!!! ].

Almost every “bahay na bato” mansion of a “principalia” family in every town of Pampanga had an oil portrait or a painting by Simon Flores.  Predictably, the greatest numbers were in the old, principal towns of Bacolor, Mexico, Guagua, and San Fernando.

There were predictably many Simon Flores portraits and paintings in the capital town of Bacolor.

One of the earliest known works of Simon Flores, dated “20 de Mayo 1862,” painted when he was all of 23 years old,  is the still-extant portrait of Olegario Rodriguez [ o 1806 - + 1874 ], patriarch of the still-flourishing Rodriguez clan of Bacolor, when the subject was “56 anos.”  Olegario Rodriguez was depicted wearing the European black coat with tails, embroidered “nipis” shirt [ of "pina" or "jusi" fabrics ], and trousers of a “principalia,” seated on a Biedermeier-style armchair, with his arm resting on a grooved marble top table, which 128 years later until the lahar flows of 1991, still stood in the center of the “sala” of his own house.  The portrait is with Rodriguez descendants in Manila.

A noteworthy and famous pair of Simon Flores portraits, the spouses Jose Leon Santos and Ramona Joven y Suarez, both of Bacolor, now hang in the “sala” of the “Museo De La Salle” in Dasmarinas, Cavite, created by their great great grandson Jose Maria “Joey” Yaptinchay-Abad Panlilio.  One vividly remembers the comic story of Joey Panlilio, as related by his grandmother Luz Sarmiento de Panlilio, of how her husband Jose “Pepe” [ Joey's grandfather ], an aristocratic bon vivant who always preferred the very latest in lifestyle fashions, “thoroughly disliked and was frankly embarrassed by those old, outmoded paintings” during the prewar and relegated them to obscure corners in the ancestral home in Bacolor, installing fashionable, framed large photographs and hand-colored “foto-oleos” in their place.

In the Buyson-Angeles ancestral home, the most social residence in Bacolor prelahar, hung a Simon Flores portrait of the distinguished patriarch, Julian Buyson y Cunanan of Baliuag, Bulacan.

The rich, Chinese mestizo-dominated town of Guagua, Pampanga was burned to the ground during the war.  Most of the imposing “bahay na bato” mansions of the town’s richest citizens, both the Chinese and the Spanish mestizos — David, Limson, de Mesa, Valenzuela, Velez, Infante — lining the plaza were destroyed, and with them, what was surely a fine group of portraits and paintings by Simon Flores, for his wife, Simplicia Tambungui y Pineda, was a native of Guagua town.

There were also several Simon Flores portraits and paintings in the town of San Fernando.  For starters, around 1875, three prosperous, landowning and trading Quiason y Cunanan brothers, Cirilo, Lucio, and Pablo, commissioned imposing family portraits from the artist.  The most beautiful and elegant of the three was the one of the Cirilo Quiason family.  Cirilo was painted with his wife Ceferina Henson y David, their second son Aureo, and third son Jose.  It was painted in 1875 and Simon Flores charged 50 pesos a head in gold coins, totaling 200 pesos.  Simon Flores sketched their faces in their home, brought their clothes to his house, and in a month he presented the finished painting to them.  It was in poor condition when it was sold in the early 1980s by the Quiason descendants to Governor Jaime Laya on behalf of the Central Bank of the Philippines.  On the other hand, Lucio or Pablo Quiason was depicted with his wife, daughters, and even mother-in-law in a rather cramped composition.  It is now in the Leandro V. Locsin collection and was expertly repaired by the restorers of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  The third Quiason family portrait is believed to be lost or to have been destroyed during the war.

In Porac town, Simon Flores painted the Spanish mestizo patriarch and wife of the rich Gil family [ whose descendants are the beautiful actresses and handsome actors Rosemarie Gil, Mark Gil, Michael de Mesa, and Cherie Gil ].  The portraits were lost postwar.  In the “capilla” chapel of the house was Flores’ “La Virgen Maria,” his interpretation of an Italian Madonna.  It was acquired by the architect-collector Luis Araneta who hung it over his bed;  it was acquired from Araneta in the early 1980s by the ubercollector Paulino Que.

In the town of Mexico were many portraits and paintings by Simon Flores.  I will never forget the Simon Flores portrait of the buck-teethed Saturnino Hizon y David, dressed in a blue and white striped “pina” barong;  I could never get over his buck teeth which could have used the services of a good orthodontist.  He married three times because he was widowed twice:  first to Maria Cuison, then to Adriana Tizon, and finally to Cornelia Sison.  His third wife was also painted by Simon Flores.  The portraits, expensively restored, are now with Hizon descendants in Manila.  Saturnino Hizon y David and his three wives had many children and many descendants.  I remember seeing his very beautiful and exquisitely chased silver “platilla para buya” / “buyera,” marked “S H D ,” in the bedroom of an important Makati collector.

Also in Mexico town, Simon Flores painted a diminutive full-length portrait of the long-haired — as in floor length — Miguela Henson in front of her Isabelina-style dresser.  It is now in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas collection.  I was always amused by the little portrait of Miguela Henson since she looked so much [ almost a carbon copy! ] like my Mommy’s good friend, Tita Belen Henson-Lazatin Garcia-Diokno [ a pioneering Filipina psychiatrist ], who, somewhere along the way, must also be a descendant of Miguela Henson through the Hizon-Henson-Lazatin line of Mexico town.

In the town of Santa Ana, Simon Flores painted the pretty Andrea Dayrit.  Her portrait hung in the 1840s Dizon house, famous in its time for its late Neoclassical and English Regency architectural details.

In Arayat town, Simon Flores painted the Spanish mestizo hacendero Jose Berenguer y Flores and his wife Simona “Munit” Linares y Reyes;  they are with Berenguer descendants in Manila.  He also painted the Spanish mestizo hacendero Lino Cardenas Reyes and his wife Raymunda Soriano.  “Capitan Lino” and “Capitana Munda” Reyes were famous in their time during the 1880s – 90s for their “fiestas” — elegant meals [ "desayuno," "almuerzo," "cena" ], “bailes,” and gambling — which lasted for weeks on end where the Spanish mestizo elite of Pampanga and Manila were invited [ remnants of their affluent life like Limoges china, Baccarat crystal, and silver "paliteras" toothpick trees in the form of birds amidst shrubs are still with Reyes descendants in San Francisco, USA ].  The Simon Flores portraits were destroyed when the Reyes-Soriano house in the poblacion burned down in the great fire that devastated Arayat in 1928, when all of the “bahay na bato” mansions lining its “Calle Real” were turned to ashes.

Adjacent to Arayat, in Candaba town, Simon Flores painted two doyennes of the “principalia” landowning class:  the severe-looking Severina Ocampo de Arroyo and the corpulent Quintina Castor de Sadie, nicknamed “Fat Woman from Candaba.”  They were in the collection of technocrat banker Manoling Dizon but he sold them to the Central Bank in the early 1980s because he wanted to concentrate on contemporary Filipino art.

In the southernmost town of Apalit, in the affluent barrio of Sulipan,  Simon Flores executed several portrait commissions from the richest families in that town.  In the Escaler-Sioco house, there was a pair of portraits of Matea Rodriguez y Tuason wearing a black “traje de mestiza” with considerable jewelry and her second husband Juan Arnedo Cruz y Tanjutco wearing a silver encrusted “salakot.”  There was a portrait of her elder daughter Sabina Sioco y Rodriguez [ 1858 - 1950 ] as a young lady wearing a “traje de mestiza.”  The three portraits disappeared in the early 1970s and presumed stolen and sold;  they were supposedly brought to the Escaler hacienda in Barrio Cansinala but they disappeared while in transit.  There was also a portrait of the Sioco progenitor Josef Sioco [ 1786 - 1864 ] in his 40s by an early painter, thought to be by Severino Flavier Pablo of Manila;  it is with Gonzalez descendants in Manila.  In the Arnedo-Sioco house, Flores painted the two daughters Maria Ignacia “Titay” [ 1872 - 1964 ] and Ines [ 1876 - 1954 ] as children wearing “traje de mestiza” in the 1880s.  It disappeared in the mid-1960s and presumed stolen and sold.  In the Gonzalez-Sioco house, there was a portrait of the matriarch Florencia Sioco y Rodriguez [ 1860 - 1925 ] as a young lady wearing a “traje de mestiza.”  The portrait was destroyed when the house was bombed by the Americans in 1942.

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6 Comments

  1. Marco D Nepomuceno said,

    October 1, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Miguela Henson was married to Jose de Jesus y Samson. They had no children.

  2. August 29, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Thank you for featuring Pampanga. If you would like to know more of our province, please visit pampangadirectory.net

    Welcome to http://pampangadirectory.net/ In this portal, you can find Pampanga local news, province guides, business categories, sports media, society issues,buy and sell products, services, people, tourist destinations, personals and online community.

    Regards,
    Louie Sison

  3. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    August 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I came across an article about the Trade School in Bacolor and I remember the article stating that the lot where it is located was donated by the Suarez-Joven family.

    The benefactors of the Trade School included Don Julian Buyson and Don Olegario Rodriguez.

    It is uncanny that the donors, benefactors all had their portraits done by Simon Flores perhaps in the same years.

    Interesting information about the donors of the lot of the Trade School, the lots adjacent to it are up to now with the heirs of the Jovens.

    The lots directly fronting the Trade School are still with the Buyson family which were acquired from the Jovens in the early 1900′s.

    It appears the Suarez Joven clan practically owned all the lots that side of the “paglimbunan”, in the main road of Bacolor where the landmark Trade School is situated..

    On how Da. Anacleta Manalo Miranda de Angeles had an informal pencil sketch of herself by Simon Flores.
    The lady resided in San Vicente, Bacolor beside the capilla all her life.
    From the stories told, the Tambunguis were from San Vicente too or some of their relatives resided there.
    It must have been a kind gesture of Simon Flores to present the elderly lady with a pencil sketch of hers.

  4. Enrique Bustos said,

    August 18, 2010 at 3:30 am

    The brother of the wife of Simon Flores [ Simplicia Tambungui ], Monsignor Ignacio Tambungui, a chaplain at the Hospital de San Juan de Dios and a canon of the Manila Cathedral, was a big supporter of Simon Flores. He was instrumental in giving Simon Flores the project of painting the church of Guagua, Pampanga, the hometown of the Tambunguis. That project led to other church decorating jobs in the province.

    Simon Flores painted a portrait of his brother-in-law Monsignor Ignacio Tambungui on ivory.

    Simon Flores painted the ceilings or frescoes of some of the most beautiful churches in Pampanga ( Guagua, Santa Rita, Bacolor, and Mexico ). Sadly, through the years, his works have been either destroyed or ignorantly painted over with new ones.

    The Simon Flores portrait of King Amadeus was displayed in the municipal hall of San Fernando, Pampanga but was destroyed in the fire set by General Antonio Luna that razed the entire poblacion of San Fernando during the Philippine revolution against Spain. King Amadeus was an Italian regent who became the King of Spain.

    Simon Flores paintings in public museums:

    1. Portrait of Andrea Dayrit in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas collection
    2. Dead Child in the National Museum
    3. Cirilo and Severina [ sic; Ceferina ] Quiason and children in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas collection
    4. “Primeras Letras” in the Jorge Vargas Museum
    5. “Feeding the Chicken” in the Jorge Vargas Museum
    6. A group portrait of a man in a barong Tagalog and wife in a traje de mestiza in the U.S.T. Museum
    7. Various paintings in the church of Betis, Pampanga: “San Jose” in the epistle transept and “La Sagrada Familia” in the rectory

    Simon Flores paintings in the Leandro V. Locsin collection:

    1. Quiason Family
    2. Juanita

  5. Enrique Bustos said,

    August 8, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Speaking of the Gil Family of Porac Jerry Acuzar of New San Jose Builders almost bought the Church that stood in the Gil family Property in Porac and trasffer it in Bataan

    Here the Story

    New ‘old town’ of heritage houses fuels furor
    By Tonette Orejas

    Published on page A1 of the December 11, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

    (First of two parts)

    PORAC, PAMPANGA — Sitting on a bamboo bench by the roadside, 86-year-old Felicidad Lising let out an expression of outrage her neighbors in the village of Pio here do not usually hear from the mild-mannered grandmother.

    “Ay Dios ko! E ustu ita (Oh my God! That’s a wrong thing to do),” Lising said, casting her droopy eyes on the village’s 145-year-old Catholic chapel.

    It has unsettled her, she said, that the chapel has been bought and destined for transfer to Bagac town, Bataan province.

    Such stories have not died down since October, according to Josefina Rubi, chair of the Parish Pastoral Council at Pio.

    The menfolk have vowed to protect the chapel from antique dealers and the demolition crew they have been expecting to descend on their community.

    The residents are not imagining their fears and they have reason to be vigilant. The controversy actually leads straight to a private venture that is unrivaled in scale in the country.

    Some 60 kilometers southwest of Pio, New San Jose Builders Inc. president Jerry Acuzar is creating an “old town” on his 50-hectare seaside property in Barangay Pag-asa in Bagac.

    Nine centuries-old houses were standing on his estate’s version of “Calle Real” on Nov. 26 when he allowed the Inquirer to tour the property.

    These houses, Acuzar said, were dismantled from their original sites in various points of Luzon or “rescued” from junk shops, transported, reassembled and restored in their new locations.

    Another house, Acuzar’s first and which he named “Casa Real,” is a mix of parts from several old houses bought from junk shops.

    Two historically significant works are in progress, but he asked that these not be named just yet.

    Work at the plazuela has started. Its centerpiece is an entirely new monument hailing industrious women of olden times. The plaza mayor has yet to rise.

    Acuzar, a developer of high-end and socialized housing projects, said it took him three years to build the pueblo.

    If his resources would allow him, he plans to install a total of 50 old structures on his lot.

    He said he planned to put the Pio chapel beside the river that empties into the South China Sea.

    “Ang kulang ko na lang simbahan (The only thing I lack is a church),” he said, denying that he wanted it for his daughter’s debut.

    Acuzar said installing a church would complete the features of the old town project, which he calls a “passion.”

    He said he got interested only in the Pio chapel because a dealer informed him that the heir of the hacienda founder, actress Rosemarie Gil, had converted to another religion and that the chapel was dilapidated. He did not name the dealer.

    After asking the Inquirer about how Pio residents reacted to his plan, he said: “Hindi ko na gusto (I don’t want it anymore).”

    He has yet to send an official communication to Pio residents that he was backing out from the plan and that he would look for another chapel.

    Rubi said the Pio PPC would not let down its guard.

    “In 1986, when Rosemarie and (actor) Dante Varona tried to take the church bell (dated 1865), the tenants foiled their attempt by chasing them with bolos. That’s just a bell. What more a church?” said Rubi, a 55-year-old teacher.

    Heritage

    Acuzar agreed he touched sensitive nerves because his latest prospect was a chapel, which is a community-owned and shared structure. It has not been the case, he noted, with the ancestral houses.

    Ivan Henares, a Pampanga historian and trustee of the Heritage Conservation Society, said whether it was a house or a church or other buildings, the value or function of a structure in the cultural and historical fabric of the community should be respected in the purchase or transfer plan.

    In the case of the Pio chapel, the villagers claim it as theirs. They use it when they celebrate Masses every 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Residents also use the chapel for various religious rites and community events.

    They assert ownership even as the Gils have retained the four hectares on which the chapel stood.

    A source said it was not the Gils who transacted with Acuzar’s agent but their caretaker, Jun Pabustan. The latter, however, denied dealing with any buyers.

    It puzzled Rubi why this time the actress did not consult them when she did some years back about her plan to convert the chapel for use by Born Again Christians.

    The Inquirer tried to contact the Gil siblings through Pabustan or Rosemarie through a friend in Angeles City. No feedback came in the last three weeks.

    Fr. Resty Lumanlan, SVD, a native of this town, said the Pio chapel was “never for sale.”

    “It should never be sold because since the frailes (friars), it has been the property of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga,” he said.

    “Much more, it is part of the heritage of the parish of Porac,” he said.

    The chapel is an architectural heritage, said Henares.

    Built in 1861, this is the only intact circular chapel in Pampanga, predating the one regarded as the country’s first on the University of the Philippines’ Diliman campus in Quezon City.

    The remains of the hacienda founder, Don Felino Gil, are interred behind the altar. Gil founded the Don Honorio Ventura College of Arts and Sciences in Bacolor, the oldest vocational school in Southeast Asia. Under the machuca tiles and behind the chapel are at least 100 graves.

    Moratorium

    Citing Pio’s experience, Henares raised the need for those in the heritage conservation community to debate on the ethics of transferring structures — an activity that is fairly new and done on a minimum extent until Acuzar ventured into his large-scale pueblo project in 2004.

    The issue or even Acuzar’s pet undertaking was “not at all” tackled in the International Conference on Heritage Houses and Vernacular Architecture held in Tagbilaran City in May, according to painter-writer Claude Tayag, one of the 495 participants.

    Tayag said it was the first conference held on that topic. The discussions centered on on-site restoration efforts that flourished largely on private funds over the recent decades, conference papers showed.

    Henares suggested that in the debates, discussion points should include the historical significance of the structures, their actual or future functions to the residents and the communities, consultation requirements, protocols, local heritage plans and the local government’s position on the issue.

    Henares also sought a moratorium on Acuzar’s project “until further studies are done on the location in particular and until the heritage community has fully digested this unusual project and threshed out the ethics of transferring heritage structures.”

  6. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    July 30, 2010 at 3:05 am

    Simon Flores was active in Bacolor in the late 1800′s.

    My mother’s maternal grandmother, Dona Anacleta Manalo Miranda de Angeles, had a pencil sketch by Simon Flores.

    After the lahar when the house was buried, the contents were damaged or lost or sold. I was told the portrait was sold to a collector from Makati, a certain Mr. Santos.

    My mom’s paternal great grandfather Don Julian Cunanan Buyson had an oil portrait, we have a copy of that.

    The original oil mural of the Baptism of Christ in the baptistry of the parish church was said to have landed in the collection of Luis Araneta. The intricately carved wooden gold leafed pulpit was also said to be in his collection too.


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