Antipolo is a quick getaway destination with scenic hillside views and a thriving art scene. TravelBook.ph's Keisha Uy shares her impromptu visit to Pinto Art Museum, a newly-expanded gallery with charming grounds and expansive exhibits.
On a recent visit to Jardin de Miramar's Casa Santa in Antipolo, Rizal, we wanted to take some time to tour the circuit of art galleries the locale is known for. We hadn't planned any visits into our schedule, though, and we had just decided to head home when we chanced upon a sign along the San Lorenzo Sumulong Circumferential Road which read, "Pinto Art Gallery." After a quick U-turn and some inquiries at the house on the corner where the sign was posted, we were on our way to the Grandheights Subdivision, where the gallery is located.
The Pinto Art Gallery has been around for some time, first as a basic repository-cum-warehouse of art, and then more recently as a venue for modern art exhibits. The first few galleries stand at the entrance of a patch of land owned by neurologist and art patron Dr. Joven Cuanang, who retreats to this place every weekend. Since the 1970s, Dr. Cuanang has been developing this area--known as the Silangan Gardens, home of the Silangan Foundation of the Arts, Culture, and Ecology--as a space for furthering culture and the arts. The first galleries were built in 2001 by artist Antonio Leaņo, and since then have formally housed art collections and hosted exhibits of work by Filipino artists. In 2008, again under Leaņo's design supervision, work began on a bigger complex at the rear of the compound. The expanded space--renamed Pinto Art Museum--was launched just last December 5, unveiling a network of interconnected galleries that provide more space to showcase the local artists' craft.
The new black iron gates of the museum are set into whitewashed pueblo-inspired concrete walls topped by an antique bell set into an arch--the same image used for the museum's logo, which, together with its name, is meant to evoke a door leading to an art haven. We were greeted by artist Andy Orencio, whose art was on exhibit in one of the galleries, who made us feel welcome and invited us to tour the grounds and the galleries (our only restriction: no photos of the artwork inside the galleries).
The first area of the compound we visited (just inside the main entrance) consisted of a spacious garden with white steel garden chairs, antique pots, and art sculptures dotting the grassy grounds. There were two older galleries near the entrance and a chapel (known as the Little Chapel of St. Francis) for meditation.
On the other side of the entrance was the main house, which is used as a venue for various events--the day we were there it was hosting a wedding. The house is primarily Filipino in character, with a smattering of Mediterranean and Mexican elements--brick and stucco walls, dark hardwood accents, intricate stone wells and fountains, sprawling vines, and clay roofing. Behind the house was a yard with a pool, where mats and lounge chairs had been set up for the wedding.
We wandered around to the side of the main house to find other pleasant offerings and surprises. Here there were a number of ponds camouflaged with thick layers of moss and wild grass and spanned by bamboo bridges. Following the winding paths to the other side of the property (most were concrete, but a number were lined with wood or stone), we found the Bamboo Cottage, an open-air hut screened with white curtains, overlooking the houses perched on the surrounding hills--a perfect spot for contemplation, where we found Dr. Cuanang and Tony Leaņo in quiet conversation.
From here, we moved on to the first of the new interweaving galleries. This area was a bit more modern, with more orderly landscaping--a harmonious blend of well-tended and stylized plants, with the recurring white garden sets, fountains and wells in different sizes, immaculate white walls, antique accents, and modern art scattered throughout. There were also a number of spacious patios and terraces are ideal for events, like cocktail parties for exhibit openings.
The white-painted (and occasionally, bare concrete) walls of the galleries served as the perfect canvas for the displays inside the museum. In the same way, the scenic view of hilly Antipolo provided an appropriate backdrop for this haven, making it an ideal escape from the nearby city, a place to awaken the appreciation of art and beauty within the soul. While the refreshing and relaxing ambiance of the museum made me forget the stress of living in the city, the museum also had a good number of paintings, sculptures, and fixtures that depicted the reality that was outside its confines. As much as the museum is Dr. Cuanang's personal collection, it is also a communal treasure in the way that it touches its visitors.
It took us about an hour and a half to go through all the spaces of the gardens and the museum, though we could easily have spent more time there, just enjoying the ambiance. The Pinto Art Museum and the Silangan Gardens highlight exactly what the province of Rizal is known for--a harmonious blend of the natural and the man-made, a respect for nature and a reverence for human spirit and achievement.
Browse through our gallery of photos below to see more of what the Pinto Art Museum and Silangan Gardens have to offer.
The Pinto Art Museum is located inside The Silangan Gardens, 1 Sierra Madre Street, Grandheights, Antipolo City 1870 Rizal. It is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, 9AM to 6PM. There is a P100 entrance fee (P50 for students; 20% discount for senior citizens).
How to get there
From Manila or Quezon City or Makati, take the Ortigas Avenue from EDSA and proceed to Ortigas Extension passing through Cainta Junction and to Tikling. Proceed to the hills until you reach the Ynares Center. Turn on the first street to your right, and follow this to the Grandheights gate. The compound entrance is just after the corner of the first street to the right.
For other inquiries, call (+632) 703-4453 or (+63917) 608-6754 and look for Jim Orencio.
The new additions to the compound were designed and built over a period of two years, under the discerning eye of artist Antonio Leaņo. Here, landscaped gardens serve as a transitional space between two large exhibition areas.
Common elements run through the grounds and tie the design and landscaping of the old and new structures together. These white iron garden chairs, a throwback to old houses of the ‘70s, appear throughout the compound in different forms and designs.
Water also figures strongly in the design. Ponds, fountains, falls, and other water elements can be found in all areas of the complex. The sound of tinkling water adds to the characteristic rejuvenating ambiance.
Steps and terraces, a function of the mountainous grounds, are also a key element in defining the character of the place.
The rear portion of the grounds has nature trails laid out in bamboo and stone. These areas give visitors a chance to commune with nature in an artistically arranged, but still organic, setting.
A small open living area laid out on a bamboo platform floating above a tranquil pool overlooks the mountains of Antipolo--the perfect backdrop for the work of art that is the Pinto Art Museum and the Silangan Gardens.