By: Paolo M. Bustamante
I was invited last week by my friend Jam Acuzar to the opening of the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bataan. It basically functions as a contemporary artspace for artists and art enthusiasts. It is also the home of the Bellas Artes Project, an agency which concentrates on producing exhibitions, facilitating artists in recidence programmes and community development projects.
What is the Escuela de Bellas Artes before? Built in 1867 and designed by Felix Roxas y Arroyo, the Escuela de Bellas Artes was home to the family of the famous painter Rafael Enriquez y Villanueva.
The house was built in the traditional bahay na gate in R. Hidalgo St. in Quiapo Manila. The house was considered by many as the finest example of philippine architecture during the Spanish occupation. According to the American historian M.M, Norton it is the most beautiful house in the islands. ( Well probably that is the only one that he has seen. haha kidding)
In the 1870's, young atrtists would set up their bodegas and train in the mezzanine of the house. Notable Alumni were Juan Luna & Felix Hidalgo. Later on it would school artists such as Fernando Amorsolo, Guillermo Tolentino, Emilio Alvero, Carlos "Botong" Francisco and Tomas Mapua. In 1908., the Enriquez Mansion would be the first building of the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts, known to them as the Escuela de Bellas Artes. Rafael Enriquez was the first director of the school and maintained the position from 1909 until 1926, a year before his death.
After the death of Rafael Enriquez, the Bellas Artes was transfered to Padre Faura St. in Ermita. The Enriquez Manison underwent various re-use becoming a bowling centre, boys and girls dormitory, space for sex live shows, restaurant and even an abortion clinic.
Eventually like most houses on the formerly coverted address of R. Hidalgo St. informal settlers occupied the house, It was in this state that the house was found in 2006 when Jerry Acuzar decided to transfer and restore it in the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.