Sunday, October 16, 2011

Malolos City: Bulacan's Mural of History

When Malolos City is mentioned the first landmark/destination that comes to mind is the Barasoain Church due to its historical significance,  its popularity as the church depicted in 10 peso bill (no longer in circulation, another item for collectors). Buses carrying tourists visiting the church are a common sight. 

Other than Barasoain Church there are other interesting attractions to visit in Malolos City especially for those interested in history and the arts. Malolos City is home to the largest mural in the Philippines during its time of creation called "Kasaysayan ng Bulacan". The floor to ceiling (almost) mural greets visitors as they step inside the lobby of the Gat. Blas F Ople Hall-Sentro ng Kabataan Sining at Kultura. 

A Mural of History

The title of the huge artwork,"Kasaysayan ng Bulacan", captures the full essence of the subject of the mural. Within the area of the mural the elements of history are weaved-time, place, people-into a coherent piece.  It is a grand tableau of the colorful history of the province and our country as well. 

Pre-colonial trade and the ever present rivers of the province
at the left part of the mural

The mural has subtly three parts: the left ,center , and right part. When facing the mural, a visitor sees the depiction of pre-colonial trade made by the tagalogs (early Bulakenyos, at present the term is also used to refer to other tagalog speaking areas) with foreign merchants. The term tagalog is based on the preferred location of settlements during the pre-colonial years which is along or near rivers and other bodies of water: "tagalog" means taga ilog (one who lives near the river). Rivers were the main transportation and trade arteries during those times (pre-16th century). The depiction of barter trade in the mural shows that Bulacan back then is economically productive thus allowing trade with foreigners such as the Chinese.  Trade relations brought in other wares and at the same time ideas that enriched the tapestry of culture of the area. Bulacan's name is said to be based from the word  "bulak" (meaning cotton) or "bulaklakan" (flower garden). Cotton trees are  abundant in the province before and is a pre-colonial trade staple during those times. The area of Bulacan is said to be full of flowers that might have caught the interest of early Spanish colonizers thus calling it Jardin de Filipinas (garden of the Philippines).

A depiction of the colonial rule that lasted nearly 400 years, left part of the mural

The various colonizers that came to Philippines are shown also at the left part of the mural: the Spaniards that imposed their rule starting the other half of the 16th century up to the 19th century, the British in the 18th century came and ruled shortly (1762-1764)  and showed that Spain is not invincible, the Americans that annexed the Philippines during the close of the 19th century right after Filipinos declared independence, and the Japanese that invaded and controlled the country amidst the Second World War (1942-1945). 

Colonization was resisted in different ways, the said experience gave rise to the valiant unnamed and national heroes that came from Bulacan, the cradle of noble heroes. The center part of the mural shows the various personalities that made a mark in history from the onset of Spanish colonization up to the Marcos years. The center part of the mural depicts the defenders of Bangkusay Channel, Pedro Ladia which is one of the first who revolted against the colonizers. Bulacan is home to Francisco Balagtas with his work "Florante at Laura" brought awareness of the abuses of the colonizers in the 18th century. Bulakenyos such as Marcelo H. del Pilar, Mariano Ponce made sacrifices in espousing the aims of the Propaganda Movement that asked reforms from Spain in the 19th century. Bulacan is also the home province of the Women of Malolos whom Jose Rizal praised in a letter for their desire for learning and change.Various Bulakenyos were vital members of the Katipunan and made fought for independence during the Philippine Revolution such as Isidro Torres, Gregorio del Pilar, Deodato Arellano, Anacleto Enriquez, Trinidad Tecson, Eusebio Roque, Pio Valenzuela and many more.

The center part of the mural showing the different important Bulakenyos through the centuries

Also depicted in the central panel is the historic Barasoain Church wherein the Republic of Malolos was inaugurated in 1899, which made Bulacan as the cradle of the first democracy in Asia and Africa. Bulacan is also the venue for the establishment of the Kakarong de Sile Republic in 1896 and the Biak na Bato Republic in 1897.
Along with the valiant heroes of the province the central panel also shows the National Artists who came from Bulacan such as Guillermo Tolentino the scupltor of well known pieces such as the UP Oblation, which is also depicted in the mural and Jose Joya whose works adorn many prominent structures such as the PICC,  both were for the field of visual arts. The province is also home to Gerry de Leon National Artist for film, Francisca Reyes Aquino  for dance; Amado Hernadez, Virgilio Almario, Nick Joaquin for Literature, Atang dela Rama for Theater. Gifted Bulakenyo musicians such as Antonio Molina, Ernani Cuenco, Antonino Buenaventura, Levi Celerio, and Andrea Veneracion were bestowed the distinction of being National Artists. 

The mural showcases the rich culture of Bulacan. Colorful depiction of well known festivals celebrated in the province graces the left and central part of the art work. There is the Libad festival of Calumpit wherein skillfully decorated boats participate in a fluvial procession, Carabao Festival of Pulilan, Fertilitiy Rituals of Obando, Horse Festival of Plaridel, Pagoda sa Wawa of  Bocaue, and many other feasts are held year round.

A Philippine flag help up high graces the right part of the mural, it hovers over the depiction of  the various industries of the province and the various symbols of the progressiveness of Bulacan such as the Capitol Building, Angat Dam, factories, and other things of the 20th century. 

History of a Mural

The artwork is an oil on plyboard with dimensions of  23 feet by 74 feet and was created in 1976. "Kasaysayan ng Bulacan" is the concept and master piece of Amadeo Manalad, a well known muralist. The Lakan-Sining  ng Bulacan founding members helped in the execution of the mural under the supervision of National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, research for the details was made by Jose P.W. Tantoco.

The mural is a special project of then Bulacan Governor Ignacio Santiago, it was unveiled on August 30, 1976 also in commemoration of the 126th birth anniversary of Marcelo H. del Pilar. It is the largest mural in the country back then. The mural graced the grand staircase of the Provincial Capitol Building. Ascending the stairs during those times is surely a visual treat and the grandeur of the mural surely amazed Bulakenyos visiting the Provincial Capitol building. The mural was placed at the three sides of the staircase, the central panel has two rectangular stain glass-like windows which basked the mural with natural light during day time. The grand mural is an example of the prevailing fondness for beautiful and grand public projects during the rule of then President Marcos (he, former first Lady Imelda Marcos, as well as the governor and the first lady of  the province were immortalized in the mural).

Right part of the mural showcasing the progress of Bulacan and the Philippines
as well as the aims for a prosperous future. Notice the scale of the mural in contrast 
to the height of the teenagers standing in front of it (2011).

The Provincial Capitol building underwent renovations in 1990, the mural was moved to the Hiyas ng Bulacan Museum (Treasure of Bulacan Museum). The restoration of the mural  in 2006 was led by the Lakan-Sining ng Bulacan. "Kasaysayan ng Bulacan" was completed through the help of then Governor Josefina Mendoza-Dela Cruz and Vice Governor Aurelio Plamenco, members of the Provincial Board, and the Provincial Youth,Sports, Employment, Arts and Culture Office (PYSEACO). 

The restored mural was unveiled to the public on July 31, 2006, in sync with the 77th birthday of former Governor Ignacio Santiago, at the lobby of the Gat. Blas F. Ople Hall. The "Kasaysayn ng Bulacan" mural aims to remind  the Bulakenyos of today and the Filipino people in general of our valiant  history, impressive arts, and a colorful culture. Viewing the mural is free of charge and everyone are welcome to visit and admire the nearly 40 year old mural, one of the art treasures of Bulacan.I hope that many more Filipinos will get a chance to see this inspiring mural and get to know more about the historic province of Bulacan. What if all the provinces of our country has a mural like this? That would be a sure treat and many more visual works of art to admire!

Some Reminders: When viewing the mural, please do not:  touch, scratch, and/or vandalize it. Turn off the flash of your camera when photographing the mural.  A grand work of art such as this should be preserved for the benefit and inspiration of the generations to come. 

Getting There: The Gat. Blas F. Ople Hall in Malolos City is located along McArthur Highway. Buses such as Victory Liner, Baliwag Transit, First North Luzon have numerous trips that pass by Malolos City. Request the conductor to drop you off the bus stop near the mini forest of the Provincial Capitol Building compound known as "kapitolyo", the Ople Hall is just a short walk, it is also adjacent the Development of the Philippines Malolos branch and Max's. Visitors using private vehicles coming from Metro Manila can travel with ease via the North Luzon Express Way and make an exit at Tabang, drive straight ahead until you reach the Gat. Blas F. Ople Hall, ample parking spaces are available.

References: "Kasaysayan ng Bulacan" Caption plates


  1. uhm, no information as to who and when the work was done? or where this can be seen?

  2. parang gusto ko bumalik ng Malolos, wala pa yung Rizal stamp ko dito..

  3. @sir estan,I'll add up the information about the creator of the work and the location of the mural on this post

    @Ivan, balik ka sa Malolos, kapag free ako pwede akong guide sa paglibot libot

  4. taga saan ka sa malolos caloy?

  5. @Sir Ian, sa Malolos po ako nag high school pero hindi po ako taga dun :)

  6. that's more like it! very much detailed and informative :)

  7. Thanks Sir Estan. Thank you for visiting Wandering Caloy again. I hope you can visit Malolos in the near future

    Sir Ian thank you also for dropping by.
    May God bless us more :)

  8. your post is both enticing and informative. keep it up! :) hope to visit Malolos one of these days too.

  9. Had been to Malolos when I was still in high school, I think I need to go back now to tour it for real :)

  10. This just gave me more reasons to check out Malolos next time.

  11. @thepinaysolobackpacker Thanks for the compliment
    @Christian, revisiting Malolos is a good idea, the feast day is quite near which is on December 8, 2011
    @lakwatsera de primera thanks for the comment,Malolos has more to offer for travelers

    Thanks to the three of you for visiting Wandering Caloy, I can be your tour guide in Malolos when you visit (if schedule permits). May God bless us more!

  12. Nice post! I used to go to Hiyas because of the provincial library but I was not able to appreciate the large mural over there. Maybe I have to take a second look.