Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Some of our local professional photographers may be experiencing high anxiety, which afflicted many New York musicians about twenty years ago when certain computer-aided musical instruments and sequencing programs began to hit the market; making it possible for those without so much as formal training to start getting into music production and generate hefty income from it — from the lucrative dance music genre to soundtracks for TV commercials. In the process, seasoned studio musicians began to notice the eventual decline of their bookings.

Nowadays, with the availability of high tech digital cameras, anyone with the passion for taking photographs can sooner or later jump from being a mere hobbyist to a pro. Eager to develop a track record, some of these digital camera-wielding enthusiasts offer their services at ridiculously low prices, or at times pro bono, just to get their foot in the business as events and wedding photographers. And this is making some established professional photographers cry bloody murder.

It isn’t my intention to discuss the arguments involved in this brewing controversy; rather, I’d like to point out that instead of giving more power to this threat by constantly thinking about it, perhaps, it would be a more creative approach to remain focused on honing one’s skills.

Incidentally, one of our country’s national artists — in his effort to put food on his family’s table, as well as earn enough money to afford the materials he needed to pursue his passion for painting, took on other jobs, including that as a commercial illustrator. There are those, however, who aren’t as practical as he was; refusing to engage in other work, though it yields a steady income, only because they didn’t want to tarnish their image as fine artists. They dread the thought of being perceived as having sold out.

As a commercial artist, his most popular creation was the Marca Demonio label, which is pasted on the bottles of Ginebra San Miguel gin to this day.

And when Enrique Zobel de Ayala took notice of this label, he summoned the young man and funded his advanced studies in Madrid. Thus,
this particular creation of his done during his day job as an illustrator, also gave him the opportunity to further develop his skills as a fine artist

On his way back to the Philippines in 1920, he passed by New York and sold some of his paintings he had done while in Spain to drum up some much-needed cash.

In 1925, Robert J. Kennedy, an army captain, asked him to put up an exhibition in New York City. He obliged by sending 32 paintings for this exhibit held in the Grand Central Galleries. Within two hours of the opening, 21 of these paintings with price tags from $40 to $750 were sold; setting a record for paintings by a foreign artist sold in that gallery.

Throughout his life, this artist lived a simple life. Had it not been for his wife’s constant prodding during the later part of his life to buy their own house and lot, he would have been contented enough to live the rest of his life in their rented apartment on Claro M. Recto (formerly Azcarraga). Perhaps, he was just a sentimental soul; unable to let go of that apartment wherein he raised his family and enjoyed the rewards of his fruitful artistic career.

Have you any idea who this artist I'm referring to here?

He grew up in the carefree setting of the province although he was born in Manila. When his father died, the family moved back to the city to stay with his maternal uncle, Fabian de la Rosa, one of the country’s distinguished painters, and who was to become one of his early teachers in the realm of fine arts, along with Miguel Zaragoza and Rafael Enriquez. He would also become one of the first graduates of the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts.

Although a Hispanized Filipino, as an artist, he glorified what was inherently beautiful about our country. Supposedly, the closest he came to depicting misery and desolation would be those done during and after the Liberation of Manila in 1945. But other than that, his paintings projected comfort, harmony and beauty.

This artist was Fernando Amorsolo.


The Man Who Made Marca Demonio
by Ambeth Ocampo - June 17, 1989
Aguinaldo's Breakfast and More Looking Back Essays
Anvil Publishing, 1993

posted by Señor Enrique at 7:29 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog entry is simply beautiful, Eric. Goes along well with my cup of coffee. Just woke up... stayed late last night reading my books.

You know, my heart goes out to those professional photographers. Here in our small city, couple of years ago, there were still a few who would roam around the plaza, scouting for promenading folks who may wish to have souvenir photos taken. But now, I don't see them anymore. They probably have given up on their trade. :( I just hope they have found another means of livelihood.

January 09, 2007 11:07 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's very interesting to know the history of the artist behind this famous label and famous name that I share. ;)

January 09, 2007 12:12 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

The advent of higher megapixel cell phone cameras may also be the culprits, Rhoda. A lot of people I see at parks and such really enjoy whipping their cell phoe and taking pictures of their groups.

A good book tends to captivate one's interest so much that the reader loses all concept of time and space. A good nap later this afternoon might be a good idea :)

January 09, 2007 3:18 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Are you an Amorsolo, Irene? Wow! You might be related because that is not such a popular name.

January 09, 2007 3:19 PM  

Blogger GingGoy said...

ei eric,

you continue on bloggin\', heh?
I was able to update my blog last night with various entries using the still slow connection.

Might as well wait...

went to the pyro olympics also

I love to read Ambeth Ocampo\'s articles in the Inquirer even if I hate the format of Inq7.net and now reverting back to inquirer.net

I even joined Ambeth\'s pasig river tour last july (of which I still have to blog about hehe)

my blogs already updated (slightly) and will wait for the connection to normalize

keep on shooting!

January 09, 2007 3:27 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Where/how do I get information on Ambeth's Pasig River tour? I am a fan of his work and would love to join his tour and meet him, too!

We were supposed to go last Sunday after the class for the Pyro, but too exhausted by 5pm.

As of now, used to slow online connection kaya ok lang :)

Thanks, Tito!

January 09, 2007 3:36 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! What interesting information Eric! The Marca Demonio label was made by Amorsolo? Super amazing!

January 09, 2007 4:11 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Believe it or not, Toe. I was also greatly surprised and amused to have found out about this piece of trivia :)

January 09, 2007 4:22 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting read Eric. It's always nice to read and know such information behind an item.


January 09, 2007 5:24 PM  

Blogger sheilamarie said...

Hola Senor Eric, I learn something new everyday :) it's an interesting story indeed, a glimpse into the life of a great artist.

January 09, 2007 5:49 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Glad you enjoyed knowing about one of our great artists, Kyels. I do believe there's a permanent exhibition of his works at the Ayala Museum.

January 09, 2007 7:02 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I, too, was impressed to learn that this great Filipino artist led a very simple life, Sheilamarie. And that he was a Manilenyo through and through :)

January 09, 2007 7:04 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, Eric. San Miguel ako. :)

January 09, 2007 9:13 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Oh, I see. But that is also a rare one. Not too many people share it with you.

January 09, 2007 9:17 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

psst, we're planning on a street photog marathon on sunday (quiapo/hidalgo-binondo-intramuros-luneta-baywalk and if able manila zoo) at 10am. interested? hope to see you there. :)

January 10, 2007 6:24 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Ay sayang! I have workshop on Sundays. It started last week.

But if you guys are going to Fort Santiago, stop by FPPF classroom next door to Intramuros Administration Information Office which is immediately to your left as soon as you buy your ticket to Fort Santiago.

January 10, 2007 8:20 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

Indeed it is a problem for professional photographers. But it is of no use to complain, they only thing they can do is adapt to th changing times.
Interesting story about Amorsolo. I am always fascinated by the label on the San Miguel gin bottles!

January 12, 2007 7:35 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hey Sidney! Welcome back to Manila!

But stay away from the gin ... hehehe.

January 12, 2007 10:01 AM  

Blogger dodong flores 도동 플로오리스 said...

Interesting. I came across about the life of Amorsolo in school while studying Philippine Arts subject but nobody did tell us that he's the person behind that famous Marca Demonio. thanx for this info...

March 08, 2007 4:55 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hi Dodong! He apparently created this label when employed as a commercial artist to put food on his growing family's table. A very practical man/artist he was.

March 08, 2007 8:34 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very good story about Fernando Amorsolo. Very informative and encouraging. For years, Ive been curious about how he lived his life. Its amazing to know that a person as famous as him lived a very simple life on a rented apartment until his later years.

Obviously, he came to this world before me but his story is really very inspiring.

My salutations to Fernando Amorsolo, a true Filipino pride.

October 25, 2010 3:41 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was browsing the internet looking for a st. michael illustration for a new tattoo concept, i thought of something filipino like the "marca demonio", the label illustration is kinda ugly so i thought of the original one, i was just thinking if this is the real amorsolo illustration? http://1800sunstar.com/zzC1LUV/zholydays/saints-angels/gfx-graphics/st-michael-the-archangel-protect-us-633x799.jpg this very much similar to the ginebra label though.. thanks..

February 12, 2011 2:53 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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