Inspiring Pinoys

Mexicans Have Fallen In Love with the Paintings of a Filipino Artist


Belle Piccio
Belle Piccio | Nov 23, 2015

If Filipinos were smitten by the beautiful face of Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto during the recently concluded APEC 2015 Summit in the Philippines, Mexicans have been awestruck for more than four decades now by the artworks of Pinoy painter Romeo Villava Tabuena

Romeo Villava Tabuena was born in Iloilo City, Iloilo on August 22, 1921. He studied architecture at the Mapua Institute of Technology. Wanting to nurture his god-given talent, he took a degree in fine arts major in painting at the University of the Philippines. But his thirst for knowldege doesn't end there. He studied abroad in New York at the Art Students League and in Paris at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere.

Romeo settled in a Mexican pueblo of San Miguel de Allende and made it as the home-base to start his painting career. 

In 1957, he was commissioned by the government to make a mural at the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. which he called "Filipiniana." 

In 1959, he started his 10-year retrospective show at the Philippine Art Gallery in Manila. He also hold exhibits of his drawings and watercolor paintings.

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In 1962, he was sponsored by the Philippine Government at the International Salon of the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City to have a one-man show. It lifted the Philippines' status in the world of contemporary art. Three years after, he was sent to the 8th Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil to represent the country. 

Then in 1973, he held his second major one-man show in Manila. His third in Mexico City in 1975. Then in Galerie Bleue in Manila in 1981 and so on.

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Romeo has been a recipient of many awards and citations. 

  • Golden Centaur Award from the Academia Italia
  • Master of Painting (honoris causa) from the International Seminar of Modern Art
  • Bannierre Eurpeanne des Artes and Medaglia al Merito from the International Parliament

The list goes on and on. He was also given a presidential citation, Pamana ng Pilipino, by former President Fidel V. Ramos in 1996 for showing the best of Filipino talents. The award is to acknowledge his excellence through his outstanding mastery in painting, elevating the quality of Philippine painting by producing some of the finest artworks of the century and earning international honor and acclaim not only for himself but also for the country.

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In 2000, a Millennium Show was put up in his honor by the Philippine Embassy as an implementation of the cultural agreement between Mexico and Philippines.

Though he has resided in Mexico for more than half his life with his Norwegian wife, Romeo has continued to have ties and participated in major art projects in the Philippines. He even retained his Filipino citizenship. 

Romeo is a greatly admired painter in Mexico. His vision and fusion of his oriental heritage is what made his artworks recognized in Mexico. His talents have been identified and acknowledge by the Mexican government in many different events.

You can contact the artist at (415) 152-1061 or visit him at Santo Domingo 12, San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico 37700.

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