The history of art in the Philippines is etched with the names of great men such as Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, Ang Kiukok, Ben Cab (Benedicto Cabrera) and many more. But behind the country’s rich and colorful art history, lies great works by women, too. 

Here are some of the heroines of the Philippine art scene.

Pelagia Mendoza y Gotianquin 

Pelagia Gotianquin Mendoza was known as the first female sculptor of the Philippines. As a sculptor, she made statues of people and figures of animals and other subjects out of clay, stone, and marbles. 

Her passion for sculpture began when she was 22 while studying Fine Arts at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura now known as the UP College of Fine Arts. She was the first female to be admitted to the institution. 

She proved that she can excel in the male-oriented field of sculpture when she won first prize in sculpture for a wax head of Christopher Columbus at the Columbus Quadricentennial Art Contest, an art competition organized by the colonial government on Oct. 12, 1892. 

Anita Magsaysay-Ho 

Born into a relatively wealthy family, Anita Magsaysay-Ho  took her Fine Arts degree at the then School of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines (UP), and took oil painting classes at the Cranbrook Academy in Michigan and drawing classes at the Art Student’s League in New York City in the United States. 

Specializing in the social realism and post-cubism, Ho’s painting was highly inspired and influenced by women. She was the artist behind the paintings that depicts images of women with small triangular handkerchiefs, elongated necks and slits for eyes. 

The women in Ho’s canvases are a depiction of working women: busy feeding chickens, harvesting fruits, threshing or pounding rice in the farm, gathering shells by the seashore, cooking, sweeping, sewing in their own homes, or vending in the marketplace.

The women she paints are seen without anger and are not concerned with gender roles or politics. She revealed that she likes to paint women who are at work in the fields as it shows their true strength.

Known for pioneering modernism in the Philippines, she was named   as one of the “Thirteen Moderns,” a group of Filipino modernist artists, and the only woman in the group. 

Pacita Abad

Pacita Abad was an Ivatan and Filipina visual artist from Basco Batanes. Although  she came from a political family, she spent most of her life in her painting career. 

As a daughter of a congressman, Abad pursued Political Science in the University of the Philippine Diliman. She was intending to take law studies, but ended up getting a master’s degree in Asian History to further pursue her flare in painting. 

Although her early paintings were inspired and influenced by socio-political issues,  her most notable masterpieces were the ones with vibrant, colorful abstract work in large scale canvases.

One of the many contributions and legacy of Abad in the arts is her unique trapunto painting technique which is also known as quilting. 

In 1990, she created, Filipina: A racial identity crisis made in an acrylic, handwoven cloth, dyed yarn, beads, gold thread on stitched and padded canvas. The painting later became Abad’s greatest work on canvas. Jade Veronique V. Yap