Napoleon Abueva

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Napoleón Isabelo Veloso-Abueva
Born (1930-01-26) January 26, 1930 (age 85)
Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines
Occupation sculptor
Spouse(s) Sergia (Cherry) Abueva
Children Amihan, Mulawin, Duero
Parents Teodoro Abueva
Purificacion Veloso

Napoleón Isabelo Veloso Abueva (born January 26, 1930), more popularly known as Napoleón Abueva, is a Filipino artist. He is a sculptor given the distinction as the Philippines' National Artist for Sculpture. He is also entitled as the "Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture". He is the only Boholano given the distinction as National Artist of the Philippines in the field of Visual Arts.[1]

Biography and career[edit]

Napoleon Abueva, nicknamed Billy, was born on January 26, 1930 in Tagbilaran, Bohol to Teodoro Abueva, a Bohol congressman and Purificacion (Nena) Veloso, president of the Women’s Auxiliary Service. His father was a friend and contemporary of former Philippine President Manuel Roxas and Ambassador Narciso Ramos. He was a member of the Provincial Board, and later became the Provincial Governor of Bohol. He ended his career as a Congressman in 1934. Both of Abueva's parents died serving their country.

Abueva has six other brothers and sisters: Teodoro (Teddy -deceased[2] ), Jr.; Purificacion (Neny -deceased), married to Atty. Ramon Binamira (dec.) of Tagbilaran City; Jose Abueva (Pepe), former president of the University of the Philippines; Amelia Martinez (Inday), now living in Chicago; Teresita (Ching) Floro, now living in Sydney, Australia; and Antonio (Tony), a landscape artist who met a tragic fate aboard Princess of the Orient; his body has not been found. As a young boy, Billy studied at the Tagbilaran Elementary School, and later at University of Southern Philippines, Holy Name College (now Holy Name University), and Rafael Palma College (now the University of Bohol) before making it as a sculptor.

A home-grown talent, he was given a break in 1951 when he won the Pura Villanueva-Kalaw Scholarship. He then took up a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines where he graduated in 1953. This was followed by a Fulbright-Smith Mundt Scholarship in 1954-55, after which he got a foreign Students Scholarship at the University of Kansas (1955–56). At the same time, he won another scholarship at the Instituto de Allende in Mexico City which he did not avail due to conflict in schedule. It was also in 1955 that he finished his Masters in Fine Arts at the Cranbook Academy of Arts, U.S.. In 1956, he attended Harvard University for another scholarship grant.

At U.P, one of his mentors was Guillermo Tolentino, also a national artist, who created the oblation at the university entrance . Tolentino later relegated to him the task of replicating the sculpture for the Campus of U.P. Los Banos.

Abueva has helped shape the local sculpture scene in the Philippines. Being adept in both academic representational style and modern abstract, he has utilized almost all kinds of materials from hard wood (molave, acacia, langka wood, ipil, kamagong, palm wood and bamboo) to adobe, metal, stainless steel, cement, marble, bronze, iron, alabaster, coral and brass.

In 1976, he was proclaimed as National Artist of the Philippines for Visual Arts by then President Ferdinand Marcos. He was the youngest recipient of the title at age 46.

Some of his major works include Kaganapan (1953), Kiss of Judas (1955), Thirty Pieces of Silver, The Transfiguration, Eternal Gardens Memorial Park (1979), UP Gateway (1967), Nine Muses (1994), UP Faculty Center, Sunburst (1994)-Peninsula Manila Hotel, the bronze figure of Teodoro M. Kalaw in front of National Library, and murals in marble at the National Heroes Shrine, Mt. Samat, Bataan. One masterpiece he dedicates to the Boholanos is the Sandugo or Blood Compact shrine in Bohol, Tagbilaran City, a landmark at the site of the first international treaty of friendship between Spaniards and Filipinos. This is now a tourist attraction in Bohol province. This shrine is an expression of Abueva's awareness of his roots, and a manifestation of his artistic talents.

1991 "Siyam na Diwata ng Sining" sculpture by Abueva (9 Fairies of Theatre), University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters.
"Magdangal" sculpture by Napoleon V. Abueva (Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center).

His son, Mulawin Abueva performed the death mask procedure of opposition leader Ninoy Aquino in 1983 while the elder Abueva made the death mask of Fernando Poe, Jr. in 2004. Both masks are now displayed at the Center for Kapampangan Studies, Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac. Incidentally, he also made a death mask of Cardinal Sin.[3]

He is married to Cherry Abueva, a psychiatrist, and has three children, Amihan,Mulawin, and Duero. Before his stroke, he used to teach at the Industrial Design department of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde School of Design and Arts.[4]


He has made exhibits of his work in Cebu Plaza,[5] University of Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Vermont, U.S..

Cultural Missions[edit]


Abueva is a member of the Ceramic Council of the Philippines; Rizal Center; International Institute of Arts and Letters (1959–61); Art Education Committee (1961); and the National Commission on Culture (1964–65). He was President of the Art Association of the Philippines (1965–66) and President of the Society of Philippine Sculpture (1967–68).


  • First Prize, Sculptural Exhibition by the Art Association of the Philippines (1951)
  • First Prize in the Fifth Annual Art Exhibition (1952)
  • First Prize and Special Award on the Fourth Sculptural Exhibition (1952)
  • Awardee, "The Unknown Political Prisoner" in the International Sculpture Competition by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1953)
  • First Prize and Special Award, Kaganapan (Marble), in the Semi-Annual Art Exhibition by the Art Association of the Philippines (1953)
  • First Prize, "Kiss of Judas" (Wood) in the Religious Art Exhibition in Detroit, Michigan, USA (1955)
  • Purchase Prize, "Water Buffalo" (Marble), in the Annual Show, at St. Louis, Missouri, USA (1956)
  • First Prize, "Figure" (Wood) in the Annual Show of the Art Association of the Philippines (1957)
  • Most Outstanding Alumnus of the School of Fine Arts, U.P. Golden Jubilee (1958)
  • Republic Award for Sculpture (1959)
  • Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) Awardee in Sculpture (1959)
  • Winner, U.P. Gateway Design Competition (1962)
  • Winner, Cultural Heritage Award (1966)
  • ASEAN Awards for Visual Arts in Bangkok (1987)
  • Fourth ASEAN Achievement Award for Visual Arts in Singapore (July 1995).


  1. ^ Napoleon Veloso-Abueva the first and only Boholano National Artist. The Bohol Times 25 January 2004.
  2. ^ "Teodoro V. Abueva - Obituary". New York Times. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Edson C. Tandoc Jr. Poe 'smiling' in death mask Philippine Daily Inquirer December 15, 2005.
  4. ^ The Maestro is in the House perspective Vol. 9 No. 11, November 12-November 25, 2007
  5. ^ CPH to inaugurate Abueva Lounge with solo exhibit by national artist Sun.Star Cebu October 22, 2002