Provenance: : Acquired directly from the artist

Exhibited: : Solo exhibit, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Philippine Village Gallery, 1975


THE MACASAET ANITA MAGSAYSAY-HO, AN ANITA OWNED BY DESTINY by LISA GUERRERO NAKPIL Some paintings are simply destined for their owners. Such was the case for the magnificent Fish Vendors for Dr. Roberto Macasaet and his wife Teresita from the Javellana-Montinola clan. To hear Dr. Macasaet tell it, his wife fondly known as “Tita” was just an ordinary housewife who liked to keep herself busy with charity work. She had, however, one wish : to have her own Anita Magsaysay-Ho. In 1975, the couple eagerly went to her latest exhibit at the Philippine Village Hotel near Nayong Pilipino only to discover that there was just a single painting left to buy. Mrs. Macasaet promptly fell in love with it nevertheless. Dr. Macasaet, a prominent surgeon who had trained in New York, found himself reaching for his checkbook. “We paid a princely sum for it even in those days but the look on my wife’s face was just priceless!,” he recalled. It would have pride of place in their home thereafter, not surprisingly because Anita’s works chronicling the lives of the simple Filipinas resonates with every woman. “In my works, I always celebrate the women of the Philippines. I regard them with deep admiration and they continue to inspire me — their movements and gestures, their expressions of happiness and frustrations; their diligence and shortcomings; their joy of living. I know very well the strength, hard work and quiet dignity of Philippine women... for after all, I am one of them.” — ANITA MAGSAYSAY-HO, Anita Magsaysay-Ho: In Praise of Women Fish Vendors is a work from the rare series first created in 1975 that introduces a single bare-headed woman among Magsaysay-Ho’s recognizable bevy of females wearing kerchiefs over their hair. It’s an interesting twist that transports the viewer directly into the scene, seemingly as a participant. Here, three fish vendors attend to the housewife : One holds up a silver-colored fish, as if extolling its virtues; another sits, her broad, flat basket (or bilao) triumphantly empty from the morning’s trading. Two fish sit on the traditional wrapping of crumpled newspaper while another, so fresh it is probably still alive, tumbles out. They are the housefrau’s purchases, and she readies small bills to pay for the catch. It’s a lovely scene to be found across the Philippines, women up in the early morning to do the day’s marketing opposite the women who work to provide those families’ meals. Anita would always say that she had a soft spot for vendors, starting from the days “when the Luneta was just across the street from our Spanish-style house.” From its windows, she would espy “many small carts selling different kinds of snacks for merienda.” But it would be marketplaces that would ignite her imagination. “I enjoy markets wherever these may be — Quiapo, Paco, Pasig, Subic, or HongKong,” she would declare. “You see so many interesting types of people and scenes in the market. It’s a very dynamic place. I get many ideas from the marketplaces and I have a lot of admiration for the hardworking market vendors.” By 1975 when this piece was painted, Anita Magsaysay-Ho was the most famous woman artist in the country. She had been the first Filipina to win first prize at the influential annual competition of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP). Regarded as an important bellwether of the best of the nation’s talent, it was the 5th outing of the organization. Anita’s win for The Cooks caused a sensation and there were public spats in the newspapers to gain possession of it. (With utter serendipity, it was won by a wealthy market vendor from Divisoria.) Magsaysay-Ho would consistently place in the AAP’s contests, ranking alongside Vicente Manansala, Fernando Zóbel, Arturo Luz and José Joya in different years; but it was not until 1960 that she would reprise her win, this time for the artwork Two Women. In her youth, Anita was a graduate of the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts but went on to the Art Students League in New York and at the avant-garde Cranbrook Academy of Art. Art critic Cid Reyes would quote her as saying that she was influenced by the series of works led by The Harvesters by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depicting the lives of farmers in the countryside. One of his most famous paintings happened to be on loan to Cranbrook during her term there. For Magsaysay-Ho, the honesty and authenticity of women at work is what characterized them as truly Filipino. It was a means for her to communicate that distinct character of our people, qualities that also make her artworks unlike any other. She would be considered one of the Thirteen Moderns; and Magsaysay-Ho would join the Neo-Realists' second exhibition at the Philippine Art Gallery on Taft Avenue in 1951. Anita would then have her solo shows at the PAG when it moved to Arquiza Street corner M.H. del Pilar and is, past and present, a pillar of Filipino artistry.