‘Arco de Emperador’ forever imprints Filipino victory over adversity
By CHRISTINA ALPAD, TMT
Sculptural works are proven to endure elements and to last — cliché as it may sound — a lifetime. As such, sculpture is a favorite expression of religion or political persuasion since the earliest known civilizations.
From three-dimensional works come more imposing sculptures such as monuments or triumphal arcs that commemorate monumental events. In this regard, the Arch of Titus in Rome, which honors Roman Emperor Titus’ victories including the Siege of Jerusalem; and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, which commemorate those who fought and died for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, easily come to mind.
However, sculptures — monuments or triumphal arcs, for that matter — are not limited to historical events or people.
A unique masterpiece
But there was a catch.
Renowned Spanish sculptor Gines Serran Pagan
“The concept of this kind of project in Europe is a historical figure. But the one that Dr. Andrew Tan wanted and what we eventually have here, is not about any historical figure, any specific hero or leader, it is about a concept,” Pagan said in an interview at the arc’s unveiling.
First designed in 2013, Pagan eventually had to travel around Europe and visit famed arcs in London, Madrid, Berlin, Rome and even St. Petersburg in Russia, to develop a unique arc that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.
Pagan then revealed how he processed Dr. Tan’s idea and to eventually come up with the inspiration for Arco de Emperador’s final look.
“Dr. Tan’s concept is that anyone can be an emperor or a hero. With a lot of hard work, perseverance and dedication, anyone can reach his or her dreams.
“That’s not all. To do that, you have to be prepared for a journey, and in that journey, you have to go from the ordinary world that we live in to a world that is full of obstacles and difficulties. But if you believe in yourself and you work very hard, you become a hero.
The 19-meter tall ‘Arco de Emperador’ of Megaworld’s township Arcovia City in Pasig highlights the Filipinos’ potential for greatness and success. (Top photo) Leading the monument’s launch on February 12 were Megaworld EVP and Chief Strategy Officer Kevin Tan, artist Gines Serran-Pagan and Megaworld Resort Estates President William Co. PHOTOS BY DJ DIOSINA
“And then, what happens when you become a hero, when you have the victory? You don’t stay in that world, you come back. And in that return, you tell the people what happened, you celebrate, you with no arrogance, you show the world how you overcome all the difficulties.
“You want to be an inspiration to future generations, you want to be a sample to the society. These are the concepts that make the hero that we can now see in Arco de Emperador.”
Quadriga with three horses
Just as interesting to learn was how Arco de Emperador came to be and how unique it is.
First, a quadriga — a familiar image in ancient times — is a car or chariot drawn by four horses abreast.
“This is the only quadriga in the world that has no four horses. It has only three,” Pagan said laughingly.
As it turned out, it was Dr. Tan’s specific request to reduce the number to three. As a Chinese, Tan follows their belief that four means death, a bad luck.
“The option was to have three or five horses instead. But five horses were extremely big for a pedestal. However, an emperor with three horses was a poor emperor so we couldn’t have three or five,” Pagan recalled.
For compromise, Pagan suggested adding two animals to protect and guide the emperor’s quadriga, hence, the addition of the two lions.
The actual work on the bronze sculpture began in 2015 and ended a year after. However, the last pieces — the two golden angels — were only completed late last year and installed a few days before the unveiling.
Explaining the seemingly last-minute idea of the angels, Pagan said, “When we finished them, we realized that since the arc is over 12 meters high excluding the base, when looking up form the ground, the gap between the lions and the horses was too big. Hence, you can only see the belly of the horses. The gap bothered us so I suggested to have two angels to cover that gap.”
Not only an afterthought, the angels were made to look like they were celebrating — in a very angelic way complete with trumpets — the victory of the emperor. With these angels, the story concept was completed.
“Also, I thought of using angels to pay homage to the religion and belief of Filipinos. I want to make them beautiful so I used the rococo movement [relating to an artistic style especially of the 18th century characterized by fanciful curved asymmetrical forms and elaborate ornamentation] to come up with sculptures with transparencies.
“So there’s transparency in the angels’ clothes to make them beautiful and because I want to make them unique, I covered them in gold.”
Pagan proudly noted that the two angels, which are made of bronze, have three layers of pure 24-karat gold.
Finally, Pagan d the anecdote of the central character in his masterpiece — the emperor.
“In the beginning I sculpted the emperor with Trajan, one of the most successful emperors, in mind. So I modified his face but copied his clothes and the position that he used to appear in when he came from his battles.
“When I finished the model in clay and when I was to do the bronze casting, I showed it to Dr. Tan and he said, ‘In the Philippines, emperador has become a familiar figure. And since our market is Philippines, would it be possible to do the emperador in Filipino face?’ Of course, I agreed.”
To make it even more unique, Pagan worked on a mix of characters from Jose Rizal, Manuel Quezon, Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo, among others.
“You have the control and the harmony of a leader on the emperor’s face. Then you have animals jumping and showing the passion and the instinct of the animal world. Finally, you have two angelical figures that soften the whole sculpture,” Pagan finally and proudly noted.
Potential for greatness and success
“The Arco de Emperadoer delivers the message of how hard work, passion and perseverance can create a self-made, successful man,” the executive d during the grand unveiling of the arco.
“This monument is very close to our hearts, especially to our family because this brings out story of how my father, Dr. Andrew Tan, started and eventually became a self-made man himself,” the executive finally noted.