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In this season of National Artists, we at Holy Angel University would have wasted no time in nominating Vicente Alvarez Dizon to the nation’s highest honor for artists, like we nominated last year the eminent architect and fellow Kapampangan Jose Maria Velez Zaragoza. Except, of course, that Vicente Alvarez Dizon had died in 1947, long before the Order of National Artists was instituted in 1972.

The first National Artist for Painting that year was his friend Fernando Amorsolo. Vicente Alvarez Dizon would have richly deserved it, too, not only for the excellence of his art but also for his patriotism and the value of his legacy. If Amorsolo won first place at the New York’s World Fair in April 1939, Dizon also won first place at the San Francisco Golden Gate Exposition three months earlier, in February 1939, exactly 75 years ago this month. He bested no less than the surrealist painter Salvador Dali of Spain.

Dizon travelled to different provinces promoting art education in public schools. He actually pioneered the teaching of art education in the Philippines after realizing that although there were a lot of great Filipino artists, there weren’t enough Filipinos who knew how to appreciate art. He helped preserve our cultural heritage by researching and painting indigenous costumes. As an innovator, Dizon introduced the art of finger painting. He became the first Filipino elected to Yale’s exclusive fraternity of artists called Phi Alpha; the first Filipino artist invited to become a member of the National Geographic Society of America; and the first Filipino to become a member of the American Museum of National History. A man of many talents, he was also a museum administrator and a musician. He even won first place in a contest among players of musical instruments on NBC Radio in the United States.

He would have accomplished so much more but Vicente Alvarez Dizon died after World War II here in Angeles, at age 42. Why his accomplishments and legacies remain obscure is one of the things that continue to baffle us, because other artists of lesser talent have become more famous and indeed, richer. We are happy that his son, Tatang Dan Dizon, and his daughter, Atsing Josie Henson, two accomplished artists themselves, have continued to hold the torch for their father. We Kapampangans owe it to Vicente Alvarez Dizon to let the whole country, and the world, know how great an artist he was. The book we are launching today is Atsing Josie’s loving tribute to her father, and a modest contribution to that effort. To our guests and especially our local artists, welcome to Holy Angel.

Date Posted: 02-10-2014