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Last evening, Philippine ambassador Romeo Arguelles opened an art exhibition in the embassy. Held in conjunction with the celebration of the republic’s Independence Day, the exhibition features the oil paintings of Pablo Javier. “I am very proud to be giving this one-man show of my Western-style paintings,” Javier said. “And I am very grateful to the ambassador for so much help to me.”

Pablo Javier

Javier comes from a small town, Liang, in Bulacan Province. No one else in his large family aspired to art. “We were an ordinary family,” Javier said. “My father was a small businessman. I have eight brothers and sisters, and they have all done quite well.” In elementary school, he showed an extraordinary talent for drawing. “From that time I wanted to become a famous artist,” he said.

He entered the College of Fine Arts, University of Santo Tomas, which was not at that time hard to do. That was in the early 1950s. He took a first honors degree in fine arts, and received from the Art Association of the Philippines a gold medal for the “best art student of 1954.” He learned of two scholarship possibilities, one in Japan and one in Spain. “I applied for the Japanese Ministry of Education scholarship because it offered the longer stay of the two,” he said. He came to Tokyo and entered a Japanese-language course at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

Javier lived in a student dormitory, and gradually accustomed himself to Japanese habits and customs. “At first I was not able to cope with the weather,” he said, laughing at the memory of the shock of winter for someone from the tropics. “But gradually everything came out all right.” After one year of language instruction, and still with “not enough language,” he entered the postgraduate course in painting at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. “I was very happy,” he said. “That was probably the happiest time of my life in Japan.” Socially he was successful, and made many friends. He joined a Filipino association, which looked to him as one of its leaders. “At the university I had a very, very good professor, one of the greatest, one of Japan’s most renowned Western-style artists, Ryohei Koiso.” He met and married his wife, from Yamanashi Prefecture. In 1958 Javier achieved a master’s degree in painting.

“After that, my art was off and on,” Javier said. “It was divided, because for the next 17 years I was working for the Philippine mission in Tokyo. I served under many ambassadors and many presidents. To be a professional artist is hard. You need people behind you.”

In 1965 he held two one-man exhibitions. One was at the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, the other at the Philippine Art Gallery in Manila. In the following year he exhibited under the auspices of the Art Association of the Philippines. During the period of his being a government servant, he participated in several group exhibitions in the Philippines and Japan. True to his love of Western-style painting, he visited Europe to tour famous galleries and gaze at the works of the old masters.

“I am fond of painting landscapes and still life,” Javier said. “I paint portraits too.” At the embassy he was asked to paint several portraits, including the likenesses of every president of the Philippines. This series hangs in the embassy, a lasting tribute to Javier and his skill.

From work for the government, Javier moved to managerial employment with Japanese companies until 1987. “For 14 years now, I have been art instructor at the Aoba-Japan International School,” he said. “This school has grown very big, and has won the recognition of the international community. Many of its graduates go on to art schools in the U.S. The founder of the school, Regina Doi, has done a lot to promote me. I am giving this public exhibition and sale at the embassy every day through next Tuesday. Part of the proceeds will go to the Umbrella Organization, that helps Filipinos in need.”

This year Javier retires. He and his wife will be going to live in Manila. “We are sad to leave our two daughters here, but that is part of life, and we will be coming often to Japan,” he said. “I will be able to give more time to my art, and I look forward to that.”