Carlos V. Francisco was one of the greatest Filipino visual artists and muralists. He was posthumously recognized as a Philippine National Artist by the government in 1973. He was affectionately called "Botong" by his family and friends.
Francisco was born on November 4, 1914 in Angono, Rizal. His parents were Felipe Francisco and Maria Villaluz. His hometown featured prominently in his paintings and murals, and he commemorated many rural scenes and town folk in his composition.
Botong came from very humble beginnings. In the early years he struggled even to acquire canvases to paint on. Together with Galo Ocampo and Victorio C. Edades, he formed the first group of modernists in Philippine art called "The Triumvirate", which struggled to break free from the cliched traditionalism of realist art pioneered by Fernando Amorsolo.
He tried his hand at illustrating everything, even the lowly Pinoy komiks, illustrating the Tagalog classic Siete Infantes de Lara in 1948.
Francisco is known for his masterful landmark murals that were specially commissioned by Malacañang Palace, Manila City Hall, Philippine General Hospital, and Fort Santiago. In them he exhibited bold composition and daring juxtaposition of elements that showcased his mastery of anatomy and lush tropical color.
His masterpieces include "Fiesta" [mural] at Malacañang and its smaller study [Paulino and Hetty Que collection], "Code of Kalantiao" [private collection], "Blood Compact," "First Mass at Limasawa," "The Martyrdom of Rizal," "Magpupukot, Bayanihan sa Bukid," "Stations of the Cross" [Far Eastern University], "Sandugo," "The Invasion of Limahong," "Serenade," and "Muslim Betrothal."
Botong is also known for discovering the Angono Petroglyphs, which are considered the oldest prehistoric artwork. This paleolithic art consists of 127 human and animal figures that are estimated to date back to 3000 BC. Presidential Decree 260 was issued in 1996 and declared the petroglyphs a national cultural treasure. The National Museum established a museum on its site.
He was posthumously conferred the title National Artist of the Philippines in Visual Arts in 1973. He died on March 31, 1969, leaving a rich legacy and a new generation of followers. On November 4, 1975, the town of Angono, Rizal, held an exhibit titled "Gunita Kay Botong." The event became an annual institution and was widely followed to the point that Angono became the unofficial art capital of the Philippines.