UP Industrial Design students SEAN CORPUS and ANDREI ALY CHIO do a 3D scan of the Abueva masterpiece in UP Manila.

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The Celebration of Life, a sculpture by National Artist Napoleon Abueva, was commissioned by the UP College of Medicine Class of 74 as a gift to UP Manila. It was dedicated on the first of December, 2005 and the message at the base of the sculpture from the Class of 74 reads: “Through this legacy, we enjoin present and future generations of alumni to commit to the college ideals of science, culture, and empathy as we serve our country and our people.”

Dr. Rody Sy, professor emeritus of the UP College of Medicine and one of the members of the class of 74 says, “This artwork to me depicted several stages in life, depending on how you look at it or where you’d like to start. For me, I would like to start with the couple in love. It led eventually to the birth of the baby as shown by the woman holding up the baby upon birth. Eventually that led to several adult figures with outstretched arms, showing a joyful moment – maybe a celebration of a special occasion, or offering their services to their countrymen, or just
being thankful to the creator for being.”

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Abueva had made several sculptures on the Ecclesiastes which indubitably influenced how he approached Celebration of Life.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace
and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil?

I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.”



According to Amihan Abueva, the daughter of the sculptor, the different stages of life or the cycle of life – birth, the conception or lovemaking, marriage, the coming of age, and death are very frequent motifs in Abueva’s sculptures. The theme of the sculpture took on special significance in 2020, the year of the coronavirus pandemic. Dr Sy adds, “We must value life, we must also offer services to others so as we value lives, we see our medical front liners, doctors, nurses, hospital workers risking their lives to save lives of others, lives of patients who are suffering from Corona virus infection. So we must all
work together to save more lives.”



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Anne Kathleen Garcia, Nurse.

At the start of the pandemic, it was difficult to look for anything that would give you even just an ounce of hope. If i remember correctly, it was late May when we first saw a consistent decrease in the number of patients admitted with covid. We were able to send home multiple recovered patients each day. Seeing the smiles on their faces was uplifting. Knowing that they could finally be reunited with their families after such a long time in isolation really warmed my heart. Being able to do that, being a part of that process, gave me hope that eventually, one day, we will be able to send our last covid-recovered patient back to the comforts of his or her home, and I continue to look forward to that day.

I am proud of my fellow nurses. Despite not being recognized, not being properly compensated at times, and sadly, sometimes not even receiving the amount of respect that they deserve, they still remain true to the profession. They willingly make sacrifices.

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Dr. Maria Angelica Arada-Garcia, Ob-Gyn Chief Resident.

I have a very dear mentor, a friend of the family. I found out that she was rushed to the hospital, intubated, and diagnosed with severe Covid-19. And at that time, we knew only a miracle could save her.

We stormed the heavens with prayers and now thankfully, she is on the road to recovery. Though not fully back to her pre-Covid state, she is back to serving patients, serving the department, and the hospital. Indeed, life goes on for everyone.

These are extraordinary times and I can’t say when things will ever be back to normal but as doctors in the frontlines, we have to keep going and realizing that we are here with a purpose and hat purpose is to serve. And when we are able to deliver service to our patients efficiently, pandemic or no pandemic, there is that different kind of fulfillment on our part and the stronger desire to keep on doing what we do.

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Duarte Nover, Medical Technologist.

At first, what drove me was I simply wanted to finish a day’s work without contracting the virus.

But as the weeks and months passed, I saw some realities of the situation – where you see people trying their very best to work and earn for their families despite the harsh conditions they face; the frontliners, the doctors, nurses, medtechs and other paramedics, who sacrifice their own health and safety for the wellbeing of the patients they are taking care of. That’s what gives me hope. That’s what gives me cause to be optimistic. That’s my source of strength and what keeps me going. The desire of our people to move forward without leaving people behind.

On a personal note, I draw strength from my loved ones, especially my wife; knowing that a big part of what I do is not only for our future, but for our children’s as well.




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There are hardly any surviving sketches on paper for Napoleon Abueva’s sculptures because he usually drew his preliminary ideas on any piece of paper that was on hand, sometimes the back of receipts.Amihan Abueva says, “For Celebration of Life, there were no preliminary sketches. He prepared a small clay model of the sculpture as a base for the overall design. Unfortunately, we do not have a molded version of the clay study. The development of the actual clay model for the cement mold was made in only one to two weeks, which is very fast for a sculpture of this complexity.”


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Amihan Abueva, the sculptor’s daughter, recalls that there was a minor brouhaha about the exposed penis. Some college officials wanted it covered with the usual fig leaf, like the Oblation. Abueva says, “My father insisted that since this was a sculpture for the College of Medicine, it should be anatomically correct. He refused to budge, and so the sculpture was finally accepted and paid for eventually.”



Napoleon Abueva, U.P. College of Fine Arts Dean from 1978 to 1989.

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Tribute to the Filipino Entreprenuer, Virata Hall, UP Diliman.

Kiss of Judas, Gallery XIV, National Museum.

Double sided crucifix and altar, Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, U.P. Diliman.

The youngest to be named a National Artist, Napoleon Abueva is recognized as the father of modern Philippine sculpture. He was a master of both classical representational sculpture and modern abstract. Omnivorous in his choice of media, he worked with indigenous materials like molave, acacia, ipil, and kamagong; traditional media like marble, alabaster, and bronze; and modern resources like steel and concrete.

Abueva’s major works include Kaganapan (1953), Kiss of Judas (1955), Thirty Pieces of Silver, The Transfiguration (1979), Eternal Garden Memorial Park, UP Gateway (1967), Nine Muses (1994), UP Faculty Center, Sunburst (1994)-Peninsula Manila Hotel, the bronze figure of Teodoro M. Kalaw in front of the National Library, and murals in marble at the National Heroes Shrine, Mt. Samat, Bataan.

Napoleon Abueva.
Tribute to the Filipino Entrepreneur.
Kiss of Judas, Gallery XIV, National Museum of the Philippines.
Crucifix and altar, Church of the Holy Sacrifice.