Meet Me At The Corner Of Love And Art : A Negrense Love Story

When Love happens by way of Art, the resulting effect is a beautiful love story.  Art is something which is deeply ingrained in our family DNA simply because of the two individuals I have been blessed to know, and adore as parents.

I never really knew how my parents met until I was 17 years old.  I was in the UP College of Architecture when I had a classmate who said she also grew up in Bacolod, though I could not remember seeing her in the early years, given that Bacolod was a small town and that people would usually bump into each other in church or at birthday parties.

So that one time I visited Bacolod on a weekend in 1985, I asked my mother if she knew the Hernaez family, the last name of my classmate in UP Architecture. She quickly said without batting an eyelash, "Yes, and your classmate is the daughter of your Tita Manon Campos-Hernaez, the one who introduced me to your dad".

I was thinking to myself, "How small could the world be?".  So I tried to find out more about how my parents met and noticed one thing - all throughout their lives, the presence of artists, National Artists at that, was there all along.

The Order of National Artists in the Philippines first started as an award in 1972.  It then became an Order in 2003.  A good number of the people who were around my parents during their courtship days in the 1960s eventually became what we know today as National Artists.

My mother loved to write and journal things and having gone through her stuff after she passed away, I saw this note she made about meeting my late father in 1965.   She wrote, "Our first meeting was at the office of Robert Borja, where Manon Campos and I were working in his furniture business as interior designers.   That evening Manon and I went with Larry to see Billy Abueva's latest works in sculpture at his home in Diliman, Quezon City.  Also there were Jerry and Virgie Navarro, Robert Borja and of course, the host and hostess, Mr. & Mrs. Abueva".

My father, Larry Ramos Tronco, was an art professor at the University of Sto. Tomas in the late 1950s up to the end of the 1960s.  He was a professor by day but an ad agency creature by night.  Larry Tronco lived and breathed art.  He entered the UP School of Fine Arts in 1948 as part of the illustrious class of 1952 which included Pitoy Moreno, Larry Alcala, Juvenal Sanso, Celia Diaz-Laurel, to name a few.  He transferred to UST at the time the UP School of Fine Arts moved to Diliman, thinking back then that Diliman, Quezon City was too far.  While at the UST he was picked out to be a scholar of the Spanish government in the early 1950s to study in Spain together with two other National Artists in the making, Cesar Legaspi and Arturo Luz.  The three of them studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid.

Larry Tronco worked as one of those original advertising guys of the 1950s and 1960s

As it was, my parents both met at the house of Billy Abueva, who became the second National Artist for sculpture in 1976. At the time my parents met, Jerry Navarro (J. Elizalde Navarro) was present too.  Jerry Navarro eventually became a National Artist for painting in 1999.

Art was the invisible yet highly palpable bond between my mother, Joan Ramos, and my late father.  My mom was an interior designer who went to school at the New York School of Interior Design.  She was in New York at the same time Tita Manon was studying in Parsons School of Design.  That was after Tita Manon had studied under my dad at the University of Santo Tomas College of Fine Arts.

My mother, Joan Ramos Tronco and Tita Manon in the US

Side notes to my parents' love story include these : my mom's family name, Ramos, was also my dad's middle name.  Though both had come from Negros Island, the Ramos family of my mom which comes from Bacolod is hardly related to my dad's Ramos family of southern Negros (Kabankalan and Himamaylan). 

I viewed their courtship and love story as an interesting one.  On one side was the small town boy coming from Kabankalan, who was very practical in every sense, having seen World War II as a teenager and stood as an elder among his kin when they were orphaned at the onset of the war.

On the other side was this petite lady who grew up in a less stressful environment when compared side by side to my dad's hardships. My dad finished high school in Kabankalan, a small town 100 kilometers south of Bacolod, while my mom was schooled in Assumption in Herran St.  Both of them were from Negros.  Both had spent time studying abroad.  But destiny had led them to meet in the melting pot of Manila in 1965, through these serendipitous events with National Artists in the periphery.

They married in 1967 at the St. Peter and Paul Parish in Makati's Poblacion, lived nearby until 1975 and in that year, made a monumental move to relocate to Negros despite my dad's flourishing career in art and advertising in Manila.

Through the time they stayed in Negros, many other artist friends came by to see them in their abode.  UP Dean of Fine Arts Jose Joya came by Bacolod City and helped start the Art Association of Bacolod, of which Larry Tronco was one of its founders.  Billy Abueva came by to have a show in Silay, Cesar Legaspi stayed with us the two times he visited Bacolod, Malang came by, and my dad's "tukayo" and compadre, Larry Alcala, eventually settled in Bacolod.  National Artists all.

Billy Abueva, Jess Aiko, and  Larry Tronco

My parents' earthly union lasted for 18 years from 1967 until 1985 when my dad contracted amyloidosis, a rare disease which to date has no cure apart from treatment options focused on relieving symptoms and prolonging life.

All devoted to the love of her life,  Joan Ramos Tronco went on to live life as a widow in Bacolod for a good 29 years.  She was reunited in heaven with her love, Larry Tronco in the early morning of February 9, 2014, just in time to meet once again in the heavenlies on Valentine's Day.

I would not be surprised if up in heaven, the lovebirds I have been blessed with to know as parents, were surrounded by all the National Artist friends who had also passed on.

The writer, Lloyd Tronco, is an Artist, Writer, Entrepreneur and Designer.  He is a Negrense based in Metro Manila.

Design and Architecture

Cultural Experience

Art and Craft