Creating beauty for others: IP Santos’ work philosophy
A landscape designer's account on his mentor and design hero IP Santos, the Father of Modern Philippine Landscape Architecture
September 5, 2019
Written by Hawk Caro
Photographed by Ron Mendoza
Warm wishes to IP Santos and his family on his 90th birthday.
“Nung bata ako, naka-paa ako lagi pagpasok sa eskwelahan. Wala kaming pambili noon ng tsinelas o sapatos.”
More often than not, these were the words Sir IP would tell me in his office, just before or after he checked my work. Sir IP would also tell me that growing up, he owned just one real toy, a wooden car, that he played with only on special occasions. He managed to hold on to the car after all these years, and it now sits proudly on a side table in his home.
Sir IP’s father, Ildefonso Santos, Sr., was a poet and teacher of meager means. And although his mother was of the wealthy Paez clan of Malabon, they were against the relationship and disowned her when she married Ildefonso Senior. Sir IP was very proud of his parents, and often spoke about how his father, the romantic, was also a disciplinarian; and how his highborn mother would sell pan de sal, among other things, to augment her husband’s income.
Both parents taught him to have a sense of pride and direction in life. Thus, I can see why he was very aggressive in the profession, especially when IPSA was at its peak. I remember he even noticed a ‘Phase 01’ label on a drawing note and wanted it to be changed to ‘Phase 1.’ Sir IP always wanted things just so. It was many little things like this that sharpened my eye for detail. He made me realize that in landscapes, as in architecture, a variance of as little as an inch can make a difference in the overall feel of the space.
Training under a good mentor would be fantastic for any aspiring designer, but learning from a National Artist is a privilege that few enjoy. Why is IP my hero? Many artists create beauty for their own pleasure, but Sir IP, the Father of Modern Philippine Landscape Architecture, created beauty for others. He said:
“A beautiful environment is necessary if only to buoy sagging spirits and offer hope for the future. The alternative is to invite irreparable destruction of mind and spirit and a complete loss of morale. …Ugliness and discord of any sort …create tension and leave an uncontrollable depressing effect on an individual, usually without his being aware of it. This is why I feel that it is so important to surround people with beauty.”
It’s a sentiment and work philosophy that Sir IP has frequently tried to impress upon us younger landscape architects, and one that I sincerely hope I will hold onto until the end of my days.
IP Santos, National Artist for Architecture (conferred 2006), studied at the University of Santo Tomas and the University of South California. His landscape architectural firm, Ildefonso P. Santos + Associates, was established in 1963. He was instrumental in the creation of the Board of Landscape Architecture at the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). His landscape architect registration number at the PRC is 0000001.