Writer and painter Lydia Villanueva Arguilla (b. 1914) is known as the founder of one of the first galleries of modern art in the Philippines.
A short story writer, her husband Manuel taught creative writing at a university and later managed the publications of the Bureau of Public Welfare. Lydia, who took up Journalism at University of the Philippines, worked as a copyreader and then as an editor, when she earned three times the income of her husband. The couple co-authored the book, Philippine Tales and Fables.
When the war broke out, the Arguillas joined Marking’s Guerillas and formed an underground intelligence unit against the Japanese. Lydia began as a lieutenant and then became a major. She was also left a widow when Manuel was killed by the Kempeitai at Fort Santiago in October 1944.
Lydia worked for the City Planning Commission at the end of the war. Later, a Roosevelt Leadership Grant enabled her to take up public relations and city planning, as well as creative writing courses, at Columbia University. When she came home, Lydia and other writer-friends—Estrella Alfon, Flora Lansang, Trinidad Tarosa Subido, and Consuelo Abaya—opened an advertising and promotions agency called Promotions, Incorporated. They hung modern paintings on the walls of their office. And so sometime in 1950, in Room 320 of Palomo building on Azcarraga Street in Manila, the Philippine Art Gallery (PAG) was born.