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A Filipino sculptor carves chess pieces inspired by Jose Rizal’s novels

A Filipino sculptor carves chess pieces inspired by Jose Rizal’s novels


Rolando Magboo sculpted chess pieces in the form of historical figures and characters from novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo such as Jose Rizal as the king, Maria Clara as the queen, Padre Damaso as the bishop, Antonio Luna as the knight, guardia civil as the pawn, and Ilocos Sur’s Paoay church bell tower as the rook.

From his home-based workshop in Marikina, Magboo started creating these historical chess pieces and his other sculptures to sustain the needs of his family. His interest in sculpting can be drawn back to when he started making small Christmas collectibles as a freelancer in a company twenty years ago.  Until then, Magboo thought of producing his own design and selling it on his own terms. 

Ronaldo Magboo, chess pieces
Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo characters-inspired chess set. Photo courtesy of Ronaldo Magboo
Ronaldo Magboo, chess pieces
Photo courtesy of Ronaldo Magboo

The historic novel-inspired chess set was something Magboo planned on creating. “Gusto ko lang gawing makatotohanan ’yong historical figures sa pamamagitan ng chess pieces,” Magboo said in an interview with

When Magboo noticed that it was something his customers often order, he started sculpting more pieces. The molding and designing processes last for a week, finishing all 32 chess pieces for a set of orders. 

Although hailing from a family whose general interests are inclined with artistry, Magboo was the only one who pursued his passion for sculpting.

Ang nanay ko ay mahilig sa embroidery noon, pati ang mga lolo at lola ko. ‘Yung mga kapatid ko naman noon ay mahilig sa drawing kaya sila ‘yung sinusundan ko nung bata pa kami, ‘yun nga lang iba na ‘yung pinursue nila ngayon,” he said.

Recently, some art gallery exhibitors are inviting him to showcase his creations but it was a challenge to Magboo to manage everything because he was mostly the only one working with his sculptures. However, his wife, Joy Magboo, also helps him in painting all finished sculptures, making it more lively with colors. 

Aside from the chess pieces, Magboo also creates customized wood carvings and church patrons and saints sculptures.

A set of novel-inspired chess costs P15,000 and it can be ordered directly from Magboo himself on Facebook. 




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ART LEVENSPEIL SANGALANG © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.