Federico Aguilar Alcuaz was born in Manila and trained as a lawyer, graduating in 1955, but in 1949 he started attending painting classes at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts under Fernando Amorsolo. His talent was soon recognised with prizes and his success in the arts led to his being offered a painting scholarship in Spain in 1955. In 1956 he moved to Barcelona joining the La Punalada Group – of which Anton Tapies was the most famous member – and it was at this time that he started signing his paintings with Aguilar Alcuaz to distinguish himself from two other Aguilars who were also members of the Punalada Group.
His style developed from a traditional Filippino conservative school towards greater abstraction, but he remained a master of figurative as well as abstract art. Aguilar had a string of solo exhibitions in Manila from 1953-55 and then regular one-man shows in Spain from the 1950s-1970s. He exhibited extensively internationally, including in France, Germany and the United States. In 2009 he was conferred the title of National Artist in the Philippines, one of a select band.