Vision Petron: Fifteen Artists for the First Fifteen


It’s that intangible quality in a painting, a quality so distinct, so unique that onlookers would say, ‘Now that’s a Filipino painting!’

Arturo Luz, 1953

A recent study conducted by the University of Oxford concluded that it is neither class nor status that makes one an artist. Rather it is in the manner one is educated that inspires him; how conducive his community influences him that enables his thoughts and feelings expressed on canvas or paper and create value in art. 
When Vision Petron National Student Art Competition (formerly called ArtPetron) was conceptualized 15 years ago, its sole desire was to inspire the next generation of painters to hone their art, excel and n the process, rediscover and appreciate Filipino culture, the long-time advocacy of Petron. While other existing art contests catered only to fine arts students, Vision Petron opened the opportunity to all college students and those enrolled in a museum-based art classes believing that creativity is not exclusively confined in artist studios and the academe. Petron thus positioned itself as an art patron of the talented youth.

In the course of running the contest we have been witness to some young artists who have shown promise at the onset of their soon-to-be flourishing careers. Here are fifteen of our best painters who we had the privileged of seeing them break their first light in art.    

El Viaje Familoia by John Paul Antido

John Paul Antido is a hall famer having won in 2002 and 2005. A member of Antipolo-based Sanviaje Japs has a peculiar style of painting which is done by impasto technique laying thick paint with finite textured brushstrokes using vivid colors with light hues. With five solo exhibitions travelling has been his constant theme. He has also done illustrations for a children’s book and lately he has dabbled photographer where portraiture is his forte. His paintings were recently featured in a children’s book.


Manwal by Robert Besana
One of our first grandprize winner in 2001, Besana has always investigated the contemporary possibilities of materiality and perception. His winning work Manwal makes the viewers rotate their gaze as he captures children play a game of slippers giving this a unique perspective. He is now a director at the School of Multi-Media Arts at the Asia Pacific College where he is respected and has proven the best teachers of art are those that actively practice it.

Multi-media preoccupies Buenconsejo’s work while employing his deep foundation for photography where he was first recognized being first hall of fame in this category. He has won the Ateneo Art Awards two consecutive years and has done residencies in Visual Arts Center in La Trobe University in Australia. His art was shown in his solo exhibitions such as Unending Void, Destination Unknown, and Reality is a Hologram is infused with his inquiries on science. Sometimes to question is enough response. 
Children of the Fields by Charles Buenconsejo

 JOEY COBCOBO (b.1983)
The call of the indigenous is intrinsic to Cobcobo who come from a lineage of Ifugao wood carvers in the north. He has rediscovered his technique by employing a multiple layer of images done thou various media done in heavily indented prints. His subject matter pays homage of his tribal roots to the personal relationships we Filipinos value like our elderly and families. A CCP 13 Artists Awardee he now teaches in his alma mater Technological University of the Philippines.

                                                                   MARK ANDY GARCIA (b.1984)
Punong Puno ng Pag-ibig by Mark Andy Garcia
A graduate of Technological University of the Philippines, Mark Andy Garcia has won three runners up and a grand prize win. A recent CCP 13 Artists Awardee for 2015, he won grandprize in Metrobank Art and Design Excellence in 2007 and Juror’s Choice Award of Excellence for Philip Morris in 2008. Garcia paints autobiographical works bordering on his personal tragedies and joys despite the ruggedness and the raw texture of his works Garcia remains optimistic in his process, a kind of salvation Garcia wants us all to have.

What make Vision Petron unique is it is open also to students of museum-based painting classes where we discovered homegrown talents like Florentino Jun Impas. One of Cebu’s most sought after artist. He is also portraitist of choice of cardinals, bishops and has even been invited to the Vatican for a sit down with the religious there. Impas has done the official portrait of St. Lorenzo Ruiz of what we all are familiar with. He had significant solo exhibitions at the SM Art Center in 2009- “Portraits and Figures” and 2011- “Circle of Life”, Metropolitan Museum of Manila and 2014- “Kalendaryo Festival”, SM Art Center, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City. This year he participated in painting Art and Anthropology at the Chicago Field Museum Mural Painting “Art ad Antropology” in the United States of America.
Salon is a hall of famer having won in 2005 and 2010. Mark by his own realism and monotone palette, Salon is old school with his palette focusing on children and their plight and welfare. He has had solo exhibitions at the SM Art Center, Nineveh Art space and Singapore. He won in Sining PSE National Art Competition and the Miguel Malvar National Art Competition.
Balwarte ni Lolo, Aming Munting Kastilyo by Mark Salvatus
Even when he joined ArtPetron and submitting wall bound paintings, Salvatus was always one step ahead of his contemporaries. For his winning piece in ArtPetron 2 he used red car paint Salvatus won the most white he etched with a white primary base his figures to come up with a toned down but still celebratory image of the Pahiyas from his hometown in Lucban. Always on the experiment for new technologies to debunk old myths found in history or even memory, he now and then gets to be invited in biennales and residencies while keeping his focus on his contemporary practice here. A product of UST Fine Arts where he taught for a time, Salvatus is a CCP 13 Artists Awardee and runs his art collective 98B virtually or wherever he is. 
Sanchez is proof that someone so technical can be the most artistic. Sanchez took up architecture at the Technological Institute of the Philippines. Mirrors have always fascinated Sanchez in fact his pieces are meticulously done by etching selected magazine images to reflect his art on the mirror. Based in the art town of two national artists, Sanchez has exhibited in local galleries and his artworks have participated in the auction houses in Hong Kong and Singapore. He won the Grand prize Philip Morris Philippine Art Awards 2013.
Market in Motion by Paul Quiambao
 CJ DE SILVA-ONG (b. 1987)
De Silva-Ong is a graduate of UP Diliman College of Fine Arts and award winning creative director at TBWA\Digital Arts Network. Right after graduating, she handling brands where she has been recognized in local and international shows: she has won in AdFest, Spikes Asia, One Show, D&AD and is part of the team that bagged the country's first Webby.

CJ is also a well-known painter. Versatile in her own illustration, her book covers for Sen Miriam Santiago “Stupid is Forever” have recently been lauded.

Ober Ober by Orley Ypon
Social realism served its artistic purpose the turbulent times during Martial Law. With its strong political content the movement’s aesthetics revolves around anatomies of people as allegories to the dark perils of our country. Jeresano is a proud heir to social realism as his images speak of  our emancipation as a nation. He has won other major art competition and had solo exhibitions locally and abroad. 
RAFFY NAPAY (b. 1986)
From two-dimensional works, EARIST graduate Napay shifted into threads and fabrics into his canvases. Often dealing with his personal life, he stitches, tufts and weaves stories from memory. He has won in Metrobank Arts and Design Excellence, Ateneo Art Awards 2013. He had artist residencies in Artesan Gallery and Studio in Singapore in 2013 and Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool United Kingdom last year. He just attended the Florence Biennale in Italy. 
JAMES ONA (b. 1986)
Tulay ng Kalakalan at Hanap Buhay by James Ona
Despite the surplus of the DSLR cameras it takes an amount of time and dedication for a master lensman to emerge. Trained as a photojournalist in his alma mater PUP Manila, Ona would eventually cover more important events for his corporate clients. He does art photography for Studio 5 Designs coffee table book projects. He continues to work and teach for PUP Manila.

There are only three photographers in this list Quiambao is the one who seeks to elevate photography the most into an art form it rightfully deserves. School spirit runs deep for him UST in particular where he graduated with a degree in architecture. With his loyalty and perseverance Quiambao has been bestowed as UST’s quadricentennial photographer during its celebration in 2011. Motion and depth best describe his images. Remote islands has of late fascinated him most specially Batanes which he has visited many times over and he has photographed extensively.

ORLEY YPON (b.1973)
When Ypon won in the first ArtPetron in 2001 National Artist Napoleon Abueva commented that “he has Amorsolo’s light.” Based in Cebu, Orley is one of ArtPetron’s first grand prize winners and our first hall of famer for painting. A self-taught artist, realism has been Ypon’s trademark having been influenced by the master Martin Abellana. He has had an art residency last year at the Artist Renewal Center in New York. Our first hall of famer in Painting Ypon has come full circle as was our judge in the recent and previous Vision Petron. His first solo exhibition Bidlisiw (
-->sunrise) at the Altro Mondo Gallery is still ongoing. 


Jared Yokte: Art In the Era of the One Percent



(Last of Three parts)

Some 60 illustrations representing Hayop are situated as walls in a frame by frame presentation greets the viewer. A recurring scene for Yokte who has lived in vibrant cultural cities of Davao, Vigan and now based in Tarlac. An allegory of the archrivals dogs and cats, Yokte often witnesses the fight between them. How the dog would and could defeat the cat as many ways as to skin it. How the dog always wins not by the show of force but by outsmarting it. Done in firm impressionist inkblots these sketches documents for Yokte certain outdoor behavior and inherent character of each domestic creature. Only artists like Yokte can see beauty in the ordinary squabble as such. Painters Ang Kiukok, Danny Dalena, and Onib Olmedo have immortalized daily occurrence as such dogs and cats before him.

In his book Art Power (2009) art critic Boris Groys presents that art either as commodity in the art market or as a political tool for the realization of a vision for the people. Much of what are is produced today is for the galleries and commission-based auction. Not many are producing artworks for the maturity of our consciousness, or expressions of our dreams and aspirations.

Yokte applies his realist language to an installation work Those Leading a happy Life and Those Fighting a Battle to Survive Have Many Things in Common, some 120 figurines are cast in resin. In whatever situation or class you are in life, everyone is fighting their own some kind of battle. As humans we are expected to be kinder than necessary. Showing how humanity can be configured added to the visual impact of the multitude in the curation is commendable.    

Groys defines new Realism as reality as the sum of necessitates and constraints that do not allow us to do what we would like to do or to live as we would like to live. Art manifests what is often lacking in society. Compared to other community of artists who practiced outside Manila like Angono, Bulacan, Iloilo, and Cebu, to be an artist in Tarlac is doubly discriminated by the lack of government support for the arts and the need for private initiatives for legitimate arts paces to showcase art.

Bukal is a kind of revenge against all these mundane circumstances surrounding these artists. Herrera, Ramos and Yokte are stating their artistic claim to survive for other fellow Tarlac artists and the belief that there is such a person. As Bukal presents what is lacking or not normally found in the current contemporary art scene, their art may not match your décor in your living room. They disturb your peace and enable you to appreciate art on a higher social context.

So the next time you come to Tarlac you will stay a little longer. 


Fernando Ramos: As Ethereal as Painting


Tall Tarlac Tales: Recent Works of Herrera, Ramos and Yokte

(Second of Three Parts)

Mind Disaster
Fernando Ramos has dealt with his everyday musings in the most ethereal manner. Through his visual style as evident in these recent works, he skims through various stories applying appropriate metaphors in them.   
Done in vertical monolith they are equally divided into two parts. The upper portion the materiality dictates whatever mood Ramos is in depending on what he perceives. Ramos believes artists were blessed with talents as they have a responsibility to perform in society. Facilitating texture he uses palette knife and rodela enabling every stroke as different like the different days where Ramos worked on his pieces. These pieces appear to be more durable, almost rendered in a dream that only Ramos can comprehend their symbolical meanings; combining figurative with his abstraction.

His paintings are also sensuous variations of collective narratives, memories and dreams. Veering to the contemplative, each color contemplates on hindrances and trials. The fascination in metal-like ground and surface in his works is evident, rusted and stained in time. It is metaphorical depiction of this world we live in is paralleled to a slowly decaying, human body that is deteriorating and will turn back into nature’s dust--our ashes.
Her Music Lives On

Her Music Lives On Series are tributes to a departed mother, musician, artist and  friend. Though her life ended, she still remains to be an inspiration among people who shared her life with. Her existence is a symbolical representation of freedom, happiness and beauty. The combination of flower petals, piano keys, umbrella, sunrise and her silhouette narrates who she is. Her music lives on as her spirit continued to guiding Ramos of becoming a great person and artist.

Similar to Herrera, Ramos favors using that circular motion going on and depending on it could mean often equated with the ongoing struggle as an artist. Ramos often uses that circular motion going on which could represent the and depending on it could mean often equated with. Ramos themes run through the autobiographical and the social repercussions marked by constant interaction with people he interacts.

A Ramos canvas usually starts with dots, endless point by point rendition displaying persistence and insistence of something must be done. The swirling circular lines with modeling paste with course. Then color form figure. Ramos strength is his being a colorist often associating them with the emotions of his subjects. Staples are red, oranges, metallic gold and silver.

Cyber Magdalene Series is a black and white depiction of a new trending way of life among prostitutes. It’s the women's anatomy that spoils man's eye as they sell their naked bodies online a picture of immorality and moral degradation among women making this easy money making job.   

An old favorite theme of Ramos is clowns as in The Entertainer Series. These are portraits of a woman who chose to be an entertainer like a clown that is capable of playing one's emotion. Imparting short moment of happiness to people and sometimes selling their own flesh in exchange of money, behind those smiles concealed the loneliness they felt inside their heart. Some people consider them scented rags as plague of society--sharing their addictive beauty among men who are teased by their smell like a wild flower.

Always the hopeful as seen in the silver aluminum strings, Ramos believes in second chances and that we should make do of what we have before everything is gone. The Last String Series are about man's loneliest days spent with his strings. His chords longs for serendipity. A narrative of love and despair, music is played though there is coldness of his voice whispered in the inevitable. Though his last strings he is saving his high hopes that one day will find another reason to love and stay.

Starting with a study or a just a sketch Ramos builds up rhythm like a seasoned jazz player, he improvises yet digs in deeper, straining his modeling paste-in-sand combination. He then fixes silver or gold adding glow to the under paint most likely after he stains the metal layer of his composition. The hardest part is the layering and coursing with texture.

Whether he renders realist strokes or veers into abstraction transparency of forms and solidity of shapes define the quintessential Ramos. Often employing rhythm and harmony in texture his dimensions draws a thin line in between softness and harshness of rendition yet they carefully controlled and it varies in a certain points to another simply not because they are nice to look at but because they are conceived to do so.   
Burn Out Series
Burn out Series is a combination of rusty and golden color. Our naïve minds become filthy because of constant exposure to struggles in life. No matter how brilliant we are we have our limitations. These series are the most evocative, a picture of psychological stress, haunted by man’s emotional and mental exhaustion.it reflects the feeling of failure to gain balance resulting to a total wreck and havoc on human health. A burning fire of consistent depression and destruction that disturbs human brain, it is a portrait of a human condition suffering from getting emotionally tired and numb.

Not all are serious and political for Ramos. As one becomes hardened through time as seen in the stone finish, one still clings to that someone as seen in Hopeless Romantic Series. It narrates man's voiceless inner self, unable to express what and how he feels. He often imagines that he plays a saxophone and serenading. his music pampers visual imagery of his ideal woman—a life live in world of fantasy and a sound of romance indulge within his imagination. Rose petals add mush to the already decorated setting.
Hopeless Romantic Series
His paintings are also sensuous variations of collective narratives, memories and dreams. The fascination in metal-like ground and surface in his works is evident, rusted and stained in time. It is metaphorical depiction of this world we live in is paralleled to a slowly decaying, human body that is deteriorating and will turn back into nature’s dust--our ashes.

Ramos moves freely inside the painting as he probes his inner self and explore contours and variations of colors, paraphrasing the world and beyond in less fanciful embellishment or distortion.


Judeo Herrera: Pain, Pleasure and Punditry

Tall Tarlac Tales: Recent Works of Herrera, Ramos and Yokte
Jay Bautista

(First of three parts) 
Ginintuang Pangarap Series

Among the proud eight rays of the Philippine sun in our flag Tarlac has always been at the forefront of our socio-political and economic history. With its strategic geographic location it is now has a unique place given the expressways and nearness to Clark, which is projected to be a bustling green city of the future.

Most of the time Tarlac is simply relegated as a mere stopover to eat or take a leak on your way up to the North; for most people it is that long stretch of McArthur Hi-way or mostly Hacienda Luisita. Despite the concrete structures, dams and floodway dikes, the city is bland as the lahar desert remnant of the Mt. Pinatubo fury of 1991. Compared to nearby provinces Tarlac has more artists and practitioners than all the artists in the north combined. Having the only fine arts institution, it is also home to award winning artists and art practitioners. Yet it is void of art spaces as venues of the art reflecting the soul of its community.

With the bareness of the physical and cultural landscape the disparity in life can be from within. This is where Bukal intervenes as it deems to create that critical dialogue of what is Tarlac for those who wish to be part of the conversation. Bukal meaning “boiling or in the verge of something,” in the local parlance, three artists step up the plate and offer some of the purest and relevance expressions emanating here.

Judeo Herrera: Pain, Pleasure and Punditry

Anatomy has always been the true test for an artist; how well versed he draws parts of the human body to every viewer’s appreciation or fellow artists’ respect. How he uses this skill to his advantage marks his brilliance. Judeo Herrera could have easily given to the lure of enticing erotica or commercial portraiture to his advantage however he chose to paint only the essentials—face, arms and limb--contextualizing them in a quagmire of fiery pegs against the repeating cycle of poverty of the spirit. With these images he captures the purest emotions in a visual style simulating the figurative with the textured abstract.

No Way Out
One could easily get unease or even slighted in Herrera pieces. In his Bukal Series, he focused on the face as the foreground of deep sadness, anger and anguish. For Herrera knows his timing and rhythm well like a director on cue he captures the moment, the turning point his subjects who at the brink of emotion, at the brim of madness and frustration in a fitting release. Without beginning or end we are led to a hypnotic whirlpool of desperation in Lulong, anxiety in Aaahh and even eminent death 
such as  

Hand Gesture Series
Huling Hantungan. No Way Out is a brutal climax that initiated from isolation and rootlessness. How the eyes shut by instinct with the hand shaped liked a gun pointed at one’s crown of consciousness. Even without sound one could hear the wailing of this hapless mother in Tama na, Sobra Na.  

Herrera starts by creating his textured base. The endless swirl of the background it is the abstraction that dictates the emotion. The intensity of his swirl, against banality of stainless gray of one’s soul, there is no beginning and ending, one could get tangled in deeply rooted helplessness.  

His brilliance lies in his astounding compositions and color combination he aptly calls the colorless soul. The colorless soul is Herrera’s take on how inner being responds to challenges. What emanates is a bluish flesh-and-bone belief of no local color. Despite the prevalence of hyperrealism Herrera abhors soft peach-like skin choosing to do it on his own steel-like colors connoting toughness and fearless numbed by what life throws at us. 

Tama Na, Sobra Na
Evoking bluish in hue a sense of solitude and serenity suggesting inner emotions, Herrera expresses his ideas and narratives in his use of figures and matching textures and gestural strokes. The warm fiery colors in the background suggest intense burning sensations, waiting and wanting to burst out.   

Honed by continuous craft and versed with experience among his art students, Herrera commands respect. If Bukal Series is pure angst then Ginintuang Panaginip Series sooth the tired battered spirit. It is Herrera’s song of redemption the calming effect exudes of better things to come. For simple folks living in the province sleep could represent many things, it is a fitting reward after a hard day’s work. It could be the act of dreaming something big. When one is golden it could mean of value.

Ginintuang Pangarap Series
For Herrera sleep is a temporary refuge and a way to momentarily escape life’s reality. One’s sleep is a blessing for we have equanimity when we are able to reset our body for the next day’s offering. We envy an infant's slumber which is a golden moment where there are no complications of the world around him. Our aspirations are often our dreams and in this refuge we somehow experience our heart's desire, yearning for that volatile false euphoria.

The intensity of his swirl is again reflected against banality in Hand Gesture Series.
Without uttering a word, even in its minutest detail, gestures convey the message in its fullest form. Certain movements suggest specific emotions. The sense of touch has a very strong psychological power that it directly impact our feelings; it can suggest a variety of sensation like a simple tap on the shoulder that tells you “well done” ; a warm hug that tells you “ I care”; an open palm that suggests “I need help” and many other. In fact the clenched fist showing solidarity has helped our current president simplify his cause for the needs of the Filipino people.   

Bukal is ongoing at the Museo ng Probinsya ng Tarlac.


Brothers Alarcon: Four Play


The need to understand the contemporary practice in Philippine art has always been the burden of the young. Emphatic assortment of paints mixed on top of one another made are more evident by their predominant metaphors as reflected in their experimental yet distinct, confident yet sensitive brushstrokes.
The Alarcon Brothers weaves all these assumptions not merely as a conscious interlude of colors, illustrations and other media but something that originally perceived in their fragile/fertile imagination. Newly initiated in the art scene however these brothers as visual artists have already shown potential by exhibiting in the local galleries and have also been recognized in national art competitions for their promising visual language and in finding novel approaches in painting.

Terminus by Luke Alarcon
Luke Alarcon
A melancholic Luke has the soul of an old master--well versed with the ways of the Renaissance. Depicting subjects that are of the 16th to18th century Western iconology, barely in his teens he has the makings of a fine painter on canvas. Luke favors the silent yet haunting pieces marked by loudest gobs of paint, like a smear target on the wall. His colors evoke European charm yet these are silent, sensitive rants of a budding contemporary artist desperate to his persistence in adhering to this visual style.

Mind you his paintings do not ridicule the masters long gone rather they pay tribute to painting as a social commentary. Against the advent of superfluous technology, Luke further hones his artistry by dwelling on long forgotten patterns of a beautiful forgotten epoch. 

Ejem Alarcon 

Ejem vividly remembers sketching at the back of cigarette cartons trucks passing through their makeshift food stall at the pier where his father manages a canteen. A choleric by nature, he is not fond of copying images. He recreates by recreating his own, so his trucks would have different shapes of the wheel or color of their bodies. 

The Return of Napoleon by Ejem Alarcon
He continues his defiance to this norm by deforming what has been persisting in his memory. Having worked as a graphic artist for seven years, his iconography have always been rooted in the comic in popular culture. Now a full-time painter he applies this perspective to his chosen themes such as period images which he appropriates with his own visual style.

Starting off by having a period image as base then once complete as if overturning the process, he splatters colors or work around the image he favors. After the expressionist nature of this under painting he then deciphers what revision will emerged eventually dictating the current themes of his thoughts. 

Disoriented by Aldrine Alarcon

Aldrine Alarcon 

Inspired by their eldest brother Ejem, Aldrine followed his footsteps by leading a full time painter. He found his own path by weaving paint in its purest form leaving most of the canvas untended for the viewer to figure. Such respect to perspective as he illustrates people in an almost abstract form dominates much of Aldrine’s works. As he freshly dabbles into non-representational rendition, glimpses of figures still forebode further inducing more layers to thicken the plot typifying confidence within overall meaning of his images.  

Phlegmatic as his choice of colors coalesce his ever-changing moods sometimes too heavy eliciting texture in capturing its weariness. The reserved blank space becomes part of the canvas exuding more ethereal experience than usual. Whatever whiteness becomes the full picture that whimsically deals directly with his emotions. 

Didier Alarcon

A nocturnal yet sanguine Didier engages deep into nostalgia by waxing realism on abandoned or deserted localities marked by alienation reminiscent of Edward Hopper strokes. Often devoid of people, he simplifies pavements sometimes recalling childhood memories with only the stark glow of lights as characters. It could lonely yet these places persistently exist.

With a plethora of artists painting people, their absence in his works seems as a visual critique thrives in an abundance of newly found expressions on how these emerging artists look at themselves and their communities.
Nowadays by Didier Alarcon

LEAD is as literal as literary resistance of artists hobnobbing in the city. These manifestations confront validation as their own inherent contents and permutations stressing the value of spontaneity, appropriation and positive energy. Establishing tension, solitude and equilibrium, their spatial yet lyrical pieces may be subtle or harsh yet both convey the sense of delight in the painters’ free reign of imagery and visual style. One looks long and hard as each of their art intensifies. Depending how one would come to view the collective significance of these brothers, their personal to randomly induced varied perceptions are commendable.

LEAD encourages critical dialogue between the discriminating tastes of the patronizing public with the creative ambition of these four brother-artists. As they are open to experimentation and more raw approach in art, they still value that paintings should be embodied and its social function is not lost in the art market discourse or painting for painting sake. Assuring four hopeful bright directions, they devote a different attitude, a refreshing way of looking at visual arts. It is an undertaking that may enrich your lives as it has indeed on them. Sometimes, as in their case oil (paint) is thicker than blood.


Bagahe: Art as Remittance


Agam-Agam by Chris Inton, Oil on Canvas, 2016.
In 1906, fifteen Filipinos from Ilocos Sur were recruited to work as pineapple pickers in Hawaii starting what would be known as the Philippine diaspora purposely migrating around the world today. Either alone or with family in tow--for family, money, pride, or some as simple as fulfilling a dream of being on an airplane--more than 3,000 of our countrymen depart our airports every day, year after year, for more than hundred years now.
Forming part of the amalgam of 10 million Filipinos sprawling worldwide, sparsely positioned Filipinos work in some of the most difficult, obscure and time consuming industries that test their skills and commitment for other people’s progress and welfare. As doctors, physical therapists, nurses, IT professionals, engineers, architects, technicians, teachers and seafarers whatever complicated, dirty, nitty gritty job for the taking, a kababayan is there. 

Fragile by Oliver Menor, Mixed Media on Canvas
Bagahe is our ongoing collective story in an adapted/adopted land. 

Gathering some of the more promising visual artists in Singapore Bagahe is both call and a reply. At a time when newly induced Philippine pride is spreading around the world emanating from sports, beauty pageants, art biennales and that recent premier episode Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, Bagahe foretells our unkempt and honed tales from this cosmopolitan city—ironies, maladies, and drudgeries. Singapore as a context affects their artistry can both be conflicting and liberating. To imbibe a sense of artistic urge within the confines of strict and contained art practice.

Sayed Alwi by Dario Bunyi Tibay, Oil on Canvas, 2016

The dilemma of the personal and the social ensues and further entangles intertwining at the top of the heads of Filipinos as it dangles like a sword of Damocles awaiting its fateful fall. Agam agam by Chris Inton affirms this predicament: if I leave there would be trouble, and if I stay it would be double. So come on, let me know. As it was then, it is instinct that one leaves the comfortable habitats for greener pastures. Sacrificing one’s self, the promise of a better future for one’s family cannot be resisted. To buy that home for our parents who restlessly rented all their lives; to purchase that land your family have been tilling in the hopes of not paying its lease for our forebears. To send our children to the best education in the fervent wish that they will have their own business for you to return back home. The rope in the canvas exemplifies our strength and resilience, our bondage and our continuing struggle for survival is highlighted in Fragile by Oliver Menora. He adds: separated from our families and our roots, we are fragile in a foreign country. We are like blank canvases hoping for brighter images for our lives.

Outsider by Jasmin Orosa, Mixed Media on Canvas

Residing temporarily in a foreign abode remains the toughest challenge for an OFW as he feels more than an expatriate. Acculturation must draw first blood. Such is the message of Sayed Alwi by Dario Bunyi Tibay. Comparing the OFWs as earth-bound astronauts, they acclimatize themselves and bring their “environment” to where they are.

Bagahe is what one acquires from one’s current stay. Loaded with real experience, all preconceived notions are met with blank wall or canvas in this instance. Outsider by Jasmin Orosa is such. Meticulously done wherein one's forehead is marked by emotions and sentiments. Her right hand ached by labors. Left hand throbs from deflecting blows. Shoulders ready to carry more loads. Although not all are lucky, some comeback shortly after sudden eclipse of homesickness, others will never use the luggage they brought when they departed their hometown.
Mindscapes by Wilfredo Calderon, Watercolor on Paper

Bagahe could well be that one inimitable luxurious artistic baggage. It is what you bring to your point of destination from your point of origin—culture, perspective and memory. Mindscapes (Memories of My Childhood) by Wilfredo Calderon is about memories from his youth. It depicts his childhood and all the things that he loved and how he used to play with nature as my playground. Most of these artworks took as much time as when he first got in Singapore.

Strawberry Road in My Mind by Noel Rosales best captures everyone’s sentiment. Orchard Road is both a representation of the tension for both affluence and conflict. People don’t realize the void of incomes passing just through them—from employers to their loved ones in Manila. It is a struggle to keep sanity and dignity intact. Before you know it, it’s time to go home.

Strawberry Road in My Mind by Noel Rosales, Acrylic on Canvas

Unlike their obliged regular remittances to their mother country, just once this Bagahe is going back to them. 

Bagahe is ongoing at the De Suantio Gallery at Singapore Management University. School of Economics, 90 Stamford Road, Singapore. Exhibit runs until September 16.

Initiated in 2007 SininGapor Art Collective is composed of writers, graphic designers, and artists from the Lion City. Bagahe is their fifth group exhibition.