The recent move of the President to make December 30 a working day for the first time in history did not only draw criticism from the general Filipino working class but also from a multitude of faithful who not only salute the martyrdom of Dr. Jose P. Rizal but revere him more than just our national hero in his a messianic destiny in Mt. Banahaw.
When Pope John Paul II first came to
I am Rex-al by Robert Besana
Tierra Santa or Vulcan de Agua
Emanating from the Kalye’s regular discussions, the show’s title Jeru meaning new, the exhibition is more than a Mt. Banahaw 101 as it alluded to what many prophesized that our country, with Mt.
Already an extinct volcano whose last eruption was in 1721, many devotees consider Mt Banahaw more than a storehouse of psychic energy but home to at least 17 religious churches that even has Christian names such as Ciudad Mystica de Dios and even celebrate an elaborate Catholic mass and own up a version of our national anthem as a prayer. But it is the mountain’s more than a hundred stations that center on a pilgrimage from the base of the mountain to the crater of the peak. Each pwesto may be any natural rock formation: boulders, waterfalls, pools of water, caves. It is believed that after death, the soul journeys up the mountain following the pilgrimage path. All pwestos are Biblical allusions, Kinabuhayan, Dolores, Santo Kalbaryo, Kweba ng Dyos Ama, and Balon ni Jakob.
It is Kalye’s view that our natives were not hard to convert to this folk Catholicism as they were already parallelisms in our early religion. “When the colonizers came, in fact, the Santo Nino that was shown by Magellan during the first mass in Limasawa may have similar features to that of the likha that was already being worshipped and prayed for by the natives. Understanding the ways of the ancestors will help our self definition as a people,” Kalye member Besana points out.
Early Catholic priests and nuns warned that going to
Brushstrokes of Faith
In Suplinahan, Alfred Esquillo essays that that one primarily communes with
The purifying dove again reappears in Espirtu Parakleto by Dennis Atienza. Story goes that when Jesus died, most of His apostles gathered for the last time. Looking at each other, they were as confused as to the redemption of their faith as well as the future of their direction as a group. Jesus took this opportunity to validate His claim as Lord to them that He sent the Holy Spirit in a form of a dove to cheer them up and unified them. For Atienza, this work was also his other way to show that our God is not boastful, not far, nor huge. He assumes a form that we all could identify with.
Espiritu Parakleto by Dennis Atienza
Contrary to what and how a person predominantly believes in, Talatandaan by Kirby Roxas literally outlines the human brain amidst the looming talisman eyes. As what one sees with his eyes you immediately is drawn liken to a computer that programs it for you for consumption and safekeeping. We may not be conscious but Roxas attests in this sort-of “creatively instructed manual” that any belief passes through one’s mind through our eyes more so if it is a big idea as religion. The credence is even Biblical -- as it is said believe and you will see. In Filipino folk symbolism, God is represented by an eye, inside the trinity shape of a triangle with one absolute message -- all things emanate as a rational, omnipresent thing.
For Archie Ruga, one should at first become vulnerable in emptying yourself as one enters the pwestos or altars in
Santong Boses (above) and Santong Byahe (last photo) by Kalye Kolektib
Where the Streets Have No Name
Although this may only be their second formal exposure but for Kalye Kolektib members Alfredo Esquillo Jr, Robert Besana, Dennis Atienza, Alvin Cristobal, Kirby Roxas and Archie Ruga, the creative energy is just a continuation of their endless discussions in their constant pursuit in peeling off the many layers of our post colonial being. Especially for Esquillo, Besana, Atienza and Cristobal who have been close friends in their early teens in Las Pinas. It was primarily the influence of Esquillo that guided them in this endless search (even passion) in finding what comprises our pre-Christian and pre-Islamic composition that has been buried amidst this age of fast-paced globalization of our already smaller digitally interconnected world. The three all look up to “Esqui” as he was already winning art contests after another using the themes Kalye is well-versed with at present. Unlike other art groups that concerns themselves with personal stuff like love and the plurality of found objects, Kalye focuses itself with identity, faith, destiny, inquiry to myth-making.
“More than an art group, I see Kalye as a reunion. Having started out as friends” Esquillo contextualizes. He envisions “eventually we see the group as being community-based. Kalye because we all have diverse experiences in the streets however one direction or nagsasanga-sanga sa ibang endeavors.”
More than as a graphic device, Kalye incorporates contemporary prayers as texts. Adapting and even translating what were the belief forms used by the Spanish friars to subjugate our three hundred year-old blind conversion to religion. Kalye attempts to reclaim our main folk territories by turning around this influence of these religions to our own terms and even spiritual redemption. Kalye’s thesis is that our folk have retained much of our ancestor way of life. Their themes revolve around identity and spirituality, the response is visual which the group is strong.
Another powerful and unique artistic focus of Kalye is the shapes of their frames. For this show they have incorporated the glorieta where the heaven assumes the dome-like curve as the earth is represented by the solid base below. Integrating this into their artistic cause is Kalye’s use of the estampitas that viewers can bring home with them. Instead of the usual exhibit catalogues, they freely distribute these “art pieces” for everyone to take home. This eliminates the divide between the artist-audience as viewers are given estampitas to own . Kalye is testimony that as we do not have a word for art because our indigenous expressions are reflective and every thing we do is interconnected and there is no distinction between art and life, the way folks do.
Sta. Lucia by Alvin Cristobal
"Kaya nga Kalye to differentiate from being lofty and high brow. Mas malapit kami sa tao,” adds Roxas who may not be from neighborhood but was invited to join in.
Compared to other art groups everything is collaborative, however theirs is more inward, what they call kalooban, as oppose to outwards which is common to young contemporary artists these days. On their own they have already carved a niche in the current art scene having won major art competitions most specially Esquillo who is more like a big brother to the group. He opens his studio (informally called Esquinita) and serves as their home base. Within the group, all is democratic and open to criticism and to the functions of new media of expression. Their process is simple but as Cristobal mentions, they are all excited because you wouldn’t know what will come out until all pieces come together.
Esquillo puts it best when he says that they may use the formal spaces in a gallery but they see themselves more public in perspective as individually they have their own artistic preferences but collectively they want viewers to be visually aware that this is our culture and beliefs and it is something we can learn from or even lived for.
Jeru-Jerusalem is part of Nineveh Art Space 7th anniversary exhibition.