Highlighting the Philippines’ rich culture and talent has been always fulfilling not only for the local audience but also for Pinoy supporters abroad.
But the challenges brought by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic to the art industry have been undoubtedly felt by local artists, considering that spaces that normally provided them exposure, opportunities, or even income, suddenly became unpredictable.
Yet there were those like 49-year-old painter Arnold Estrella who remained undaunted and not only pushed through with his own craft but also supported fellow local artists.
Together with his friend Sam Chua for BrushWorx PH, Estrella decided to take advantage of the National Language Month to freely showcase local artists’ talent not just in painting but also in writing poems and showcasing them in a week-long exhibit featuring local artworks from diverse places, ages, and gender, all highlighting #ProudToBePinoy concepts.
“Ang aim namin is para matulungan ang artist to promote them, sa pamamagitan ng ganitong klaseng event… kasi maraming Pinoy artists na magaling, ang nandito halo-halo, may mga beterano, may baguhan, at may mga artist na tulog, na dekada nang di nagpipinta, nakapagpinta sila ngayon, ‘yun ang ano namin, mai-boost sila (Our aim is to help artists, to promote them, through this event… because we have many great Filipino artists, we’re mixed here, there are veterans, newbies, and sleeping artists, who have not painted for over a decade, they have painted for this! That’s our aim, to boost them.),” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Estrella said he truly felt the hardships of being an artist, especially during the lockdown period. However, he said it is important for artists not to lose hope nor to give up their passion.
“May mga source of income ako na hindi talaga ako kumikita, pero after nung August 2020, nung medyo lumuluwag, medyo nakakabenta ako ng painting, online, ang laki niya ng tulong, unang-una hindi ako nakakuha ng SAP (Social Amelioration Program), pero sabi ko ang Lord na ang bahala, so ang Lord na ang nag-provide, mula July hanggang ano, dire-diretso nakabenta ako ng paintings, kaya dama ko rin ‘yung ano ng mga artist, alam ko, nararamdaman ko yung feelings nila, ‘yung frustrations (I have sources of income that give me nothing, but after August 2020, when there’s a gradual easing [of lockdown], I was able to sell some paintings online, and it’s really a huge help. First, I wasn’t able to receive assistance from the SAP [Social Amelioration Program], but at that time I entrusted it to the Lord, the Lord will provide, then since July, my painting sales went on, so as an artist, I really know their feelings, their frustrations.),” he said.
No gender, age
The exhibit was indeed helpful for various local artists, like the Bulacan resident Rowena Loncop, 31, who had worked as a factory worker before the pandemic.
She said that their the exhibit’s theme encouraged her to accomplish her “Ang Aking Sinilangan” piece (My Motherland), inspired by the rich culture of Filipinos, and featured diverse tribal-colored ropes embossed on the side, a single pre-colonial designed balangay, and an eagle – when combined symbolize the journey of a diverse yet courageous race of Filipinos as they sail as one nation.
“Noong nagkaroon na ng lockdown, mas doon ako nagkaroon ng mahabang oras, tapos ang nag-inspire talaga sa akin ‘yung mga frontliners, tsaka kahit iba-iba ‘yung mga paniniwala natin, tayong mga Pilipino, pero pagdating sa mga kagipitan, mga sakuna, nagkakaisa talaga tayo (When the lockdown came, I had a longer time, then I was truly inspired by our frontliners, and even though we share different beliefs, we Filipinos, in times of crisis, and disaster, are truly united.),” she told the PNA.
And now that she has given up her work at the factory to try the freelance painting industry, she can’t help but encourage younger girls and other women having doubts to pursue their passion for the arts.
“Wala sa kasarian ‘yan e, hindi po talaga ako nakapag-aral sa fine arts, para sa akin po pinasasalamatan ko pa rin dahil nga kahit katulad ko, laking-hirap po talaga ako, babae po ako, ang laki niyong tatandaan ‘yung talent na ‘yan is a gift, walang kasarian po ‘yan, kahit gaano ka pang husgahan na walang mararating, huwag mong ititigil dahil masaya ka (That’s [arts] not gender-based, I did not study fine arts, but I am grateful that, even though I came from a poor family, and I’m a woman, [we] should remember that this talent is a gift, gender has nothing to do with it, no matter how hard are the judgments or discouragements may be for your future, don’t stop, as long as you’re happy.),” she added.
Meanwhile, 62-year-old Chito Mendoza, a new artist who has just discovered his painting talents during the pandemic, has also shared his own concept for the Buwan ng Wika celebration.
Mendoza told the PNA that a friend of his who was also a participant in the exhibit encouraged him to join.
His artwork, placed in the center, was no less than eye-catching, giving an expressionism vibe, done through action painting.
Observing generations, he noted that his idea revolved around the preservation of nature, which in the Philippine setting is a stunning and abundunt resource.
“Kahit anong gulo ng ikot ng buhay basta wag pakialaman ang natural environment ay may pag-asa pa din sa masagana at matahimik na buhay (However absurd this life may be, as long as the natural environment would not be [exploited], then there’s still hope for a prosperous and peaceful life.),” he said.
Estrella said he never thought twice about giving his fellow artists a platform to share their works and opinions, even as he urged the government to help local artists even more by providing them with spaces that would open opportunities for their works to find their “soulmates.”
“Gumawa sila ng program na mae-expose ang Filipino artists, and then mag-conduct sila ng isang training, workshop, o symposium ang mga artist para ma-boost sila, para lalo sila ma-inspire, para ‘di sila ma-frustrate, ma-discourage, ‘yung mga wala pa, mga baguhan, dapat ‘yun naman ‘yung pagtuunan nila ng pansin (The government must provide programs for exposure of the Filipino artists, conduct training, workshops, or symposium for artists to be boosted, for them to be more inspired, not frustrated nor discouraged, those who have no [names] yet, for neophytes, they should be given more attention.),” he said.
In the end, Estrella insisted that it is very significant for local artists to continue pursuing and honing their skills no matter the circumstances, even if it is a global pandemic.
“Magpatuloy lang sila, kasi ang artwork, kapag natagpuan ng artwork ‘yung kanyang soulmate, dun, benta kaagad ‘yan. So, tiyaga lang, konting ano lang timpi lang, darating at darating ‘yung oras na, ang isang artist e kanya e, magpatuloy lang sila, huwag silang manawa, kung anong passion mo, ituloy mo (They should continue, because the artwork, once found by its soulmate [buyer], will surely be bought. So, just be diligent, just a little patience, there will come a time, that the artist will have his/her own break, just continue, don’t give up, whatever your passion may be, just pursue it.),” he said. (PNA)