Sining Saysay traces PH history through art

By Rose Carmelle Lacuata,

Posted at Feb 06 2015 12:08 PM | Updated as of Feb 06 2015 10:30 PM

MANILA -- A collection of artworks depicting important events in history provides visitors the opportunity to walk through the country's glorious and colorful past.

SiningSaysay brings to the fore the talents of 28 distinguished artists from the University of the Philippines (UP) as they interpret Philippine history from the pre-hispanic times to the present.

Each artist endeavored to depict his vision in oil and acrylic on a grand 6 feet by 12 feet canvas over many months, reading and researching, and at times, vicariously reliving history.

"These works tell the story of us, the Filipino nation, narrated visually," said UP president Alfredo E. Pascual.

Together with officers of the UP Alumni Association (UPAA) and other distinguished alumni, SiningSaysay teaches history in a new way, by promoting art appreciation, understanding Filipino identity, and imbibing cultural pride.

Acting as consultants are respected historians Dr. Serafin Quiazon and Prof. Ma. Luisa Camagay, who provided the main turning points in Philippine history, which the artists later on transformed into art.

The project was conceived in 2008, the university's centennial year.

"The idea was further developed and refined to this kind of presentation," recalled Gari M. Tiongco, former UP Regent and former UPAA president.

"The concept was to be a come-on for students to learn the history of the Philippines in just half a day by going around. And not just going around a museum, but here it is given to you in the form of art, from alumni artists of UP. Not every country has this, but here, a tourist can come to the Philippines and learn our history by going over these artworks," he added.

Aside from the major events in the history of the Philippines, also depicted in artworks were little known historical facts, such as the Angono petroglyphs, the Austronesian roots of the Filipinos, the Chinese in the Philippines, the women in the Philippine Revolution, Macario Sakay, and the history of labor in the Philippines, among others.

"This is a project of grand scale and magnitude, the first of its kind, a program that will forever be a venue for engaging the public in a continuous discourse on the important times of our history," said Grace Javier Alfonso, one of the featured artists and a member of the UP project team.

"Peopling of the Philippines II" by Gig De Pio

The works in the gallery are arranged chronologically according to when the events happened in history, with those depicting special topics interspersed along the way.

Artists' interpration of history

Camagay, a writer and professor of history, said the artists who worked on the project, at first, did not have a deep understanding of Philippine history.

They, however, came to understand history better as they started researching and working on their artworks.

"At first, they thought history was boring... But after research, they came to appreciate it," she added.

She also said the artists researched as much as they can about their topics, so as to depict Philippine history as it was written on books.

Luis E. Yee, Jr., the artist who worked on the Angono petroglyphs, said seeing the petroglyphs the first time was an emotional moment for him.

"It is only know that tourism started coming in, pero marami nang graffiti," he said about the petroglyphs.

Yee talking to a visitor in front of his artwork, "Prehistoric Philippines I".

For his artwork, Yee had to use marine plywood and a special kind of concrete-like material to recreate the petroglyphs. He had to wait several hours for the material to dry, before he can engrave his artwork and layer it with paint.

Janice Young poses beside her artwork, "Reunion: Chinese in the Philippines".

Janice Young, who worked on the Chinese in the Philippines, arranged the characters on her artwork like they were posing for a family picture.

"Reunion: Chinese in the Philippines" by Janice Young

Depicted in her artwork are popular personalities in Philippine history with Chinese lineage, as well as representatives of the Chinese doing different jobs - a Chinese official, a porcelain seller, and a statesman, among others.

Also included in the collection is one of the last artworks by the late National Artist for Visual Arts Abdul Mari Asia Imao, depicting the colorful life of the Muslims in the Philippines.

"Muslim in the Philippines" by National Artist Abdul Mari Asia Imao

Artworks that focus on special topics in the country's history, like Alfonso's "Women Empowerment in the Philippines"; Leonilo Doloricon's "History of Labor in the Philippines", Denes Villa Cruz Dasco's "Philippine Icons and Symbols", and Romeo S.A. Carlos' "Philippine Festivals" will help visitors have a deeper understanding of Philippine history, more than what is usually written on textbooks.

"Women Empowerment in the Philippines" by Grace Alfonso
Leonilo Doloricon's "History of Labor in the Philippines"
Denes Villa Cruz Dasco's "Philippine Icons and Symbols"
Romeo S.A. Carlos' "Philippine Festivals"
"Martial Law in the Philippines" by Adi Baen-Santos

SiningSaysay will be open to the public on February 18 at the Gateway Gallery in Gateway Tower Mall, Cubao, Quezon City.

The exhibit will open in time for the celebration of the National Arts Month, and the 60th anniversary of the Araneta Center.