To make good use of his time in lockdown, Michael Sagaran decided to merge his love for art and the powerful eruption he witnessed in January.

Back in the habit: How the ECQ unlocked this hotel exec’s previously-kept knack for painting

Michael Sagaran is making good use of the quarantine by creating a painting series about the first devastating event of the year. BY FRANCES SALES
ANCX | May 14 2020

With more time spent indoors, men are given a chance to go back to long forgotten hobbies and crafts. In this series called "Back in the Habit," ANCX will share these passion projects, bonding activities, and little pockets of joy that these have rediscovered within the comforts of their home.


Disaster may be the defining word for 2020 but for Michael Anthony Sagaran, unfortunate events can bring out the best in all of us. Certainly for the marketing and communications manager of Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay, the Taal Volcano eruption in January followed by the COVID-19 global pandemic should spell disaster to his industry. Instead of moping, he’s taken up painting.

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Sagaran says, “I wanted to make my [extended community quarantine] time fruitful, turning negative into positive by coming up with a passion project that will hone my creativity, take away the stress of uncertainty, and contribute to our society and history.”

For his Taal series, he used thin and tiny strokes to paint the volcano in all its phases during the eruption.

The passion project he eventually decided on was inspired by the simmering volcano right outside his office. Because of the pandemic, Taal Vista Hotel is closed to tourists, which is a shame. The breathtaking view of the volcano-within-a-volcano and lake-within-a-lake just fresh from an eruption has never been more awe-inspiring in the clear summer air. Sagaran found his muse. “Good thing I was able to stock up paints, canvases, and brushes I bought as souvenirs every time I travel,” he says.


Artistic beginnings

Sagaran didn’t just paint one canvas. He created a series on Taal Volcano, painting the picturesque scene in both the Impressionist and Expressionist manner. He was long inspired by the masters Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Edvard Munch, and Piet Mondrian since his college days as a Fine Arts majoring in Advertising at University of Santo Tomas. Then, he would paint three times a week because of school and because of his love for the craft.

After earning his degree, Sagaran worked in graphic design before moving into the PR side of the hotel business. As work took over, he stopped painting altogether. Since moving to Tagaytay to work at Taal Vista Hotel he picked up this hobby gain, and has now been painting in the wee hours of every day since the ECQ started.

Before rediscovering his hobby when he moved to Tagaytay, he last painted when he was in college.

For his Taal series, he used thin and tiny strokes to paint the volcano in all its phases during the eruption, making use of vivid colors to evoke terror and glory. “I wish to make the viewers of my painting series appreciate and value the power of nature through the splendor of art, a reminder for us to take special care of our planet in a subtle and subliminal way,” Sagaran says. “The series features Day 1 [of the eruption] last January 12 up to its 60th day, just few days before the volcano’s alert level was downgraded to Level 1.”

While Taal has inspired many artists, Sagaran’s work may be the first of its kind. He says, “There’s none of what I know of a painting collection depicted from actual volcano eruption, and was created by an artist who actually witnessed the moment.”

Sagaran is also hoping his paintings serve as a record of the historic eruption painted during a pandemic. “The painting series is for future generations, for them to be able to witness the natural phenomenon for decades if not centuries to come through art which is more enduring that printed images and more poetic than digital photographs. I used high quality acrylic paints and protective varnish to ensure that each piece will last for a very, very long time.”