Cagayan de Oro exhibit sheds light on the marginalized

Issues tackled by the artworks include the displacement of the indigenous communities and the exploitation of natural resources in Mindanao

Angelo Lorenzo

6:48:55am September 2, 2018

6:48:55am September 2, 2018

INCLUSIVE ART. Guests of the 'Primal' exhibit by Artsada Kagay-an Inc (AKI) view works of art by local artists. The exhibit aims to spread awareness about the realities faced by misrepresented and marginalized sectors in society. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

INCLUSIVE ART. Guests of the 'Primal' exhibit by Artsada Kagay-an Inc (AKI) view works of art by local artists. The exhibit aims to spread awareness about the realities faced by misrepresented and marginalized sectors in society. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

MANILA, Philippines – Local artists shed light on issues concerning marginalized sectors in Cagayan de Oro (CDO), the City of Golden Friendship, through a weeklong exhibit during their city's recent Higalaay Festival. 

Artsada Kagay-an Inc (AKI) exhibited paintings at Limketkai Center from August 25 to 31 to "increase awareness and stimulate appreciation of the vibrant culture of the indigenous people."

AKI is a CDO-based art organization composed of artists born and raised, or are currently residing, in CDO. "Artsada" is a word derived from "art" and the city's colloquial term for beautiful, "tsada." The group's exhibit was called "Primal." 

Issues tackled by the artworks include the displacement of the indigenous communities, the exploitation of natural resources in Mindanao, and the plight of women who raise families on their own.

Views on canvas

The exhibit displayed over 30 artworks, most of which were paintings completed by members of the organization and guest artists hailing from CDO.

In an acrylic on canvas, CDO-based artist Emmie Borres painted a portrait of a Manobo woman, in traditional garment and headgear, gazing at a distance. Although it can be interpreted in many ways, the solemn but hopeful gaze, according to the artist, represents the strength that the indigenous communities in Mindanao have held on to amid displacement.

MANOBO LADY. Emie Borres' painting shows an individual from the Manobo tribe, one of the many indigenous communities that originally settled in some areas of Cagayan de Oro City. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

MANOBO LADY. Emie Borres' painting shows an individual from the Manobo tribe, one of the many indigenous communities that originally settled in some areas of Cagayan de Oro City. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

This theme resonated with Ryan Arces' "Puloy-anan." The painting, which showed an abstract of jagged mountains splashed with iridescent colors, symbolized ancestral domain of indigenous communities that had been driven from their homeland by colonial powers since the 17th century. The colors also represented the IP's sovereignty over their territories.

PULOY-ANAN. Ryan Marc Boiser Arces' painting represents the sovereignty of the indigenous people who have sought refuge in the mountains. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

PULOY-ANAN. Ryan Marc Boiser Arces' painting represents the sovereignty of the indigenous people who have sought refuge in the mountains. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

By defending their lands, many lives from the indigenous communities had been taken.

In his attempt to immortalize their legacies, Brad Arces painted a cracked sculpture that epitomized unnamed heroes in history who had fought and who are still fighting for liberation.

UNNAMED HEROES. Brad Boiser Arces honors heroes who have not been recognized in history for their valor and bravery in the battles they fought through his painting. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

UNNAMED HEROES. Brad Boiser Arces honors heroes who have not been recognized in history for their valor and bravery in the battles they fought through his painting. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

But heroism may not only be exemplified by the will to fight. AKI President Lloyd Hinosolango portrayed the significant role of Filipino women in nurturing life and earning for livelihood to raise their children in his painting, "Ilaw ng Tahanan."

ILAW NG TAHANAN. AKI President Lloyd Hinosolango paints the roles of mothers in families. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

ILAW NG TAHANAN. AKI President Lloyd Hinosolango paints the roles of mothers in families. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

This trait was also represented in Ryan Arces' "Strong and Wise" where the face of a determined woman is bordered by a bull that represents her strength, an eagle that measures her wisdom, and a wheel that reveals her drive to accomplish great things by applying these qualities in her life.

STRONG AND WISE. Strength and wisdom are among the values exemplified by women as revealed in Ryan Marc Arces' painting. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

STRONG AND WISE. Strength and wisdom are among the values exemplified by women as revealed in Ryan Marc Arces' painting. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo

But despite the different images the paintings presented, they all spoke of a single theme which empowers marginalized communities in present-day societies.

Melting pot for artists

"My dream is to see art thrive," Borres, who has been a visual artist all his life, stated in an interview. Borres was among the guest artists of the exhibit.

Although initiatives to promote local art have grown over the years, the issues displayed in the crafts still continue today. Instead of just sharing works on canvas accomplished through creativity and talent, artists can use their gifts to advance cultural understanding and unity among the diverse groups in the city.

As the cofounder of the Oro Arts Guild, Borres pushes for art that speaks with relevant messages. He also supports initiatives where artists can present their personal views on social issues.

"Nowadays, we hold art exhibits [with this intent], as our artists are eager to pursue their passion," he said.

Some works, such as that of Edgardo Palad, also a CDO-based artist and principal sponsor for the exhibit, were based on their experiences of traveling to places and meeting different kinds of people.

Although CDO's identity changes according to the accomplishments of the city's people, AKI desires for the city to be the melting pot for inclusive art, where any artist or enthusiast of the craft can thrive by pursuing what they love to do and raise awareness on realities that surround them.

"Whatever you have in mind, put it on canvas," Borres said.

This does not only apply to CDO, but to many places in the Philippines where artists are nurtured, art is appreciated, and social issues need to be addressed.

This year's exhibit included paintings by Mariegold Cherie Garido, Edgardo Palad, Hipolito Busgano, Lloyd Hinosolango, Mark Bailo, Jayson Labtan, Kahlil Dumagat, Ryan Marcx Boiser Arces, Leah Grace Deatras, Hansley Domughp, Mar John Sayson, Jensen Jimenez, Brad Boiser Arces, and Mary Jane Tolentino.

It also featured artworks by Nic Aca, Ramil O. Paring and Dodie Borres. – Rappler.com

Angelo Lorenzo is one of Rappler's Movers based in Cagayan de Oro City. A graduate of Development Journalism, he is currently pursuing his master's degree in literature at Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan.