It’s been one long month since this year’s biggest typhoon devastated thousands of lives, and left survivors with no choice but to figure out how to make something out of nothing. Yet, with the inherent Filipino traits of resilience, tenacity and courage, and the boundless generosity and compassion of their fellowmen and the world, we see a glimmer of hope.
The continuing unabashed outpouring of help is, to us, simply awe-inspiring. We honestly don’t know anyone who hasn’t given his or her time or resources, or both, to help the Visayas. Aside from deep-pocketed individuals and big companies giving large donations to rebuilding the areas ravaged by the storm, stories abound of long-engaged couples who have been saving up for their dream wedding opting to have a simple ceremony and donating their savings to Yolanda survivors instead.
We heard the story of two street kids who went to a donation center to contribute P30 and two cans of sardines.
We know of one girl in her 20s, who used to work for a local newspaper but put her career on hold to volunteer for Save the Children’s Emergency Humanitarian Response group. “I am leaving my job because I want to help the Taclobanons recover from the tragedy they experienced. I hope you understand,” she wrote in her farewell e-mail.
Cebu’s art community is no different. Its members had previously banded together in Art for Bohol, which raised over P200,000 in one night, just 10 days after the earthquake. Spearheaded by Cebu’s prime art scene cultivators, Qube Gallery’s Jon Kenneth Gotiong and Maris Holopainen together with The Islands Group’s Jay Aldeguer, they shared their surprise at the artists’ generosity and enthusiasm to give.
They beamed when they recounted how, on the day of the exhibit, they kept on having to rearrange the artwork on the walls to make room for more pieces that artists were walking in with—pieces that ranged from P200 to P10,000, and were pegged by the artists at much lower than what they would have sold them for at a regular gallery exhibit.
Thus, after experiencing firsthand the artists’ willingness to give, Jon and Maris decided to make their best exhibit for the year a fundraiser as well. “The Philippine Abstract Art Review 2013” opened last Nov. 30. The artworks displayed were by some of the country’s best abstract artists from Luzon and the Visayas. It showcased the similarities of the artists’ influences from the two island groups, and how Filipino abstract art, although clearly modern, is still rooted primarily in nature.
Manila-based Cebuano art expert Dr. Reuben Cañete curated the exhibit splendidly, leaving us smitten at the entire display and the careful thought-process behind the selection of different styles and their well-balanced placement in the gallery.
“I chose the pieces based on the reputation of the artists, how established they were in the art community and their consistency and dedication in producing abstract art,” he said. “Philippine abstraction is a continuous journey of finding our Asian identity. I wanted to showcase the possibilities for abstraction to Cebu because I want to encourage artists here to push their boundaries. Abstract art is extremely liberating—you are not bound by old rules. Instead, it explores what the future should look like.”
Dr. Cañete has a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from UP Diliman, a Master’s in Art History and a PhD in Philippine Studies. He currently teaches Asian and Philippine Studies at the Asian Center Graduate Institute of UP Diliman.
Some of the highlights of his 33-piece “Art Review” include the works of Raul Isidro, the former president of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) and one of the country’s most successful modern abstract painters; Ilonggo multimedia, visual and theater artist Ed Defensor; multifaceted and multi-awarded artist Virgilio Aviado, also a former president of the AAP who is renowned for his incredibly wide range of artistic styles and materials; and celebrated Cebuano abstract artists and fine arts professors Sio Montera and Javy Villacin.
Part of the proceeds will go to Gawad Kalinga’s Roof for Relief initiative, which aims to provide roofing materials for 5,000 houses in Northern Cebu by Christmas. The exhibit runs until Dec. 23.
Another art fundraising initiative for the typhoon victims, which was on a much larger scale, was the “ArTabang,” a one-night only art sale held Dec. 5 at the ballroom of the Cebu Country Club. The brainchild of Cebuano master artist and the most sought-after portrait artist in the Philippines Romulo “Mulong” Galicano, the incredibly successful “ArTabang” had over 200 paintings donated by the artists themselves. The pieces ranged in price from P2,500 to P500,000, which was 50-percent off their actual market value. It was a great opportunity for art enthusiasts to get beautiful artworks at excellent prices while contributing to the cause.
As chairperson of the Portrait Artists Society of the Philippines (PASP), Mulong declared his intention of giving back to the community: “Performing artists like musicians are making a difference in light of the mishap that hit us recently. We visual artists have to do our part, too. It is our social obligation. Our purpose with this sale is really to give back.”
Mulong got the ball rolling by contacting businessman and Sacred Heart School Ateneo de Cebu Batch ’85’s Michael Dino who got his other batchmates to help. Internationally acclaimed furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue took charge of the overall design of the invitations with the help of the UV New School of Art and Design. Basic Graphics printers’ Edmun Liu printed the invitations, Dong Juan restaurant chain’s Barney Borja headed the media promotions for the art sale, Alvin Yu handled the travel logistics for Mulong and the 30 visiting artists from Manila, while Raymond Tio coordinated their land transportation. Entrepreneur Kenneth Lim of The Dessert Factory took care of the cocktails for the event.
Mulong got the art community involved, including his PASP members, AAP, Cebu Artists Inc., the organization of Cebu Visual Artists’ Pusod, Syano Artlink, Gallery Orange Artists and Mugna, to donate their artwork for this cause. “There was a snowball effect among the players in the art community. They were very, very willing, and the response was just overwhelming,” the multi-awarded artist said proudly.
Five masterpieces were also auctioned off, one of which was by the late, revered Cebuano abstract artist Tito Cuevas. Three interactive works, which were a collaboration of Mulong, Adeste Deguilmo, Kimsoy Yap, Fidel Sarmiento, Lydia Velasco, Jose Mari Picornell, Roger Santos, Fil dela Cruz, Tiny Nuyda and Mar Vidal were given to the highest bidder, as was a free-form interactive painting by 20 Cebuano artists on a 4×8 feet canvas.
Batch ’85 graduate and former executive director of the NGO Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors Invictus Paradela has been tasked with identifying the relief organizations to donate the raised funds to, although one of their beneficiaries is also Roof for Relief, since Edmun Liu is one of the project’s founders. They intend to focus on Northern Cebu but will allot some of the proceeds for Tacloban.
The typhoon survivors have a long way to go in rebuilding their lives. But, if the current spirit of benevolence continues, then clearly, there is hope.