Four pieces of charcoal in various sizes and shapes nestled in a paper origami box—they seem precious as the remnant of a billion stars from where we are hypothesized to have come from. In such a box is a bestowal of a commitment to life, spurring sparks of relations to other lives and life forms.
Surmised to be more priceless than its sparkly carbon derivative compound, the diamond, these pieces of charcoal are the embered fragments of memories and milestones, of lives and labor, ensconced in the homes of 600 families in Bgy. Addition Hills in Mandaluyong last June and July. They beckon transformation into hope and this is what “Project Uliling” aims to do.
Uliling is a combination of Tagalog words uling, meaning charcoal, and kuliling, from the ringing of bells, a sound also bellowed as an alarm for fire. The art project enjoins artists to raise alarms for this tragedy that affected the communities razed by these close successions of fire throughout the months of June and July.
Bereft of safe shelters compounded further by quarantine measures being implemented in the current coronavirus pandemic, what’s left of years of dedicated toil—books, clothes, plates, beds, furniture, letters, photographs, radios, TV sets, medals—has turned to dust and charcoal, mementos of destruction seeking transcendence through artistic creation.
A project of Artletics Inc., “Project Uliling : Resonance From The Ashes”, gathers 44 artists to make works from word prompts that have been collected from survivors of the fire. These word prompts : manalig, pag-asa, paglaban, buhay, pagbangon, benevolence, pamilya, takot, alab, memorabilia, kalinga, evacuation, tapang, tibay – act as mantras and testimonies of their survival throughout such a calamity.
The resulting artworks will be exhibited on the Artletics and Artugon Instagram and Facebook pages. Part of the proceeds of the sale will go to Artugon, the community response arm of Artletics Inc., which is working closely with Makabuhay Movement in allocating the collected funds to their feeding programs and providing basic needs (food, medicine vitamins, hygiene kits, lighting,) to the most vulnerable members of the community such as the young and the elderly who are currently living in makeshift tents.
More than being a mere exhibit, project Uliling invokes artists to assume a more active role in the community. Artletics is in a firm belief in artists being alchemical agents of healing and renewal, in restoration and perseverance, in engendering responses to action in effecting equitable distribution of resources, in mirroring values of humanity and faith, in fostering community and self determination.
In the current atmosphere of isolation, paranoia, and control, brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, this is more than ever brought to fore this need to connect and communicate. Artletics founder, artist Emmanuel Garibay emphasizes this need as essential to the counter these forces of alienation which sadly relegates people as mere statistics or instruments of labor and profit.
Beyond being a medium of an artwork, the pieces of charcoal distributed among artists would function as a liturgical communion with the fire survivors of Barangay Addition Hills, elucidating a cosmic universality of destruction and regeneration. How our planet and stars are formed from the chaos of the big bang, so would our communities be shaped and fleshed out and rebirthed.
The participating artists of “Project Uliling : Resonance From The Ashes” are as follows : Alfred Esquillo, An Tolentino, Ana Abigail, Anjo Bolarda, Archie Oclos, Bam Garibay, Cha Garcia, Christian Culangan, Delmo, Henrielle Pagkaliwangan, Hillary Go, Is Jumalon, Issay Rodriguez, Fr. Jason Dy, Joey Cobcoco, Jonathan Madeja, Joy Mallari, Judde Napay, Lena Cobangbang, Lendl Arvin, Lui Gonzales, Manny Garibay, Mark Justiniani, Maribel Magpoc, Mischa, Nina Garibay, Noel Elicana, Raphael Carloto, Rhiza Aller, Rogermond Borja, Rolf Campos, Tiffany Lafuente, Winner Jumalon, and Kristie Calvadores.
Artletics is a non stock non profit arts organization that enjoin artists to flex their creative muscles and engage in relevant issues and ideas by sponsoring and organizing art exhibits, events, and other venues for this cause. They are the main proponents of Project Bakawan Arts Festival 2015 in UP Diliman, a month-long festival that tackled environmental concerns; Body+Art, a traveling visual arts exhibit on HIV awareness; Daloy, a visual arts exhibit with the Jose B. Vargas Museum inspired and challenged by the concept of flow/movement; and the art camp Paghilom as a response to the Taal volcano eruption in January 2020.
The Makabuhay Movement is a youth group led by Artletics/Linangan resident artist Rogermond Borja who is also a resident of Barangay Addition Hills, Mandaluyong.