Benilde Open celebrates 35 years with major grants to creatives

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Michael Vea sign language
Michael Vea's filming of his project, "Curious: Spotlight on Filipino Sign Language Literature" for the Benilde Open

The College of Saint Benilde has awarded grants to innovative creative projects and provided curatorial support to student projects. Additionally, they will host a major exhibition of the works of Swiss artist Heidi Bucher


In line with the spirit of learning and curiosity in the academic world, the Benilde Open, a special project by De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, has offered P300,000 grants to creatives in the Philippines. 

Celebrating its 35th year as a university, the Benilde Open accepted 324 proposals from creative industry practitioners and Benilde students, ten of which were chosen, with one special mention.

Going beyond visual art, the submissions ranged in disciplines, from traditional visual artists, architects, technologists, engineers, industrial designers, craftsmen, illustrators, textile designers, animators, playwrights, composers, poets, filmmakers, cinematographers, lighting designers, fashion designers, and chefs.

Rambie Lim
Rambie Lim talking textiles in Sulu

In collaboration with De La Salle University and the Embassy of Switzerland, The exhibition opens to the public on May 23, 2024, and runs until June 30, 2024, at several spaces in De La Salle College of Saint Benilde – Design + Arts Campus, Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD) Manila and Hub for Innovation.

At the introduction of the Benilde Open initiatives, Br. Edmundo Fernandez FSC, laid the tone of the merging of academic and artistic discovery, “As a young fine arts student in UP in the early 80s, my understanding of art turned upside down when one of my early professors said that art was anything, everything, anywhere, and everywhere… This is what our College of Saint Benilde and the Benilde Open is all about—to push the boundaries of what we conceive as design and art. It is dedicated to shaping design and art sensibilities by championing innovative and collaborative projects within and outside of school.


The Benilde Open Selection Committee

It is important to acknowledge the Benilde Open selection committee, which consists of distinguished professionals from various local and international creative industries. They were responsible for shortlisting and selecting proposals for the Benilde Open and Best of Benilde categories.

The committee members include Jonathan Gander, PhD, head of the School of Creative Industries at LASALLE College of the Arts, University of Arts Singapore, Alexie Glass-Kantor, executive director of Artspace, Sydney, and former curator of the Australian Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale, and Mara Hermano, vice president for institutional research and planning at Boston College.


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The committee members also include creative practitioners such as Paul Pfeiffer, an internationally acclaimed multidisciplinary artist whose retrospective has been shown at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles. Renowned, writer, editor, music producer, and composer, Erwin Romulo was also a judge. As well as Pauline Suaco-Juan, former Executive Director of CITEM (Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions) Philippines, and former editor-in-chief of Preview Magazine. 

READ MORE: If not Erwin Romulo, who?


The winning recipients of the Benilde Open

The selected practitioners of the Benilde Open, each with their own creative strengths, offer conceptual contributions to the landscape of art and thought in the Philippines.

You might have seen the posts of Tropikalye on your Instagram feed. In a project helmed by contemporary artists Nice Buenaventura and Costantino Zicarelli, the partners are putting together the exhibition “Polymer and Palm,” whom they credit Carlos Quijon Jr. for the alliteration. 

Nice Buenaventura and Costantino Zicarell
Artists Nice Buenaventura and Costantino Zicarelli.

With a play on the words “tropical” and the Tagalized Spanish word “kalye,” the Tropikalye project compiles photographs with text that showcases how the Philippine aesthetic and everyday life often intersect unintentionally, in everyday objects or spaces found on the street. They identify how mint green is often a recurring color painted on surfaces in the visual landscape of the Philippines, providing a cooling effect “na malamig sa mata.”

Tropikalye art
Tropikalye’s exhibited work “Weatherproofing,” a lamp made out of a plastic food cover and a bamboo basket by artist Ling Quisumbing Ramilo, Photographed by Lena Cobangbang.

RJ Fernandez, a filmmaker, photographer, occasional publisher, and now a Data Scientist in training, launches the “Nightingales” project, named after the Florence Nightingale pledge taken by nurses and doctors. This work highlights the significant presence of Filipinos in the UK’s National Health Service. In her observational documentary, Fernandez collaborates with three Filipino nurses from East Sussex, capturing their daily experiences and horticultural activities in a community garden, emphasizing the cultural importance of food and community for the Asian diaspora. 

 RJ Fernandez's documentary "Nightingales"
The Facebook livestream of the Baclaran Novena in Hastings with flags of the Philippines in the fireplace, for RJ Fernandez’s documentary “Nightingales”

Taking the format of a game, Lyra Garcellano, known for her distinct comic figures, creates “Stakeholding: Chapter 1, A Developing Tabletop Game.” Players navigate fun and occasionally complex decisions in hypothetical scenarios, sparking discussions on philosophical questions like, “How do we design a new art world?”


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A sample of work by artist Lyra Garcellano

Performance artist Aaron Kaiser Garcia undertakes a fascinating project with “RE-MOVE: Unraveling truths behind the spectacle of indigenous exposition through the contemporary performance lens.” The project traces the history of the Filipino body back to the first Human Zoo in 1898, highlighting its resistance against colonial oppression and exploitation through movement.


Rambie Lim takes up a culturally active stance as she explores the use of Philippine Silk in Tausug Pisyabit weaving. Lim, who has long advocated partnership with local weavers, aims to narrow the gap between Tausug dyers, weavers, and suppliers. She works specifically with the weaver women Padirna Sanaani of Parang and Ruhina Muhaimer of Maimbung, Sulu. 

Tausug weaver
Padirna Sanaani, a Tausug Siyabit Weaver from Patikul, Sulu

“Maria, Maria,” by Lala Monserrat, in collaboration with Russ Ligtas, Geric Cruz, and Jazel Kristin, creates a conversation between resident artists of Casa San Miguel Center for the Arts and young locals of the LGBTQ+ community around the coastal town of San Antonio, Zambales. Through performance, photography, film, and sculpture, “Maria, Maria” aims to create a safe space through such creative community engagement. 

Benilde Open
Lala and team

READ MORE: Art Fair Philippines shines a spotlight on photography

Issay Rodriguez continues to work with various mediums in “Cosmic Garden”—an exploration that merges art and technology. She asks: How can the synergy of art and 4.0 technologies drive innovation towards positive outcomes, rather than instilling fear? Specifically, she explores cosmic and earthly gardens through the perspective of honey bees. 


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A past work of Issay Rodriguez, ‘Song of Increase’ (2023) at MCAD, an acoustic sculptural installation that simulates an encounter with beehives 

Mikayla Teodoro aims to develop puppetry in the country, introducing advanced mechanisms to create complex puppet joints, specifically by studying the anatomy of a hyena. 

Mikayla Teodoro
Young Filipina puppeteer Mikayla Teodoro

Michael Vea spotlights “Curious: Spotlight on Filipino Sign Language (FSL) Literature” through a creative signing workshop featuring works from deaf literary fellows, by the means of cinematic techniques and video technology. 

Filipino Sign Language (FSL) literature
Michael Vea develops Filipino Sign Language (FSL) literature through video technology

A special mention project has also received full funding from a private donor with Errol P. Balcos’s Baluy Manghagdaway,” a functional art installation that advocates the right of corn gleaners. He asks, “Must public art installations be in just parks and urban areas?” He seeks to experiment with installing these in remote areas like corn farms, which make art functional and livable for the Umayamnon of Bukidnon. 

Errol Balcos
Bukidnon-based sculptor, painter, and printmaker Errol Balcos


Best of Benilde

Running concurrently with the Benilde Open is the Best of Benilde category, where students receive full curatorial support from the school. 

The seventeen select students include artistic works, as well as many creative design initiatives that go beyond art and into intentional functionality:

Louisa Ray Cagaligen reimagines one’s dark side in an exhibition space after Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Ryan Jacobson’s “Can you Survive Dracula.”

Louisa Cagalingan
Louisa Cagalingan designs an exhibition space after Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Ryan Jacobson’s “Can you Survive Dracula.”

“The Local Identity” by Xandrix Antaso Corpuz Jr. offers an open directory that brings together emerging creative practitioners, their services, and fair rates.

“Ang Paglipad ng Saranggola sa Aplaya” by Danielle Cusi builds off a film thesis project about a close Mangyan friend and her sacrifice to move far away to work as a domestic helper.

Asia Entico creates “Hugo: A Smart Pillow for Self-Regulation,” a which uses non-invasive, non-pharmacological technology to stimulate the vagus nerve through vibrations.

“Hustlers” by Gela Mae C. Gamil provides a platform for freelance physical laborers, such as electricians, locksmiths, carpenters, or welders, to more easily connect with clients/

Veronica Landig envisions “Everglow Art Retreats,” a fully inclusive yoga and art center.

“Biyahe: Design of a Board Game for Visual Impaired Filipinos” by Pia Maghirang aims to develop a game to use during therapy sessions of children who are visually impaired.

“PXXXXXXPORN.JPEG” by Earl John Marquez is an AR exhibition about the system of consuming poverty porn content, and its implications, especially on the internet.

“Sinulid 2023: Renascence” by Earl John Marquez, Rexcel Cariaga and Dars Juson is a video production and hybrid exhibition that features fashion design collections by eleven students. 

“Project Noir” by Camille Jay Pinton commits to addressing environmental and social challenges in the Philippine fashion industry as champions of sustainability through clothing.

“Gender Reveal” by Brian Ilustrisimo Razon is a multimedia exhibition that aims to explore the intricacies of the human gender

“STUDEN.SITE (Student Residences Website)” by Jonas Roque builds a website platform for housing options in the Taft vicinity. 

Akira Watanabe’s “Surreal Portraits” is a photography exhibition on experimental, creative, and surreal portraiture. 

PROJECT C.H.A.R.L.I.E (Computerized Hotel Assessment Responder and Learning Intelligence Engine)”
“PROJECT C.H.A.R.L.I.E (Computerized Hotel Assessment Responder and Learning Intelligence Engine)”

“PROJECT C.H.A.R.L.I.E (Computerized Hotel Assessment Responder and Learning Intelligence Engine)” by Liezel Ann Nierves, Glaeor Magne Dominguez, Mariana Julian Bernal with faculty mentor Alejandro Hector Reyes seeks to create virtual innovation designed for hotel guests, learning guests’ profiles, observing behavior, and remembering preferences.

“Ballpark (Benilde All-Purpose Parking)” by Jonas Fabian Roque, Shane Mariel Figuerra, Charles Cedric Quianzon, John Patrick Pascua, Maria Abigail Uson is an innovative design project that seeks to create green mobility in a parking facility through the use of vertical space.

“Layag” by Jasmine Fiona Tan, Sofia Anjelik Barrion, Ynes Sofia Manguerra is a design pavilion that promotes the economic and cultural industries of the Zamboanga Peninsula.

"The Kid in Me" Benilde Open book
“The Kid in Me” presents an interactive book that delves into the phenomenon of the inner child

While lastly, “The Kid in Me” by Jasmila Clarisse San, Mary Julianne Capistrano, Mary Joy Velarde, Alfred Alavar and Nicus Villaluna presents an interactive book that delves into the phenomenon of the inner child.


HEIDI BUCHER: and pull yesterday into today

The art programs of the Benilde Open Design include the launching of the much-awaited exhibition, “Heidi Bucher: and pull yesterday into today.” The work by the renowned Swiss artist Heidi Bucher (1926-1993) will populate the Benilde exhibition space after traveling to the Art Sonje Center in Seoul, Korea, and the Red Brick Museum in Beijing, China.

Originally trained as a dressmaker in fashion and textiles under Johannes Itten (a key member of the Bauhaus movement), Bucher’s practice crosses over mediums from architecture, spatial installations, drawings, sculptures, and collaborative performances. 

Heidi Bucher installation view
Heidi Bucher’s installation view at Art Sonje Center in Seoul, South Korea.

Defyining traditional notions of materials and architectural disciplines, Bucher was known for her genderless body sculptures such as Bodyshells and Bodywrappings


Benilde’s programming this May offers an exciting array of events that promote art to the youth and across the Philippines, maintaining the school’s commendable standard of curatorial excellence.

From May 23 to June 30, 2024, the school will be holding multiple interactive programs to accompany the static exhibitions.

The sons of Swiss artist Heidi Bucher, Indigo and Mayo, will be holding a roundtable discussion. While the production design students will present reproductions of Bucher’s wearable sculptures, working with her estate. Performing arts, majoring in dance students, will also be holding performances while donning the reproductions of Bucher’s wearable sculptures.

Weekly guided tours will be offered for free to the public of the Benilde Open Best of Benilde, and Heidi Bucher: and pull yesterday into today. 

Heidi Bucher art
Heidi Bucher’s work, “Der Schlüpfakt der Parkettlibelle (The hatching of the parquet dragonfly)”

Both Benilde Open grantees and Best of Benilde students will be holding talks and activities on a range of practices, from puppetry, psychogeography, performance, fashion, and board games. 

Discussions are also scheduled on grant proposal writing, women in design and architecture, as well as creative industry unicorns. 

The faculty will also have a lineup of workshops on printmaking, prosthetics, intellectual property, and lesson plan design, open to students, faculty, and non-Benildeans, which can be monitored through the social media platforms of Benilde Open Design + Art. 

Follow the Benilde Open here. The Benilde Open runs at the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde from May 23 to June 30, 2024, located at 2544 Taft Ave, Malate, Manila, Philippines. 

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