10 must-see exhibits at the Benilde Open

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Nice Buenaventura and Constantino Zicarelli’s “Polymer & Palm: Excerpts of the Tropikalye Index”

We look at 10 of the most intriguing exhibits at the Benilde Open and Best of Benilde program


With over 20 groundbreaking exhibitions showcasing the immense talent of both students and creative professionals, the Benilde Open and Best of Benilde program has solidified De La Salle-College of St. Benilde as a true nexus of art and design excellence in the Philippines. 

The programming opened to the public on May 23, 2024, with the Benilde Open as a special project that showcases 10 groundbreaking projects from artists who were each awarded P300,000 to execute their ideas.

Meanwhile, Best of Benilde features multiple student projects, curatorially supported by the school, to encourage students to think outside the box.

READ MORE: Benilde Open celebrates 35 years with major grants to creatives


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Patrick de Veyra, in conversation with Benilde Open convenor Ayi Magpayo, articulates the project’s ambitious yet essential goal: 

“To position De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde as the nexus of design and art in the Philippines. It is an educational institution deeply aware of its role in shaping the creative sensibilities of its students as well as creating a fertile ground of professionals who will help realize the immense potential of the creative industries in the country.”

While every exhibit is a creative triumph, here are 10 must-see highlights that encapsulate the curious, innovative spirit of this inaugural program.


A spotlight on creative heritage and community

1. Nice Buenaventura and Constantino Zicarelli’s “Polymer & Palm: Excerpts of the Tropikalye Index”

The project began when Buenaventura realized, as she was preparing to teach a Philippine design course, that there wasn’t available literature that covered the contemporary Filipino vernacular.

For Buenaventura, the need for Tropikalye, a project driven by co-authorship within the context of a digital community, stemmed from the absence of academic resources that tackled new vocabularies for describing the aesthetic value in the everyday.

Buenaventura and Zicarelli are interested in exploring the liminal space between what is commonly identified as “Indigenous” and “luxury” in Philippine design. 

“Tropikalye was, in many ways, initiated in order to fill that perceived gap. Today it follows a co-learning resource format wherein the index is populated by Cos and me as well as submissions from anyone who wants to participate,” Buenaventura says. “We live in a difficult time and a difficult place, and so being able to find beauty in random objects and phenomena on the streets makes me (and others, I hope) feel a little lighter.”


2. Aaron Kaiser Garcia’s “Re-Move”

Aaron Kaiser Garcia
Aaron Kaiser Garcia’s “Re-Move”

‘Re-Move’ is a multidisciplinary sociopolitical commentary featuring dance, archival photography, and film.

It makes use of a digital archive of Indigenous Filipinos from 1890 to 1910, gathered from the Rautestrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne, Germany, and  the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid, where the 1887 Philippines Exposition was held.

The ambitious solo performance investigates, “patterns of power imbalance,” Garcia says. “Re-Move seeks to investigate the past and persistent ways that the Filipino body has not been afforded power to be, to know, and to record itself. This power was removed from our Indigenous ancestors when they were trafficked to Spain and America to perform in ‘ethnologic expositions,’ and it remains elusive to us now as their remains and the photographs taken of them continue to be confined within Western borders.”

READ MORE: Long-lost Pacita Abad painting shows glimpse of the artist’s life in Batanes


3. Mikayla Teodoro’s puppetry development

Kayla Teodoro puppet
London-based artist Kayla Teodoro’s hyena made collaboratively with Philippine artisans

Teodoro’s project aims to not only develop puppetry theater in the country but also hopes to transform the Philippines into a hub for puppetry in Southeast Asia. 

“When Filipinos think puppetry, they think Muppets or Sesame Street,” Teodoro says. “Because of this, finding sources of funding and people to really help us develop our passion projects has not been an easy feat since many people don’t understand what puppetry could be. Once we heard about the Benilde Open, we knew that it truly might be an opportunity to make progress towards what we wanted in terms of the development of puppetry.”

Teodoro does this by exploring the potential of advanced mechanisms in Philippine puppetry. “We started from the basics by studying the anatomy of our chosen animal (in this case, a hyena) and we watched videos of the animal’s movement and dissected the important assets it had. After this, we worked together as a team to flesh out our idea using various 3D modeling programs and prototyping… Since I am based in the UK, coordinating with makers in the Philippines had to be as streamlined as possible. Through careful planning and collaboration, we were really able to achieve a feat that had never before been seen in the country.”


4. Gabe Mercado’s “Unraveling Baguio’s Inner Tapestry” 

Mercado’s project touches on the concept of “psychogeography” and the study of how our environment affects our emotions, behaviors, and experiences.

“Psychogeography emphasizes the subjective and emotional aspects of place. It involves exploring urban spaces beyond their functional purpose, considering their hidden meanings, memories, and personal connections,” Mercado says. “Baguio, however, is a well-trodden urbanscape overflowing with students, tourists, academics, and ordinary citizens, and is both the first UNESCO Creative City in the Philippines as well as the first Smart City with cameras and sensors all over the central business district.” 

For Mercado, a person’s unique lens is informed by one’s personal, social, and cultural experiences, allowing for a bespoke exploration of urban spaces. “Everyone has an opinion and an agenda on how you should experience the city and that makes it perfect for a psychogeographical exploration: This project is an invitation to get lost in the navel of Baguio and to pay attention to what’s around you in the here and now and to ask yourself: How does it make me feel?” 

Mercado’s work at the Benilde Open presents artifacts lent to him by the 11 flaneurs who joined the first psychogeographical exploration of Baguio. His web app invites willing explorers to “get lost” and experience Baguio in rather unexpected ways, away from the curated so-called best-of-the-best type lists of must-see attractions.


Interactive and immersive experiences

5. Rambie Lim bridges the gap in Mindanao weaving 

Rambie Lim
Rambie Lim’s installation exploring the use of silk weaving

With threads dangling on the walls and looms leaning against corners, Lim promotes Tausug textiles from Mindanao weavers who, for decades, have used polyester traded from China. 

Lim, who brought the weavers to a workshop with Len Cabili of Filip+Inna, says, “They started to think about what they weave. These are non-traditional patterns.”  Lim has collaborated with the weavers with a goal of bridging suppliers, dyers, and weavers to potentially renew Mindanao’s traditional weaving and dyeing techniques, working closely with the weaver women Padirna Sanaani of Parang and Ruhina Muhaimer of Maimbung, Sulu. 

READ MORE: Likha 3 set to feature around 87 Filipino craftsmen and designers


6. Lyra Garcellano’s “Stakeholding: Chapter One”


Painter and multimedia artist Lyra Garcellano first conceptualized “Stakeholding: Chapter One” in 2023. The developing board game explores the intersecting realms of the contemporary art world and broader culture.

Using moving parts like assorted paper and small objects, players build their own imagined communities as they traverse the board, facing complex decisions in hypothetical scenarios. Through contemplative gameplay, players engage with narratives about the various ecologies and ecosystems within the art world.

The game prompts discourse through questions like: “How do we plan and develop this new landscape?… When we encounter other peoples’ worlds, do we challenge and try to conquer them, or do we cooperate and collaborate?” (Garcellano exhibition notes)


7. Spotlight on FSL literature by Michael Vea

Filipino Sign Language (FSL) Literature by Michael Vea
Spotlight on Filipino Sign Language (FSL) Literature by Michael Vea

In a moving project, Vea integrates Filipino Sign Language literature through a video that documents local poetry and prose in sign language. The creative signing workshop features the work of five deaf literary fellows, aiming to enrich the experience of art for the Filipino Deaf community.


8. “Biyahe” board game design for visually impaired Filipinos by Pia Maghirang

“Biyahe” board game design for visually impaired Filipinos by Pia Maghirang
“Biyahe” board game design for visually impaired Filipinos

Maghirang’s Biyahe is a game that was originally designed to be an aid in play therapy for visually impaired students. Her main intention for the project is to create a functional and educational tool that would capture children’s imagination and catalyze social interaction and play. 

According to Maghirang, “The thing I want to highlight the most, is that students or players who are differently abled are able to interact with one another. They are able to move past the challenge, creating no gap in learning and playing.” 

She shares how “Curiosity”, the overarching theme of the Benilde Open, resonated with her and drove her to use her imagination, skill set, and design sensibility to create a board game that minimizes or even erases the gap in recreational experiences. “There is strength when you know how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Empathy is something we need to actively practice. This helps us lessen miscommunication because one would know where the other is coming from.”


Nurturing the inner world

9. “Everglow Art Retreats” by Veronica Landig

mental health game board
Strings reflecting feelings across the board

This gentle project aims to nurture the inner world. Participants are invited to weave strings across a board that resonates with them, from difficult prompts like “I feel self-conscious about my body” to positive affirmations like “I can appreciate how far I’ve come.”

An emotional roller coaster for the soul, Landig’s project blends yoga, dance, theater, and art-making in her conceptualized retreat that aims to guide the self to healing through movement and meditative journaling.


10. “The Kid in Me”

This interactive book by Jasmila Clarisse San, Mary Julianne Capistrano, Mary Joy Velarde, Alfred Alavar, and Nicus Villaluna delves into the concept of the inner child through augmented reality. 

It guides readers on a self-development journey through digital components, from quotes on how “you are loved” and Hayao Miyazaki to healing activities like self-love bucket lists and writing a letter to your inner self.


Exciting news: The Benilde Open is set to be a biennial event with proposals for the second edition in February 2025 and presentations slated for February 2026. 

A new anchor exhibition is also planned to open in 2026 together with the second edition of the Benilde Open and Best of Benilde exhibitions.

For the rest of 2024, workshops on grant proposal writing will be held as well as tours of selected shortlisted works. A not-to-be-missed project of the 2024 Benilde Open is the publication of a combined folio featuring the inaugural Benilde Open, Best of Benilde, and Heidi Bucher anchor exhibition at the MCAD. 

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. 

Special thanks to Alexei Villaraza of Bridges PR.

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