Even those who bring color to the world experienced the horrors that the pandemic tattooed deep within them. Nonetheless, despite this indelible stain, the beauty of art will still be seen after it has healed from the pain. The Philippine art landscape was undeniably dusky in the early phases of these difficult times, yet artists were able to respond to the crisis in a creative way. With the epiphanies they had while confined to each of their homes, they were able to learn more about themselves and how to make the most of what was available to them, which enabled them to unearth new discoveries, forms of expression, and other ways to rise above the ashes.
Despite the pandemic still coursing through the continuance of life, Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI) is ever consistent with its efforts to raise the platform where our local artists stand. It was in the year of 1984 when the foundation commenced this tradition of hoisting the talents and hard work of aspiring Filipino artists, and it continues to persist even up to now. Metrobank Art & Design Excellence (MADE) is the program it established to promote the bearers of the future of Philippine art culture, which, for certain, has been making its pillars firm.
For its 38th edition, MADE followed the theme “Emerge: Step Into Your Boundless Future,” which allowed local painters and sculptors to display art that imitates the depths of life without minding limitations. With that, a community of visual creatives, who were given a voice through MADE, will be the ones to set out a boundless future for the generations ahead.
Expanding its goal to support the Filipino visual artists, and they hope to do so by continuing to provide aid to them, MADE reaffirms its commitment to helping artists in need this year as part of its advocacy. As part of the MADE CARES (Community Aid and Relief for Emergency Situations) program, a PhP1 million donation will be made to the Visual Arts HelpingHands Foundation (VAHHF) to assist with the medical expenses of local artists.
Among this year’s 500 entries, only two (2) grand awardees for the Painting Recognition Program and one for the Sculpture Recognition Program were chosen by the respected panel of judges to receive a prize of PhP 500,000.00 and a MADE trophy for their astounding creation. One artist from the Sculpture Recognition Program was also given a Special Citation with a cash prize of PhP 100,000.00.
The awardees will also join the MADE-Network of Winner (MADE-NOW), which is an alumni organization for all MADE winners. This organization made of talented people initiates pay-it-forward projects to give a hand to marginalized sectors. The MADE community is indeed a platform that provides a vast array of hope that has a reach not limited to artists only.
Celebrating creativity in the face of vicissitude and transforming the meaning and profundity of art, here are the winning pieces created by four outstanding artists for 2022:
Raymundo Ador III
“Dalawàng Libó’t Dalawáng Pu at Hanggang Kailan?”
Watercolor on Paper
Raymundo Ador III, recipient of the Grand Award in the Watermedia On Paper Category, created “Dalawàng Libó’t Dalawàng Pu at Hanggang Kailan?“ with the bourne of evincing someone’s emotions and stories. Harnessing the ordeal during the pandemic, where he has been bedevilled by depression and desisted from painting, Ador was able to turn this unsought nightmare into art. “Ako po ‘yung sa subject na ‘yun, ‘bale self-portrait ko. Last year, nag-photoshoot na ako nun, exhibit namin ‘yun. Hindi ko nagawa and hindi rin natuloy ‘yung exhibit na ‘yun. Tapos nitong nag-announce po ‘yung Metrobank ng contest, nag-try ako na sumali. Nag-compose uli ako kung paano ko magagawan ng kwento ‘yung about doon sa painting.”
The massive effects of COVID-19, which resulted in bodily and emotional anguish, a lack of resources to support daily lives, fear in us, and endless concerns about what might occur tomorrow, prompted Ador to ask the question “until when?” which also served as inspiration for his successful craft.
“Dalawàng Libó’t Dalawáng Pu at Hanggang Kailan?”
Having found the black-mirror episode running uphill as his forte in doing painting outside. Commissions and exhibits started to wane which forced him to focus on his studies for a month. However, Mulong Galicano, who’s one of Cebu’s famed portrait and landscape artists, provided them with huge financial support during those difficult times.
We all became witnesses to one another’s catastrophe during this crisis. Nonetheless, he eventually became accustomed to this novel type of setup. “May mga exhibits na ako ngayon na naglalabasan. Tulad po nung may mga exhibit ‘yung mga kaibigan namin, ‘yung mga sinasamahan ko dati, nag-meet uli kami. Doon ako nabigyan ng inspirasyon kasi sila mismo nagsasabi sa’kin na ‘gumawa ka nang gumawa.’ Parang nabuhayan ako na ituloy parin ‘yung pagpinta. And itong MADE po, mas nagbigay sa’kin ng fire na magpinta nang magpinta ulit.” he shares.
Ador sees his boundless future as an opportunity to further the information he has already amassed with the distinct goal of enkindling others, especially artists. “‘Yung hindi pagiging vocal, gusto ko ipakita more on paintings nalang para makipag-usap sa mga tao,” the artist states. “kasi ‘yung plan ko sa future siguro ay makapagturo about basics para makapag-inspire ng mga tao.”
With great hopes of having a solo exhibit, Ador is promoting his medium as part of his campaign to increase the popularity of watercolor in the Philippines. Even though it appears to be unrecognized and is often disparaged, he is certain that it can outperform other mediums in the country.
Melvin John Pollero
Acrylic on Canvas
For the Oil/Acrylic on Canvas category, Melvin John Pollero of Caloocan City took home the Grand Award with his painting, “Ninuno,” which depicts the present state of the country’s minorities and their ancestral domains. With its precise features that mimic reality, “Ninuno” is a piece that bleeds a thousand stories.
Pollero’s painting appears to highlight an abode of the locals with a rich culture. A human’s remains is what he used to be the face of, not just of the indigenous community, but of every human being who had been under nature’s care. However, on the edges are industrial equipment and tractors that are about to seize the lands that witnessed different sets of generations.
A message that he clearly wants to get through is, “May mga nire-red tag na mga tribal leaders, pero ‘pag titingnan mo ang mga pinaglalaban talaga nila… nadi-displace sila sa kanilang ancestral lands.” Indeed, joining MADE was not only for his art endeavors and the accolades he would receive upon winning, as Pollero’s piece was created to amplify the cries of the natives who have been long fighting to keep their culture and roots alive.
As an artist, he found his craft to be what could drive the public needs to further engage in issues that involve the unheard. Even in his entry for last year’s competition, he included something that would represent the natives, but it was not enough to highlight the agony they are in. With that, he decided to encompass the stories he had been wanting to tell through his creations.
“Ninuno” took about two weeks to a month to finish due to the changes he had to make. He was actually leaning towards creating a landscape, but he cannot feel the message he is trying to convey himself. He was also eyeing for a change in his art forms, “’Pag tinitingnan ko rin mga gawa ko, paano ko i-improve ‘yung mga dati kong gawa sa national minorities? Hindi lang para sa MADE, sa history rin ng social realism sa Pilipinas kailangang may maihain kang bago. ‘Pag may binago ka sa form, may mare-realize ka rin na bago sa content or other way around.”
An encounter that may have been just a chunk of normalcy for many was actually the catalyst of Pollero’s yearn for change. “Noong ako’y estudyante pa, napukaw na ang aking interes sa isyu ng pambansang minorya sa tuwing nakakakita ng mga Badjao at Aeta sa aking pagko-commute. Lalo pa itong lumalim nang magpunta ang iba’t-ibang grupo ng pambansang minorya sa aming unibersidad. Namulat ako sa kanilang kalagayan sa tulong ng mga talakayan at immersion sa kanila. Dito ko napagtanto na mahalagang maunawaan natin ang ugnayan natin sa kalikasan at ating mga ninuno. Lubos din akong nag-aalala para sa ‘king mga anak, dahil ngayon ay ramdam na natin ang epekto ng pagbabago ng klima. Para sa akin, dapat tayong matuto sa mga kapatid nating pambansang minorya kung paano alagaan ang ating mundo, bagay na maipamamana rin natin sa ‘ting mga anak.”
Aside from his MADE entry, his digital illustrations, which became his family’s means to survive the pandemic, were also centered around what he is campaigning for. A few may doubt his intentions and regard this artist as someone who sees the natives only as subjects of his paintings, but the measures he has been taking are enough to refute such unease.
“Napabilang din ako sa mga organisasyon na nag-aalay din ng sining, Alay-Sining nga ‘yung pangalan ng nasalihan ko. Nagkaroon din ako ng pagkakataon na makausap din talaga ‘yung mga sektor na tinatalakay ko…’Pag sa social realism, parang makakatulong na nakakausap mo ‘yung mga manggagawa, magsasaka, mga pambansang minorya; so, mapalad din ako na naranasan ko ‘yun.”
With his advocacies being incorporated into his piece, Pollero is indeed an artist to look up to. However, the pandemic also brought about disruptions to his expanding discoveries in his artistry. When people referred to the art profession as non-essential, Melvin chose to differ from this notion as he was able to navigate through this global crisis with the craft. “’Yung mga entry ko, para sa ‘kin, mahalaga talaga ‘yon eh. Kasi doon ko talaga nabuhos ‘yong mga emosyon ko. ‘Yung sinasabi na essential ang art, totoo ‘yun eh kasi parang pagkain din ang art… parte siya ng buhay ng tao. Ang na-realize ko nga rin ngayong pandemic, dapat lahat ng tao maging artist; hindi naman literal, kundi magkaroon ng malalim na orientation tungkol sa art.”
As someone who has been an artist his whole life, Pollero has made peace with the pressure going around people like him. He does not let himself get told of what he should do or not with his pieces anymore, as he believes, “Para sa akin kasi, lahat ng gagawin ko ako ‘yun eh. Parang ‘pag nagsusulat ka, yung artwork mo yung penmanship mo. So, kahit iba ‘yung gawin mo sa nakaraan, ikaw pa rin ‘yun eh.” Although he agrees that it is important for artists to own their artworks through its distinctive identity, he chooses to not bat an eye, as he enjoys trying out new forms and styles.
Apart from the subjects of his paintings, the artist himself has hopes for the community he belongs to. “Marami rin akong naiisip talaga para sa art sa Pilipinas. Ang tingin ko, maganda rin na magkaroon ng seguridad ‘yung mga artists, gaya ng mga benepisyo. Naramdaman ko rin kasi ‘yan noong pandemic,” tells the artist, “sana magkaroon ng mas malakas na programa para sa mga artist; in terms of laws, mga patakaran, at mas lumawak yung mga oportunidad. Isa rin sa napapansin ko para sa women din, mas dumami pa ‘yung women artists sa pamamagitan ng pagpapalawak ng mga oportunidad. Ma-institutionalize din yung pagpapalawak ng pag-unawa sa art, para ‘pag dumating yung panahon na mas lumawak ‘yung komunidad.”
After this momentous win, the “Ninuno” painter is currently talking to galleries and has been planning for his solo show, where he will exhibit not just his call for change, but also his range in the craft.
Mateo Cacnio‘s “Politika“ aluminum metal sculpture, which depicts the wrath stoked by politics, took home the category’s top prize. The election season served as the battleground where people’s true attitudes toward fighting for what is true and what is based on ego were exposed, which is what drove him to create a sculpture that represents two biomorphic figures in a fight.
“When I thought of “Politika,” I thought of expressing two forms. I don’t wanna mimic nature, however I wanted to express the feeling; the dynamic sensation of the human figure. So that’s really my initial practice. I try to find the rawness of human activity and expression.”
Cacnio, an arts student at the University of the Philippines, is aware of the unfavorable stereotypes that people have about the institution. Different political stances lead to conflict and animosity among individuals; he witnessed threats, hate speech, and other forms of expression while the campaign was emerging, and he wanted to portray that through his art.
The first step of the pandemic did not come easily for Cacnio because we were all caged in our rooms and he could not see anything that he could use as a subject. This was made more difficult by the fact that they had also been used to find inspiration outside and use that to express themselves. But as he learned to reflect on himself and later with his art, it appears like a blessing in disguise.
“I would notice that my classmates, ‘yung mga themes ng subject nila about isolation, mga dark themes. And that made me realize that, I took this whole pandemic as an opportunity for me to get to know more about myself. So if you notice in my sculptures, it’s more about the expression of human activity, because my reference for my artistic practice isn’t really from the outside rather it was more on the inside.”
Making this disaster into a safe haven, Cacnio challenges himself to create anything out of it despite the strange setup as he is used to working in larger studios with complete materials. “Really, what I’ve learned is just, make use of what you have. Dati kasi mga works ko puro collages, mga fan materials, mga bote, mga ganiyan. Siguro one thing I’ve learned as an artist is to try to maximize everything that you have right now to create meaningful art.”
Some people find that making future plans helps them stay motivated and organized. It also helps you succeed by removing distractions. Cacnio, though, is an exception. Setting high expectations for him by dwelling too much on the future is contrary to his desire to concentrate on what is happening right now or what is turning him on. His current thoughts are on how he may advance his art, study additional techniques, and create more art. “My main motto is I don’t wanna strive for perfection rather I want to aim for innovations. My goal right now as an artist is to s’yempre study art history, absorb what’s happening around us, and look for reasons on how you can push forward the Philippine identity to make our culture bigger.”
Cacnio invests a lot of time in reading books about art history, watching documentaries, and anything else that could help him get better. With the presence of different theories, manifestos, artists, and movements, he is able to evolve from them, which gives him a huge help in making his artworks. Mateo thinks that once you have these resources, you should be able to recognize the pattern and fundamentals that you need to learn. You need to discover your inspiration and incorporate who you are along the way to “become your own identity because the art you produce is the window to your soul—a window to your own identity.”
Although the traditional method of producing art is important for growth, he feels that we need to move away from it eventually, especially now that we live in a time of technological advancement that is advantageous to artists to push art forward.
Jun Orland Espinosa
For the Sculpture Recognition Program, Special Citation awardee, Jun Orland Espinosa, conveys a compelling message through his sculpture, “Underneath.” “Living in an inhabitable environment because of personal calamities and tragic experiences” brought this piece of art to life.
The uprooted root sculpture mirrors human emotions of misery, frustration, and loss of hope, which is something anyone has been through once in their life. The art, for certain, will let you “experience chaos and morbidity” and “a total disaster and sufferings” at first glance, but the artist did not create this to solely produce an apocalyptic scenery. He seeks to challenge the viewer to look for the good in something despite the tragedy.
The inspiration of the artwork was actually based on the personal experiences of his brother during the onslaught of Typhoon Odette. The aftermath of the calamity introduced an unrecognizable place when he decided to pay a visit to the area. It was prior to the catastrophic event when he decided that he will be joining this year’s MADE, but Espinosa knew within him that he needs to use the platform given to him to express what his family was going through.
“Kaya hindi direct ‘yung mga image na nilagay ko sa piyesa ko kasi ‘yung pinaka-goal ko lang doon ay maramdaman ng viewer ‘yung mismong nararamdaman ng taong dumadaan sa pagsubok.”
He did not opt to use a traditional material in his sculpture, as he wanted to carry on in this competition a fragment of what he has witnessed from the disaster. With personal reality being the main theme he usually expresses in his art, he is entirely adept at communicating emotions in his art even without using actual human faces; evident in his 2022 MADE sculpture.
As someone who also sees the good in situations he’s in, Espinosa took advantage of the time the pandemic has given to him. “Isa sa mga naging strategy ko para malampasan ‘ang stress is to focus more sa pagkakaroon ng positibong pananaw sa kabila ng mga nangyayari sa ‘tin. Kasi that time hectic na ‘yung mga schedules namin kasi maraming mga art events, exhibitions, parang wala ka ng time sa sarili mo para mag-isip kasi naka-focus ka na sa paggawa na lang ng art. Tiningnan ko na lang na nag-pause tayo, nag-stop tayo from that moment na sobrang hectic ‘yung schedule as an artist, para makahinga naman nang malalim dahil sa nangyaring pandemic.”
With the financial aspect, he applied for grants to sustain his creative profession. Orland’s positive outlook in life even saved him from frustration when he was not able to attend his first solo show due to the pandemic. He chose to not let it consume him as he still has more arts to make.
Through his art, the sculptor also hopes to be a voice, especially in today’s economic and political landscape. “Sobrang halaga ng art, kasi more siya sa reflection kahit hindi mo na malaman yung total meaning. May mga realizations na mangyayari sa totoong buhay kapag nakita niyo yung gawa ng isang artist. ‘Yung ordinaryong tao, parang mas makakapag-isip siya nang malalim, parang pinangangaralan mo siya.”
For Espinosa, his hopes for the future of the Philippine local art scene is for artists to explore a variety of art forms. He wants to see more Filipino artists trying unconventional ways of creating art. “Isa rin kasi sa mga pinu-push ko sa art ko is yung materiality and process. Hindi ako nag-i-stick sa kung ano lang yung available at traditional na materials. Gusto ko rin na makita sa art scene na kung gusto nating makita na magkaroon ng progress ‘yung bansa natin, dapat simulan natin sa makikita sa ‘ting art.
With what, Espinosa is praying to push through in the art scene, he wants to expand it with massive installations using found objects and conduct wood sculpture workshops in incorporating salvage wood as the prime material for creating spaces for exhibitions. His massive ideas for future artworks reveals the passion he has for the craft; that’s something that cannot be taken away from him. “Make more art” is the only thing he stated as his biggest plan after this artistry breakthrough.
Rank Magazine is the Premier Media Partner of the 2022 MADE Awarding Ceremony