MADE to Last: The Making, Blossoming, Remaking and Continuing Legacy of Metrobank Art & Design Excellence


A community with as much talent, passion, and diversity as Philippine art needs to have its own blazed advocate. One that’s as vigorous about its success as the very people creating its constantly growing collection. Here, we look into the history of the Metrobank Art & Design Excellence competition as it’s being written, and its inspiring commitment to Filipino artists in and out of the pandemic.

The Philippines is home to a plethora of artists, whether it be in the ever-evolving visual, performative, or experiential fields, or what ever new platform would arise next in the world of creativity. But as much as there is talent, there have also historically been a glaring lack in support—moral, financial or educational—and even the celebration of the community in general. But one organization that has constantly been at the forefronts of advocating for our artists is the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. which has gone through lengths to bring more opportunities and recognition to Filipino artisans throughout the years. This is all the more apparent in the 37 years it has conducted the Metrobank Art & Design Excellence competition and exhibition.

Metrobank Art & Design Excellence, or M.A.D.E., is an initiative that aims to cultivate a culture of excellence within the fields of art and design, focused on striving towards holistic human social development. Established in 1984 as the Metrobank Annual Painting Competition, it was initially launched to engage the youth in educational and cultural efforts amidst the economic and political turbulence brought on by Martial Law at the time.

The Then

“Storm Surge”
Natalio Gelisanga Alob Jr
2014 Grand Prize for Sculpture

“Native Land”
Kelly Sonio
2006 Grand Prize for Sculpture

From the very beginning, the Metrobank Foundation intended to promote positive undertakings amongst Filipino youths, and to enrich their minds and souls through art. The Metrobank Annual Painting Competition’s main objectives included launching young artists to national prominence; exploring and creating career opportunities of young painters and sculptors; celebrating the talent, commitment, and hard work of young visual artists; and to “awaken and renew” the art community and the general public’s regard for the art of painting, sculpture, architecture, interior design, and its related fields.

On top of that, the Competition was also created to establish and cement Metrobank and Metrobank Foundation as chief promoters of the development of Philippine visual arts, architecture, and interior design across the country and all over the world through varying design programs. In pursuing this, they’ve collected a vast network of public and private art institutions/groups over the years to support the Foundation’s, and the whole art community’s, unified objective of uplifting Filipino art.

“Bahay Kubo’t, Kahit Munti ang Halaman Doon ay Sari-Sari”
Oil on Canvas
Felix M. Miguel
1989 Second Prize Winner

In 1996, the Competition was renamed to Young Painters’ Annual or YPA to expand the Foundation’s mission and vision, and to help more artists receive the aid they need to succeed. This included the announcement of the IDEA Framework. The main thrust of this program is to support the first solo exhibit of former winners of the Competition; support educational programs in the arts like workshops, lecture/forum, demonstrations, festivals, and curriculum development; and support for programs or facility improvements of key art institutions.

Metrobank Foundation further grew its support for the community in 2004, when Metrobank Art & Design Excellence (MADE) was formally revealed to the public. This relaunch widened the organization’s programs to include not just Paintings, but also Sculpture, Architecture, and Interior Design programs. This is the beginning of the MADE competition as we know it today.

The Now

Image courtesy of Metrobank Art and Design Excellence

At present, MADE has solidified itself as a reputable and formidable presence in the Philippine art community as both a platform for appreciation, and an avenue for cultivation. Since its establishment 37 years ago, it has massively expanded its focus, constantly launching new programs, competitions, seminars, and other activities to ensure that Filipino artists receive the support they deserve, whether it be financial aid, educational excursions, or encouraging recognition for their work.

Perhaps the biggest affair out of the entire Metrobank Art & Design Excellence program is its Recognition Programs, raking in submissions for the painting and sculpture categories from all over the country. It has effectively launched several of the Philippines’ most celebrated and respected artisans to the art community’s competitive stratosphere with its rock solid reputation for backing only the most authentic and relevant artist works. This is also solidified by MADE’s set of principles and traditions that have guided the competition’s work throughout the years, grounded on integrity, credibility, and equity.

Image courtesy of Metrobank Art and Design Excellence

The very first thing that MADE kicks off its new editions with is conducting An Effective Search. To ensure that the competition reaches the right artists, the Foundation does extensive research, information campaigns, and partnership dealings to promote the awards’ call for entries. As it believes that “the wider the reach, the wider the representation of participants”, it targets the academe, cultural institutions, local government units and commercial spaces to seek out and invite prospective participants.

The Metrobank Foundation also goes out of their way to choose a Credible Board of Judges, as this will make up the backbone and security of the whole awards process. They look into balance of skills, expertise, and even network capability when finalizing the names for each edition’s Board. This relationship, MADE emphasizes, is more of a partnership with the Foundation, and a partnership with the eventual winners. Equity is also a big principle of MADE, as it aspires to bring more opportunities for Filipino artists across the map. In light of this, they put utmost importance to ensuring provincial or regional representation through a formula that dictates a specific number of selections per region.

“By putting premium on equity, we are able to open more chances for a provincial, least recognized, low profile yet equally talented participants to be publicly acclaimed,” MADE highlighted.

Image courtesy of Metrobank Art and Design Excellence

Once the nationwide entries are in, MADE also prides itself of the Credible Procedure it follows in selecting finalists and winners. Objectivity is the main focus of the judging period, carried out through individual quantitative measures, and with a deliberation process afterwards to hear each judges’ preferences and points of view. MADE stated: “We believe that intelligent deliberation reduces subjectivity and harmonizes differences in choices. The end product/result of this process is a consensual decision.”

The Metrobank Foundation also gives importance to Strict Confidentiality, which is implemented in two levels: First off, the judges are expected to observe their judge duties and results in “embargo”, which prohibits them from divulging any important details about the competition before they are due to come out. Moreover, between the judging and awarding ceremonies, there is a period of investigation to ensure credibility and authenticity of the winner and his/her work. This also gives judges and organizers some time to reconvene should the investigation discover any concerns.

Lastly, MADE is committed to have a Controversy-Free Competition. That is, to continually observe necessary procedures to determine fraud, and to make the appropriate actions in these cases. The Foundation aspires to produce acceptable results, and follows strict guidelines to avert any controversies in the handling and results of the Competition.

All of these guidelines and principles have forged the blueprint that has made the Metrobank Art & Design Excellence competition so respected, and its awards so sought after, in the Philippine art world. For 37 years, it has truly established a living legacy, and this year’s edition is no different.

Image courtesy of Metrobank Art and Design Excellence

MADE 2021, with the theme “Spectrum: The Art of Possibilities”, challenged Filipino artists to depict the human experience and work on pieces that speak true of our current realities’ many social implications. In fact, this year’s winners have shown an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures that portray what it’s like to live in our society today. From pandemic challenges, to political commentary, social inequality between classes, and even to mental health—the eight awardees each bring a unique plaguing issue to the table, presented in a remarkably novel way.

Despite the pandemic, and the one year-postponement of the competition due to 2020’s uncertainties, MADE recorded the highest number of entries in the last 10 years of the competition with 701 submissions for this edition. That’s 564 entries for the Oil on Canvas Category; 77 entries for the Water Media on Paper Category; and 60 entries for the Sculpture Recognition Program.

On top of pushing through with hosting the competition this year online for the first time ever, and the promise of huge monetary rewards for each winning work, the Foundation also proved its commitment to supporting Filipino artists with the cash assistance program dubbed as MADE CARES (Community Aid and Relief for Emergency Situations). The initiative provided financial aid to over 200 artists across the country from, including some of the winning works this year.

“When our lives were suddenly disrupted by the pandemic, the competition was deferred last year. Now as we are learning to live with the reality of COVID-19, we continue our mission to nurture the potential of young artists and enable them to express their voices freely however restrictive this new normal,” shared MBFI President Aniceto Sobrepeña in an official statement.

“The hundreds of entries submitted across the country are a testament to our local artists’ passion to create. They convey visually the heartbeat of a people facing a global disease, the fears, the anger, the sadness and loss, but also the hope, the courage and the tenacity to fight this enemy with kindness, generosity and compassion,” he added.

The Legacy

Image courtesy of Metrobank Art and Design Excellence

Today, Metrobank Foundation’s dedication to the arts has given recognition to over 400 young artists throughout the years. The IDEA framework has also supported under 300 art activities like exhibits of Competition winners, art workshops, art festivals, facilities improvement of museums and schools, among others. The program has also supported artists with close to Php 15.0 M worth of financial aid.

In fact, when Rank Magazine caught up with the 2021 winners, they clearly pointed out that the MADE competition is one that every artist should, at least once, enter. That although this edition is without the fanfare of the grand awarding ceremony and physical exhibition for their works, they still persisted to join because it’s an opportunity like no other. Kathleen Dagum, Grand Awardee for the Sculpture Recognition category with her sculpture “Bungkag”, emphasized: “Kahit walang recognition, okay lang. MADE kasi siya.” (Even if we don’t get recognition, it’s okay because it’s MADE.)

In agreement, Grand Awardee for the Painting Oil/Acrylic on Canvas Category Ariosto Dale C. Bagtas also described the competition as “Isang bibliya ng art kompetisyon” (A bible for art competitions) as this is his seventh year to join the program.

“Uncensored Fallacy of Faith”
Clark Manalo
Special Citation, 2021
Oil/Acrylic on Canvas Category

Three-year participant Clark S. Manalo, who received the Special Citation accolade for the same category, also shared the significance of being recognized by, what he calls, “one of the only foundation competitions in the Philippines.” Manalo joked, “Hindi lang open doors, open windows din.” (It not only opened doors, but it also opened windows for us.)

All of the winners voiced out how much of an impact this MADE win will bring to their individual careers, but one response that really stood out was Mark Anthony P. Laza’s, the Special Citation recipient for the Oil/Acrylic on Canvas Category. He expressed his gratitude for this competition, noting how it puts the spotlight on their names, and allows them the platform to share their messages and individual narratives from their own personal realities. “From small names, ngayon mas napapasok na [kami] sa industriya.] (From small names, we’re now more established in the industry.)

“Haunting Wail of Chaos”
Lymuel Bautista
Grand Prize, 2021
Water Media on Paper

It’s clear that Filipino artists themselves recognize the unique value that the Metrobank Foundation, and the Metrobank Art & Design Excellence program, bring to the appreciation and further development of Philippine visual arts, within the local community and across the globe. If not even a pandemic can fully stop it from uplifting Filipino artistry, creativity and craftsmanship, we imagine that nothing will.

From all the winners it elevated through the competition, all the artists it empowered through the MADE CARES grant, and all the young dreamers it has inspired through all its separate programs, the Metrobank Art & Design Excellence is truly a work of unyielding passion towards Filipino creativity. Its very existence and continued performance are driven from its lone advocacy: to set the stage for Filipino artists to fly.

As this year’s program comes to a close, and successfully launches—once again—a batch of incredibly gifted artists to the main stage of Philippine art, Metrobank Foundation goes back to the drawing boards to prepare for another run of MADE. Regardless of what the next edition has in store, it will undoubtedly add even more depth, direction, and success to the Foundation’s vibrantly thriving legacy.

Until (and perhaps even beyond) that time when the whole world sees the value of art pieces from the Philippine archipelago, and Filipino artists are given the recognition, celebration, and remuneration they dutifully deserve.

Read this story and more about the storied tradition and unrelenting legacy of the Metrobank Art & Design Excellence, exclusively produced by Rank Magazine in partnership with Metrobank Foundation, Inc. through this digital zine through this:

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