Imagining the Filipino Sublime: The Winners of This Year’s Annual Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) Awards

    In order to feel and embrace the lofty aspirations of the Filipino nation and identity, these invariably need to take the form of art—a material presence that serves as a perpetual reminder of what we can hope to collectively achieve. This year’s 2017 Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE), arguably the most anticipated art competition in the country established by the Metrobank Foundation Inc. (MBFI), challenged artists “to root their creative works on the very seedbed of artistic genius: the human imagination.”

    “Artists hold the power to imagine things anew through the MADE competition,” says MBFI President Aniceto Sobrepeña. “They are empowered to showcase and render their creative side to become true works of art.”

    Five sculptors and three painters stepped up to the challenge through their works that breached boundaries, expanded thought, and soared to imaginative heights. Adjudged as the best in this year’s edition, they are ready to take their place in the prestigious roster of MADE winners that now constitute some of the leading lights of Philippine visual arts.

    Moreen Joy Austria, Pagtaguyod

    Moreen Joy Austria, Pagtaguyod

    Family Connection

    Leading the pack for the MADE Sculpture Recognition Program is Moreen Joy Austria, this year’s Grand Awardee for Pagtaguyod. Showcasing a dynamic form of interlocking bodies constituting a Filipino family, the work expressively demonstrates the ideal harmony and cooperation of this basic unit of society.

    For Austria, the sense of family necessarily extends to our fellow Filipinos. “Why do we relate to total strangers as manong or kuya (older brother), tita (aunt), nanay (mother) or tatang (father)? Influential mass media networks even adopt the familialism by using slogans to call their viewers or listeners, like kapamilya (family member), kapuso (beloved one), kapatid (sibling) to appeal to the loyalty of supporters.

    “Perhaps attributing familial names make one feel that the other is not a stranger, fostering deeper connection as it familiarizes, if not, endears them to the other. This brings a sense of inclusion, like being part of the family circle. The weight that Filipinos give to the family affects how we, as individuals within a society, think and act as a nation.”

    National Identity in Stainless Steel

    The inspiration came to Austria when, sitting in a coffee shop, she saw a couple supporting a toddler during his first steps. “Letting go of his mom’s hand,” the sculptor recalls, “the boy struggled to walk to the father and I heard the mom laughingly say, ‘He’s coming up’ and something about those words and that sight, which blended with the OPM playing in the background, filled me with a sense of love for what is ‘being Filipino’: we are a people of faith, family, relationships, and hope.”

    Envisioned as a sculptural structure using fabricated stainless steel in plain and bronze finish, Pagtataguyod, features stick-like figures made from deformed bars, which have been a characteristic style of the artist. A steel “paper airplane,” which endows the work with a soaring, uplifting feel, has been a recurring element in her recent sculptural creations.

    Abdulmari Imao Jr., Monument for the Pursuit of Happiness

    Abdulmari Imao Jr., Monument for the Pursuit of Happiness

    Trees, Birds and Coral Reefs

    The four finalists of the Sculpture Recognition Program are Joan Balbarona-Anila for The Colony, Abdulmari Imao Jr. for Monument for the Pursuit of Happiness, Rona Lara-Bes for Stone Garden, and Maria Cecilia Magdamit for Blue Hope.

    Balbarona-Anila’s The Colony is envisioned as a “garden-like installation of bamboo-looking sculptures…signifying the diversity of individuals living together in close association on or within a solid ground or environment,” while Imao’s for Monument for the Pursuit of Happiness is “akin to a Tree of Life, with a canopy of colorful migratory birds reminiscent of colorful sarimanoks (a tribute to my father and his Mindanaon heritage), and supported by four kawayan or bamboo pillars.”

    Joan Balbarona-Anila, The Colony

    Joan Balbarona-Anila, The Colony

    Lara-Bes’ Stone Garden, on the other hand, “mimics the stacking of oval-shaped rocks” shaped like eggs that “are like wombs that eventually will hatch into a new life form. The ‘yolks’ are multi-colored to evoke water and nature. Blue, purple and green are the colors of the sea…” Lastly, Magdamit’s Blue Hope represents “youth and the growing coral reefs symbolizing a change from the once damaged corals and treasures of the sea to blooming new corals badly needed by our fisher folks to obtain growth of the diverse species of fishes…and other elements.”

    Rona Lara-Bes, Stone Garden

    Rona Lara-Bes, Stone Garden

    Maria Cecilia Magdamit, Blue Hope

    Maria Cecilia Magdamit, Blue Hope

    Painting as a Personal Journal

    From the works of the winner and the finalists Federal Land, Inc. (FLI) will choose one that will be transformed into a public sculpture located at the rotunda of MetroPark in Pasay City—the first in the history of MADE. Separate from the jurors for the sculpture category, FLI will have their own judging process to ascertain the structural stability and safety of their selection. Distinct requirements are needed in order to translate a maquette into its large-scale version.

    Paul Cabanalan, Genesis

    Paul Cabanalan, Genesis

    For the Painting Recognition Program, Paul Cabanalan is this year’s Grand Awardee in oil/acrylic on canvas for his work Genesis. A graduate of Iloilo Science and Technology University, the Ilonggo artist has created a tight mesh of the elements—skyscrapers, people, implements of technology—that essentially portrays the chaos of the city. From this rough-and-tumble image do we glean the beginnings of civilization.

    According to Cabanalan, the genesis of collective pursuit takes place within the context of the barangay. “I’ve been concerned with the issues happening to my barangay and the country when I was studying in college,” the artist says. “There were so many bad things that were reported in the news.”

    Naturally, the themes or ideas he usually explores in his works emerge from his own observations and experiences. “My experiences mold me and they make me who I am,” Cabanalan says. “My painting serves as my diary. It is a record of the events of my life and the people and the places I’ve (visited).”

    Jett Osian, Tell Lie Vision

    Jett Osian, Tell Lie Vision

    Televisions That Lie

    Receiving special citation, also in oil/acrylic on canvas, is Jett Osian, with his work, Tell Lie Vision. With the title serving as a pun to what is also called the “idiot box,” the work features a group of onlookers, their backs turned to the viewer, as they watch in rapt attention a flurry of television sets floating in space against dark clouds. The apparition catches them by surprise, possibly with the same fascination they would have had if the same television sets were located in their living rooms.

    From Dasmariñas, Cavite, Osian studied at the Technological University of the Philippines in Manila. Admittedly, his works touch on societal ills, such as the bracing spectacle of the media. “I want to be part of influence of social realism in Philippine contemporary art,” says the artist.

    Marvin Quizon, For Those Who Lived and Forgotten

    Marvin Quizon, For Those Who Lived and Forgotten

    Dying and Living Forever

    This year’s grand awardee in water media on paper is Marvin Quizon for For Those Who Lived and Forgotten. The work portrays an image of a seeming dead bird from which branches, roots, and flowers emerge, as if to underscore that nature is in a perpetual tug between decay and replenishment. It is a haunting paean to all life forms, as well as a warning about environmental degradation. A native of Baliuag, Bulacan, Quizon studied at the Bulacan State University, Malolos.

    “My artwork is about the significance of life for those who lived and were forgotten,” Quizon states. “On a day like today, there are so many tragedies, killings, (acts of) terrorism, etc. I painted a dead bird because it symbolizes new beginning, new change, new life. Vines and flowers are growing from it to symbolize that when there is death, there is always life, and also to symbolize the good deeds done by those who lived and are supposed to be not forgotten.”

    Springboard to Greatness

    To be awarded in a formal ceremony this month, the winners will receive P500,000 worth of cash assistance and a glass trophy entitled “Mula,” designed by the visual artist Noelle El Farol. They will also become automatic members of the MADE-Network of Winners (MADE-NOW), the alumni organization of past MADE awardees. The four finalists for the sculpture recognition program, as well as the top 10 finalists for the painting recognition program will also be awarded with special incentives and certificates of recognition.

    “Over the last three decades, MADE has served as an avenue in discovering the greatness and talents of Filipinos in the arts scene,” says Sobrepeña. “MADE will continue to unleash the potentials of every young painter and sculptor to craft marvelous masterpieces, thus showcasing the competencies of Filipino in the art field, both locally and abroad.”

    Text by Carlomar Arcangel Daoana

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