THE history of the Philippines comes alive in a grand a colorful way through SiningSaysay, an exhibit set to open to the public on February 19 at the Gateway Gallery in Araneta Center, Cubao.
A joint project of the University of the Philippines and UP Alumni Association, which took almost five years to complete, SiningSaysay: Philippine History in Art features 30 grand mural paintings by Filipino artists who are all proud graduates of the premiere national university.
The Araneta Center also plays a vital part in what is poised to be an impressive display of Filipino talent by providing the venue big enough to house the collection of artworks each precisely measuring 6 by 12 feet, but all distinctly different in style and medium.
Exhibit organizers held a media launch for SiningSaysay at the Gloria Maris restaurant at Cubao’s Gateway Mall led by UP President Alfred Pascual.
According to Pascual, SiningSaysay is a paring of Filipino words “sining” (art) and “kasaysayan” (history), thus the meaning “history in art.” “This is an innovative way of teaching history, promoting art appreciation, understanding Filipino identity, and imbibing cultural pride,” he elaborated.
He added that the project is all the more notable because its biggest stakeholders are all UP alumnae—from the artists behind the murals, the historians who provided research for the artworks; to the organizers who brought the whole endeavor together.
“SiningSaysay is UP’s offering to our country and our people,” Pascual declared, adding that he will find a permanent home for the exhibit in the university after its extended run at the Gateway Gallery.
Also present at the launch was Pascual’s colleague, former UP regent and former UPAA president Gari Tiongco, who is the project’s original brainchild.
According to Tiongco, he first conceived the idea in 2008. He recalled, “The concept is [for the exhibit]to be a come-on for students to learn the history of the Philippines in just a half day by going around but not in a usual museum.”
Tiongco also noted that very few countries have this kind of historical exhibit making it a rare feat. As such, he also believes that SiningSaysay can eventually serve as a destination for tourists to know more about Philippine history.
“This project is meant to last a lifetime,” he added.
Highlights of history
Tasked to curate the murals to depict Philippine history from the beginning to the present are respected historians Dr. Serafin Quaizon and Prof. Ma. Luisa Camagay.
In an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Camagay shared how she identified historical turning points of the country, which a participating artist chose and then interpreted.
She elaborated, “You can see in the exhibit the invention of the system of writing, then the pre-Hispanic period in which we established our own institutions. There are also the colonization periods under Spain, United States and Japan.”
Of course, significant events in modern day history are also included namely Martial Law and the People Power Revolution in EDSA, as well the succession of Philippine presidents among others.
The historian also noted that the historic works are also interspersed with thematic paintings of Muslim and Chinese in the Philippines, Filipina empowerment and the labor sector.
Both Camagay and Quaizon also served as consultants to the artists on how to best present the past in their particular style and medium.
With SiningSaysay, Camagay hopes that Filipinos, who “tend to hate” learning and understanding Philippine history, will develop an appreciation for it with this unique presentation.
The artists’ interpretation
Project manager Grace Javier Alfonso shared that SiningSaysay is inspired by “grand manner” paintings that have long been a tradition in UP through the College of Fine Arts. The art style also epitomizes being an arts graduate of UP because it is ultimately used in the students’ thesis.
Besides heading the implementation of SiningSaysay, Alfonso also shared her talent for visual arts in piece, “Women in the Philippine Revolution.”
“I really claimed women empowerment because many of my works, from art to text, are about women,” Alfonso related.
She further shared that the artists were all tasked to research on the part of Philippine history they would paint, alongside constant meetings to make sure that they depict them in the most accurate way possible.
Nevertheless, she noted, “But at the same time, we also had freedom as an artist.”
This was echoed by artist Jun Yee who is behind the first piece in exhibit titled, “The Angono Petroglyphs.” Yee related he personally went to Angono, Rizal to to study the original petroglyphs closely.
Perhaps one of the most notable works at SiningSaysay is the final masterpiece of the late Filipino Muslim National Artist Adbul Mari Imao. In his signature, colorful strokes, he painted “Muslims in the Philippines,” which depicts the time Islam arrived in Sulu’s shores as early as the 1380, with the Tausugs as the first group to accept the religion and way of life.
To end, Alfonso ventured to describe SiningSaysay as, “Public art in a public space [that]will generate public discourse.”
The roster of artists for the exhibit also include National Artist for Visual Arts Ben Cabrera Adonai Artificio, Armand Bacaltos, Adi Baen-Santos, Grandier Bella, Benjie Cabangis, Angel Cacnio, Romeo Carlos, Cris Cruz, Denes Dasco, Gig De Pio, Simkin De Pio, Vincent De Pio, Neil Doloricon, Norman Dreo, Amado Hidalgo, Ben Infante, Aileen Lanuza, Romeo Mananquil, Norlie Meimban, Julius Samson, Jonahmar Salvosa, Randy Solon, Michael Velasco, and Janice Young.
SiningSaysay is part of the annual celebration of National Arts Month in February, as well as the 60th anniversary of Araneta Center.