Sculpting better lives

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Q Philip Sevilla of Angeles, Pampanga can now turn driftwood into a work of art

Q Philip Sevilla of Angeles, Pampanga can now turn driftwood into a work of art

Disaster survivors, indigenous people to be featured in Manila exhibit

For the longest time, farmer Philip Sevilla of Angeles, Pampanga saw wood merely as something he could use to build fire. He didn’t expect that with some training in the art of sculpture, that material would allow him to earn extra income and more importantly, take part in an art exhibit at Metro Manila.

Sevilla is one of the disaster survivors and indigenous people (IP) from several communities who have received driftwood sculpture training under a livelihood program of Smart Communications Inc. (Smart). The community sculptors are now set to showcase their best works in a selling exhibit at the Art Center in SM Megamall on March 27.

The various works of community sculptors to be featured in the ‘Landas’ exhibit

The various works of community sculptors to be featured in the ‘Landas’ exhibit

Called Landas: Mga Iskultor ng Bayan mula Tondo hanggang Palawan, the upcoming exhibit will also feature the works of the communities’ trainers: renowned sculptor Rey Paz Contreras and the Daambakal Sculptors of Tondo, Manila.


“I wish Smart had come sooner,” Sevilla said. “Sometimes I can’t help but feel bad over all the wasted wood that we could have transformed into art pieces.”

Smart started to organize sculpture trainings in 2005, when it saw an opportunity for displaced fisherfolk of Banglos, Quezon to literally sculpt a new livelihood out of the driftwood and felled logs that littered the area following four consecutive typhoons in 2004. The logs were then being turned into charcoal by some members of the community.

Four months after the trainings, the Banglos Sculptors mounted an exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines—a record of sorts in the Philippine community art scene. More exhibits in Manila, Cebu, and Bacolod followed, which brought in more than P1 million in proceeds in just the first two years of operation.

Seeing how the program has improved the live of the Banglos residents, Smart decided to replicate it in other typhoon-ravaged communities, as well as in watershed areas. And in a classic case of “paying it forward,” the former trainees have become the trainers of other communities, like Yolanda survivors from Capiz and Palawan and IP from South Sierra Madre.

 Smart’s head for community partnerships, Darwin Flores (fifth from left) with master sculptor Rey Contreras (sixth from left) with some of the sculptors

Smart’s head for community partnerships, Darwin Flores (fifth from left) with master sculptor Rey Contreras (sixth from left) with some of the sculptors

“The program has instilled in them a deeper respect for the environment. It teaches the sculptors to work with nature—to ‘listen’ to what the raw materials want themselves to look like. It also leads them away from work that harms the environment, such as illegal logging and charcoal making,” said Smart community partnerships head Darwin Flores.

So far, 150 people in eight communities have undergone sculpture training under the Smart program. To help link the communities to potential markets, Smart has been organizing selling exhibits in different areas such as Makati City and Alabang in Muntinlupa City.

“We are inviting everyone to visit the Landas exhibit so they could better appreciate the transformative journey these communities have embarked on. We are happy that the livelihood program has helped our partners realize that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary creations. Creativity resides in each of us; it just needs to be awakened,” Flores added.

Proceeds of the sale, which will run until April 7, will be used to expand the livelihood program and to purchase more tools and equipment for production.

The exhibit is curated by art critic Reuben Canete and Marinel Isla Contreras.

TMA

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