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“OUR ART encompasses everything we are as Filipinos,” said Sharlene Z. Batin, the Department of Tourism’s regional director for the National Capital Region.
“It is a testament to the growing love, knowledge, and substantive appreciation of what we have. Our culture and our heritage — what makes us uniquely us — is always reflected in what we wear, what we eat, what things we use at home. Of course, it is reflected in our arts.”
This panoptic view of the role of art in the Philippine consciousness served as a guiding light for the tourism industry’s leadership when it launched the exhibit “HIRAYA: A Visual Feast of Filipino Culture” on Aug. 16. The show, held at Megaworld property Belmont Hotel Manila, marks the first partnership between the hotel and the creative agency Artistespace.
“Though we have a permanent gallery in Capitol Commons, we can access wider audiences by partnering with a known airport hotel. We can reach people from all over the country, all over the world, and people of all ages, even kids as young as five years old,” Anton Magpantay, managing director of ArtisteSpace, told BusinessWorld at the opening.
With this in mind, the exhibit displays artworks from five award-winning Filipino artists: watercolor painters Wilfredo “Yeye” Calderon, Rene Canlas, Rolan Guina, and Joie Pabilando, and wood sculptor Joel Ajero. Their works are on view in the lobby of the Belmont Hotel.
Because of the hotel’s strategic location, being connected to Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport via the Runway Manila footbridge, the Belmont exhibit was curated with much thought.
“These are all contemporary artworks that have universal appeal but with an unmistakable Filipino touch, so they can be appreciated by hotel guests coming in from various countries and provinces,” said Mr. Magpantay.
According to Socrates “Sonny” Alvaro, the general manager of Belmont Hotel Manila, the exhibit bridges art and hospitality.
“This is both a creative get-together for the artists brought by Artistespace and also an opportunity for our hotel to showcase the best of Filipino food, service, and hospitality,” Mr. Alvaro said in his opening speech.
One of the highly detailed watercolor paintings by Rolan Guina, Good Day, proves this point by depicting old potted plants akin to the ones seen in a rundown Filipino ancestral home, with overgrown tropical flora in the back. Here, there’s familiarity, the plants vividly untamed yet warm and welcoming.
Photo-realistic artworks by Joie Pabilando provide a unique glimpse into common scenery found in the Philippines. A larger-than-life painting entitled Just the Two shows with lifelike accuracy a girl crouched down and interacting with two white doves, which takes on a melancholic mood looking like it’s viewed from a window with raindrops on the surface.
A seascape by Wilfredo “Yeye” Calderon, Shore Fishing, shows a fisherman, appearing small on the shoreline where he stands. With the vast skies and nearby large cliff as witnesses, he persists with his little task.
There is also The Cliff by Rene Canlas, depicting what initially seems to just be a sweeping image of blue and white waves from atop brown, rough cliffs. A closer look reveals a tiny house nestled right on top the cliff across, once again a show of feeling small in the vastness of nature.
Finally, wood sculptor Joel Ajero’s works pack meaning, his wood assemblages reminiscent of Filipino ingenuity as they resemble makeshift houses, toolboxes, instruments. His abstract character sculptures, sharing their likeness with the carved bul-ul deities of the Ifugao, have lively designs and expressions that reference other Filipino cultural elements.
For those unable to visit the exhibit at the Belmont Hotel, there is a virtual guided tour at this link: https://bit.ly/HirayaAtBelmontHotelManila. — Brontë H. Lacsamana