Sinirangan: Off the beaten path through art

MANILA, Philippines - It was like being regaled again by the Leyte and Samar I know and being introduced to sights and experiences I have yet to know.

I was walking around the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) gallery in Intramuros, Manila, but the room felt like a different place. From its walls hung artworks depicting arguably the best of Eastern Visayas, scenes painted by talented local artists.

From landscapes of beauty to history

ALL PLACES BEAUTIFUL. The Sinirangan exhibit displays artworks of some tourist spots in Eastern Visayas, one of which is Biri Island in this painting by Val Villanueva

ALL PLACES BEAUTIFUL.

The Sinirangan exhibit displays artworks of some tourist spots in Eastern Visayas, one of which is Biri Island in this painting by Val Villanueva

The majestic, otherworldly rock formations of Biri Island in Northern Samar are depicted in paintings by two different artists. Some of Samar Island’s many waterfalls cascaded down several canvases. The paintings of quiet, unspoiled beaches, meanwhile, evoked tranquility.

And, the festivals! The art exhibit, aptly named Sinirangan (east), as it displayed artworks from Eastern Visayan artists, also showed me the richness of festivals in this region, beyond the more popular Pintados in Tacloban City, Leyte. For instance, there was the Sarakiki in Calbayog City, Samar, where locals dressed in chicken costumes danced in courtship on the streets.

FESTIVE ATMOSPHERE. The exhibit also showcases paintings of festivals and festival-inspired paintings like 'Sarakiki' by Jerry Ibau00f1ez Contridas

FESTIVE ATMOSPHERE.

The exhibit also showcases paintings of festivals and festival-inspired paintings like 'Sarakiki' by Jerry Ibau00f1ez Contridas

Daily life looked far from boring, too. There were people walking through mountains, resting beside beaches, weaving mats, making copra (the dried meat of the coconut), and more paintings depicting the diversity and color of the locals’ lives and livelihoods.

Some paintings, though, go beyond portrayal and inspire a more tangible experience. The canvas of the painting “Mat Weaver” by artist Danny Celum, was – you guessed it – a mat. Romano Rosalado’s painting on copra making is rendered on a canvas of coconut shells.

SLICE OF LIFE. Even simple moments like taking a rest, like this in Oliver Ostulanou2019s 'Pahuway Anay' (Take a rest first) are portrayed in exhibit artworks

SLICE OF LIFE.

Even simple moments like taking a rest, like this in Oliver Ostulanou2019s 'Pahuway Anay' (Take a rest first) are portrayed in exhibit artworks

In fact, his family regularly makes copra, which makes his painting all the more true to the work of copra making. His painting brought me back to a small island in Samar, where I saw coconut flesh drying under the sun and locals sitting cross-legged in front of the spread.

And then there are paintings that recount history in brushstrokes and color. Some of Armando Toleza’s paintings show scenes like the Spaniards’ first landing in the Philippines through Homonhon, Leyte, and the Balangiga Massacre

Artists’ commitment

COCO LOCO. The canvas of artist Romano Rosaladou2019s 'Pangupras' (Copra) painting is made of coconut shells

COCO LOCO.

The canvas of artist Romano Rosaladou2019s 'Pangupras' (Copra) painting is made of coconut shells

Val Villanueva, one of the artists hailing from Calbayog, Samar, and also one of the exhibit organizers as a member of NCCA’s committee for visual art, said the exhibit was simply a fruit of the commitment of Eastern Visayan artists.

The artists, some of them self-taught, also had to come up with the airfare to and from Manila, Villanueva explained. “Some could not afford it, but found ways,” he added.

HISTORY REVIEW. Armando Toleza shows in some of his paintings significant historical moments in Eastern Visayas. This one is Ferdinand Magellanu2019s landing in Homonhon Island

HISTORY REVIEW. Armando Toleza shows in some of his paintings significant historical moments in Eastern Visayas.

This one is Ferdinand Magellanu2019s landing in Homonhon Island

Villanueva confirmed that the exhibit is not just to showcase the talent of Eastern Visayan artists but also to show the region’s beautiful natural spots and the locals’ lives and culture. The artists I talked to also enthusiastically explained their artworks and the places or practices they represent.

Indeed, from what I have seen, they are not just artists, but ambassadors and storytellers of their humble and beautiful provinces.

See Biri Island in this video:

While Leyte and Samar – or Eastern Visayas in general – are not exactly top-of-mind travel destinations for those planning trips around the Philippines, visiting this exhibit might just make one reconsider.

It certainly made me want to pack my bags again and explore places I haven’t been to yet in this off-the-beaten region. - Rappler.com

 

The Sinirangan exhibit runs until May 17. It can be viewed at the NCCA Gallery at 633 Gen. Luna St. Intramuros, Manila. Visitors can drop by anytime between 9am to 5pm, Mondays to Fridays. The exhibit can be viewed on weekends and holidays by appointment. Call 527-2212 or email ncca_gallery@yahoo.com to set an appointment.  


Claire Madarang

Claire Madarang is a writer, traveler, and seeker. Her wanderlust takes her on adventures like backpacking for 7 weeks straight. Her seeking leads her to different wellness practices like meditation and healthy (mostly vegetarian) eating. Follow her adventures, tips, and epiphanies at her blog, Traveling Light.