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Emerging from the pandemic into bold, artistic vision

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 30, 2022 5:00 am

To hear young artist and MADE awardee Melvin John Pollero tell it, art is as essential as eating: “Art is like food; it’s part of people’s lives,” says the UP Diliman Fine Arts graduate from North Caloocan. “I realized this during the pandemic. Everyone should be an artist — or at least have a deep orientation towards art.”

The 2022 Metrobank Art & Design Excellence (MADE) Grand Awardee (Oil/Acrylic on Canvas category) created his “Ninuno” (“Ancestor”), which depicts a skeleton embedded in a field of greenery, over the course of a month, reflecting on minority groups and indigenous people's connection to nature, and how that’s threatened by the modern world — a theme that resonates in the post-pandemic landscape.

Despite the pandemic still a lingering presence, whether physically or mentally, for its 38th edition, held virtually last Sept. 22, the MADE program took up the challenge with a hybrid awarding ceremony — both face-to-face judging and virtual awarding — with its own counter-theme: “Emerge: Step Into Your Boundless Future.”

Melvin Pollero (Grand Awardee for Painting) with his acrylic and oil work “Ninuno”

Under the Metrobank Foundation Inc. (MBFI), the MADE awards continues to shine a light, even as the 537 entries (59 water-media works, 79 sculptures, and 399 oil and acrylic paintings) tapped into the hardships of the past three years.

At first glance, you will experience chaos and morbidity in the artwork; but I challenge the viewer to seek hope using his faith despite the apocalyptic scenery.

The seven judges — including Alfredo Esquillo, MADE chairman; Elmer Borlongan, CCP Thirteen Artists Awardee; Charlie Co, CCP Thirteen Artists Awardee; Reg Yuson, CCP Thirteen Artists Awardee and NCCA Visual Arts committee; Mervy Pueblo, MADE awardee; Marc Cosico, MADE awardee; and Lisa Ito, curator and writer — looked not only at artists’ originality and clarity of vision, but “how they felt about the current (post-pandemic) situation, and probably reflect on the viewer to think about what should be done about the things we see,” says Ito. Borlongan saw a ray of hope, despite the recent events: “It’s mostly moody and dark, I guess, because of what we’ve experienced for the past three years, staying indoors. Despite all of these, the works show a spirit of hope and light against all the darkness that surrounds the paintings and artworks.”

Raymundo Ador III (Grand Awardee for Painting) with his water-media work “Dalawáng Libó’t Dalawáng Pu at Hanggang Kailan?”

For MADE Grand Awardee (Watermedia on Paper category) Raymundo Ador III, a BS major in Computer Science from the Eastern Samar State University, the water-media work “Dalawáng Libó’t Dalawáng Pu at Hanggang Kailan?” (“Two Thousand and Two and Until When?”) presents the agony of waiting: a young man (resembling the artist) sits pondering a human skull in neutral washes of color. It’s a vivid, somber portrait of anxiety during our lockdown; but Ador says the situation eventually got him painting again, and now, as an awardee, eager to show his work to the public.

Indeed, MADE judge Borlongan sees this reflection of society as vital to artists, and to our survival: “We can use art for social transformation and we need artists to document the conditions facing our country right now.”

Mateo Cacnio (Grand Awardee for Sculpture) with his aluminum work “Politika”

Veering from the pandemic to the political, Grand Awardee (Sculpture Recognition Program) Mateo Cacnio presented his aluminium metal work “Politika” as a metaphor of “people breaking each other mentally and physically for higher authority.” Its two figures are seemingly wrestling and hugging in his sculpture (he referenced clips of Sumo wrestlers for his studies). The third-year UP Arts student says, “Politics here hits really differently, mainly due to our heavy use of social media, propaganda, and fake news. This plays a massive role in how our culture integrates politics as a battleground between our beliefs and egos.”

Jun Orland Espinosa (Special Citation for Sculpture) with his wood sculpture “Underneath”

MADE Special Citation Awardee (Sculpture Recognition Program) Jun Orland Espinosa created his sculpture “Underneath” partly in response to last year’s deadly typhoons. The La Paz BS architecture undergraduate from Iloilo Science and Technology University uses found wood and other materials in sculpting his entangled facial features and trapped figures. “We are like trees facing a super typhoon, heavy rains, floods, and destructive wind,” he muses. “Is there still hope for the tree to live after it’s been uprooted caused by the disaster?” He considers the “roots” visible in the sculpture as the hope we are seeking. “At first glance, you will experience chaos and morbidity in the artwork; but I challenge the viewer to seek hope using his faith despite the apocalyptic scenery.”

All four artist awardees shared something personal in their works that also reflected on larger issues of society.

Two Grand Awardees for the Painting Recognition Program and one Grand Awardee for the Sculpture Recognition Program received a cash assistance of P500,000. Meanwhile, one artist for the Sculpture Recognition Program was conferred with the Special Citation and cash assistance of P100,000.

Since 1984, MADE has evolved from an art competition to becoming a venue where art is used as a tool to examine circumstances, encourage conversations, and challenge actions for national transformation. To date, 421 visual artists and design professionals have been recognized. A majority of them are now carving out significant names in the local and even international art and design scenes. Past awardees include Borlongan, Mark Justiniani, Leeroy New, Esquillo, Andres Barrioquinto, Yeo Kaa, and Cedrick dela Paz. 

Hybrid: MADE judge Alfredo Esquillo and the other judges did a face-to-face appraisal of 537 submissions.

As Metrobank Foundation Inc. president Aniceto Sobrepeña said in his opening statement at the Sept. 22 awarding ceremony, “The theme ‘Emerge’ is about promoting local talents to come to the fore, step out of the shadows, and unleash a world of possibilities and imagination. This year’s batch of submissions is yet another visual journey that depicts human sentiments and aspirations.”

Final guest of honor Rep. Christopher “Toff” De Venecia, 4th District of Pangasinan, noted the passage of the landmark Creative Industries Development Act, which he co-authored: “With enactment of this landmark legislation, the creative sector has become a cornerstone of our country’s post-pandemic recovery and is an engine for economic progress and a catalyst for modernization.”

Also announced at the Sept. 22 ceremony was a partnership with Linangan Art Residency, providing a “holistic three-month curriculum” for two MADE finalists.

An online live awarding ceremony was held for this year’s MADE.

In addition, during the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, MBFI established MADE-Community Aid and Relief for Emergency Situations (MADE-CARES) to provide financial aid to art and culture practitioners who were affected by the pandemic. For 2022, a grant worth P1 million was donated to the Visual Arts Helping Hands Foundation for the medical needs of sick visual artists. MADE has also partnered with arts and culture institutions — The M, Linangan Art Residency, Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines — to support the artistic development and capacity building of visual artists.

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The Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI) was established in 1979 by Dr. George S. K. Ty, 16 years after he founded the Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company (Metrobank). MBFI envisions to be the country’s premier corporate philanthropic foundation contributing a significant impact on social development. Its flagship programs include the Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos; Metrobank Art & Design Excellence (MADE); Metrobank Scholarship Program (MSP); Metrobank MTAP-DepEd Math Challenge (MMC); Grants and Social Development Partnerships, Disaster Response, National Teachers’ Month (NTM) celebration, and the Metrobank Foundation Professorial Chair Lectures. MBFI is also the principal owner of the Manila Doctors Hospital (MDH), one of the leading centers of wellness in the country.