Manila Bulletin

Art out of old guitars, a tribute to SAF 44


AGUIO CITY — As the country observes the Day of Valor on April 9, sadness is felt by a visual artist who served as a professor to 18 of the martyred Special Action Force (SAF) combatants in Mamasapano, Maguindana­o in 2015, collective­ly known as the SAF 44.

Rememberin­g their heroism, this teacher collected old and destroyed guitars played by the SAF commandos – his former students – from various parts of the region and redesigned them to give life to their great sacrifice through art.

“It (Mamasapano incident) is saddening and hard to forget, especially because many of them were my students,” said Chris Bartolo, a professor at the Philippine Public Safety College-Cordillera Administra­tive Region Training School (PPSCCARTS) at Teacher’s Camp, here.

“This is the reason I designed the SAF 44 on destroyed guitars to always remember them,” said Bartolo, who counts it as one of his achievemen­ts to have mentored 18 of the SAF 44.

As an artist, he said the guitars he designed depict the heroism of his students and that of their fallen comrades, who gave their lives to the country.

Bartolo related that the last of his students was Senior Inspector Joey Sakristan Gamutan, who underwent the officer basic course and went on to join the SAF. Gamutan was assigned to Zamboanga City and five months later, he died in battle in Mamasapano.

Bartolo, who is also a radio announcer at the church-run DZWT Baguio, was shocked at the news. It was even more heart-wrenching for him in the following days to learn that 17 more of those killed were his former students.

He said the idea of designing guitars as a tribute to his former students was not all his own, but more of happenstan­ce.

A SAF commando, who had learned of how Bartolo designed a broken guitar as an artwork, approached him with a broken guitar and told him it used to be the one he and a fallen SAF member had been playing at camp.

“I became more inspired when I got hold of the destroyed guitar of the Cordillera­n SAF. That was when I thought of making a model of SAF 44’s heroism guitars,” said Bartolo.

He designed the guitar used by some of the fallen SAF members with a gun, grenade, bullets and other stuff that once belonged to some of the SAF heroes. He also incorporat­ed the SAF logo and some recycled materials.

To date, Bartolo has finished designing 10 guitars with different themes. He intends to complete 12 guitars which, when completed, will be exhibited at the People’s Park, here, for everyone to see and remember the sacrifice for the country made by the SAF 44.

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