The Philippine Star
LEGENDS, CULTURE & ARTS AT SM CITY PUERTO PRINCESA
The recent “My City, My SM, My Art” edition at SM City Puerto Princesa in Palawan highlighted a culture so distinct and full of magic, with original stories that still have to be told.
The province of Palawan, after all, is known as the Philippines’ last frontier, a natural wonder with vast tracts of tropical rainforests and a huge expanse of marine wilderness. Sprawled beneath its seas are nearly 11,000 square kilometers of coral reefs, with a myriad of fish swimming in these underwater gardens.
Palawan’s artistic traditions, which are mainly ethnic based, are continuously influenced by cultural exchanges brought about by migrants from other Philippine provinces, and even other countries.
Since the 1980s, Palawan has been growing as an incubator for a group of artists who share a passion for the local environment, as well as their craft. Art spaces like Banwa, Casa Nieves, Gypsy’s Lair Art Café, and the Kalui Restaurant create a lot of excitement and opportunities for local artists by hosting exhibits, workshops and music events.
Mallgoers recently had a glimpse of the vibrant arts scene in this enchanting paradise when “My City, My SM, My Art” recently made a stop at SM City Puerto Princesa,
A joint project of SM, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Shell Philippines, The
Philippine STAR, with support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Centerstage Productions, “My City, My SM, My Art” is a celebration of Philippine visual arts —‘painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and filmmaking.
The campaign brings art and people together by showcasing the works of masters, modernists and millennials in a road show around the SM Supermalls. Advocating art for all, the team works with communities to mount exhibits, workshops and contests in key cities around the Philippines.
No less than Puerto Princesa councilor Nancy Socrates and Caesar Sammy Magbanua, chief of staff of the Office of the Provincial Governor joined in the celebrations together with project partners Nelda Sansaet of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila and Chris Aparece of Shell Philippines.
SM officials led by SM SVP for Marketing Millie Dizon and SM City Puerto Princesa mall manager Maidja Saliente warmly welcomed them.
Guests enjoyed the program, which included an AVP hosted by Cynthia Sumagaysay del Rosario, featuring the amazing works of Palaweno artists. These works were exhibited in and around the My Art Gallery, which was inspired by the Panay House in the Visayas.
“My City, My SM, My Art” featured artists from the city of Puerto Princesa, a tropical paradise with a bustling urban center. These included Jonathan Benitez, whose florid style is exquisite, with the colors and atmosphere of his surroundings flowing through his work; John Christian Yayen whose love for art and culture inspire his breathtaking photographs; and Ned Sencillo, a master colorist in a style described as a mixture of realism and impressionism.
Other artists from Puerto Princesa who strive to both capture and preserve their tropical island home are Mario Lubrico who paints with themes inspired by nature, spirituality and people; and Noel “Nuno” Finez, a visual and performance artist whose works center of what he calls “Art After Life.”
The event also highlighted artists who have brought Palawan’s art to major cities abroad: Mike Garcia, whose recent exhibits have brought the province’s art, nature and culture to Zurich, Switzerland and Berlin, Germany; and Cathlyn “Cleng” del Rosario who has brought back to her hometown new things she learned from California’s vibrant art scene.
Mallgoers also had the opportunity to know more about art outside the city. Mary Frances Mendoza from the Cuyo archipelago, the oldest colonial settlement in Palawan, documents the island’s indigenous tribes and designs her own tattoos. Elordie Messac, on the other hand, is a Tagbanua whose works are inspired by his indigenous roots and his people’s way of life.
The highlight of the event was a tribute to filmmaker Aureaus Solito, who has brought much honor to our country with his internationally acclaimed works. His first feature film, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros), won 15 international awards.
His films have been screened in major film festivals around the world including Cannes, Berlin, Sundance, Montreal, Busan, Toronto and Rotterdam.
It is not only his mastery of his craft, but how he has explored his indigenous Palawanon roots in his work that makes him a great filmmaker. Solito was born in Manila, and as he was growing up, his mother, who is of Palawan descent, would tell him magical stories of Palawan legends, including those of great Shaman kings who protected the land.
Solito’s return to his mother’s hometown after graduating from the University of the Philippines presented more revelations. He learned that his mother came from a lineage of Tungkuls, the Shaman-kings who were royalty to the tribe, and that he came from the first generation of Palawanons not born in the tribal land.
Solito says that the boat journey to the Palawan islands was like a doorway to another world. He was discovering paradise, the land of his dreams and memory. He underwent shamanistic training with his uncle for two years, and lived there for seven years, learning all he could about his tribe.
Solito’s search for his roots also gave him his tribal spirit name — Kanakan Balingtagos, meaning “hunter of truth.” This also inspired him to create “The Palawan Trilogy,” his ode to his hometown.
“The Palawan Trilogy” is composed of three full-length feature films that show the legends, culture and fate of its land and people. He planned that the film Deluge (Delubyo) would tell the story of the past; Busong (Palawan Fate) its present; and Sumbang its future, or as he likes to put it, its timelessness.
Busong, however, became the first film in the trilogy to be completed, followed by Baybayin or “The Palawan Script.” He is currently working on Delubyo.
With “The Palawan Trilogy,” Solito was able to bring to light the issues of safeguarding Palawan — the land, culture and people. At the same time, he was able to create a tribute to his mother, who inspired him to become the storyteller he is now.
With its aim of bringing art and people together, “My City, My SM, My Art” also conducted a rubber-cutting workshop conducted by Elordie Mesac. Shelomae Zumarraga from the Puerto Princesa City Science High School won the Grand Prize and brought home SM Gift Certificates.
“My City, My SM, My Art” is a take-off from the previous “My City, My SM” campaign promoting tourism; “My City, My SM, My Cuisine” which highlights regional culinary specialties; and “My City, My SM, My Crafts,” a celebration of traditional art and modern Philippine design in cities where SM has malls. The next stop for “My City, My SM, My Art” will be in SM City Iloilo.