ILOILO CITY – Because I miss Manila so much, I may have given the impression that I’m not happy to be living in Iloilo. So to set the record straight, I love it here. The city is highly urbanized, so there’s so much to do, try, and experience. Restaurants, shops, and recreational activities abound. I also read somewhere that you know a city’s prospering when its art scene becomes richer and takes more prominence—and guess what, Iloilo City’s art scene is flourishing faster than you can say artwork.
In case you need proof, Iloilo City now boasts of its own Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA), the first art institution in Visayas and Mindanao exclusively dedicated to showcasing the works of mostly Filipino and Ilonggo artists within the realm of modern and contemporary art.
Casa Emperador, where you’ll find ILOMOCA
(Photo from Lourdes Jiz de Ortega)
Supported by the Megaworld Foundation, ILOMOCA occupies three stories of the Casa Emperador Building and is designed to provide a rich, artistic, and cultural experience for Iloilo City and the whole Western Visayas Region. It’s also Megaworld’s first-ever museum located at Iloilo Business Park, the company’s bustling township development in Western Visayas—and, as I always tell friends, what I call my little piece of home because of just how closely it resembles a central business district in Metro Manila, like Bonifacio Global City, for instance. Anyone who’s been to this place would agree!
Why Hulot Exhibit is its most exciting space
At the opening of Jeho Bitancor’s exhibit at Hulot Exhibit
At the ground floor of ILOMOCA, you’ll find the Hulot Exhibit, a space dedicated to works by artists who demonstrate unique, innovative vision manifested by their art’s content, technique, or material. It currently houses multi-awarded visual artist Jeho Bitancor’s debut exhibit at the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art, dubbed Poetic Dissent: The Artworks of Jeho Bitancor. This riveting and must-visit two-month exhibit featuring his latest works runs from now until November 7, 2018.
Jeho Bitancor speaking at the opening of his exhibit at ILOMOCA
For the US-based Filipino contemporary artist, art reflects his social standpoint and struggles. Fueled by passion and shaped by experiences, Bitancor breathes new life and meaning to his works by recognizing the “poetic potential” of each subject and highlighting society’s issues bearing social and philosophical significance.
“I have always sought a balance between the manner of expressing my concerns as an artist and articulating my discontent as a human being. I believe that art must embody our highest aspirations in terms of expertise, intellectual rigor, and imagination, yet must also be responsive to and reflective of Zeitgeist or the spirit of the times,” Bitancor said in a statement.
“In my works, I strive to discern the ‘poetic potential’ of each subject/object in order to narrate issues of social and philosophical significance. I employ juxtaposition and metamorphosis as strategies to create allegories, ironies, parodies, and parallelisms. In particular, I have created works that have dealt with alienation conspiracy, displacement, resistance and assertion, while integrating a pictorial language sourced from personal and universal symbolisms,” he continued.
My husband and I posing beside “Plight”
My husband and I had the chance to catch the opening of the exhibit last September 7, and I can tell you, immersing in Bitancor’s art is quite an emotional experience—I’ll let you go through that yourself when you visit the exhibit and find which of his works speak to you the loudest. The works that stood out for me and my husband are “Plight” (oil on canvas, 2017) and “The Tie That Binds” (oil on canvas, 2017), both for its captivating imagery, use of color, and how we connected with it; as well as the larger than life “Polarity of Extremes” that depicted disturbing yet mesmerizing imagery you won’t soon forget.
Admiring “The Tie that Binds” (Behind me you’ll see a portion of “Polarity of Extremes”)
Some of the artwork on display will be on sale, and proceeds will benefit Iloilo art communities. “This is also our way of continuing to deepen the role of arts and culture in the development of our townships all over the country,” said Megaworld Lifestyle Malls and Megaworld Foundation Vice President Tefel Pesigan-Valentino.
Meanwhile, a handful of the pieces are privately owned by ILOMOCA founding patron Edwin Valencia. Besides ILOMOCA, Bitancor’s works can be found in various institutions, including Singapore Art Museum, Ateneo Art Gallery, De La Salle University Museum, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Museo de Baler, and more.
Hailing from Baler, Aurora, Bitancor’s career breakthrough came in 1997, when he was selected as one of the artists to represent the country and train under the Art Students’ League in New York City. As a multi-awarded visual artist with local and international recognition, Bitancor mounted 23 solo painting exhibitions, both in the Philippines and abroad. Among his many awards is the 13 Artists Award from the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2006 and the Freeman Foundation Asian Artists’ Fellowship Award from Vermont Studio Center, VT, USA in 1997.
Why ILOMOCA is worth a visit
Besides the ever-changing exhibits of prominent artists at Hulot Exhibit, there’s much to see in ILOMOCA.
At the second level, you’ll find The Gallery, which is designed for rotating thematic art exhibitions and currently features three sections: The first highlights the excellence of talented Filipino artists who have shaped local and even national art history by giving life to the art scene of Iloilo. The second focuses on sculpture, a largely underrated art form in the country. And finally, the third section highlights works by international artists that have influenced world art.
Also at the second level is The Box, a theater room for special exhibits, small theater productions, art workshops, and related cultural events. It’s equipped with supreme audio technology and can accommodate 50-60 persons.
There’s another gallery at the third level, the Valencia Gallery, which showcases works of art curated personally by ILOMOCA’s patron, Ed Valencia. The art pieces in this topmost level draw attention to the breadth of the collector’s keen aesthetic taste.
There’s a lot more to look forward to at ILOMOCA and Iloilo Business Park, so I highly suggest planning a trip to Iloilo soon so you can see just how beautiful and vibrant this city is! Check out this list of other places to visit in Iloilo City.
Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA) is located at Casa de Emperador, Festive Walk Parade, Megaworld Iloilo Business Park, Mandurriao, Iloilo City. Museum hours are 10AM to 7PM from Tuesday to Sunday. Admission is P100 for adults and P50 for students. Visit the FB page for more information.