Moving out of Metro Manila completely changed my point of view. There’s just more to see and experience outside of the bustling capital, and you’ll be amazed at how much talent abound around the country. Living here in Iloilo, in Western Visayas, I’ve come to appreciate local festivals, crafts, culture, and art more—and I earnestly yearn for more attention to be given them because they truly deserve it.
More and more, I want to use my blog as a medium to promote everything local, especially the local community of which I’m now part (I’ll be celebrating my first anniversary as an Iloilo resident by the end of this month!). Besides fortifying my marriage and building a family, this year has been about finding my purpose, too, after being uprooted from the life I knew and starting from scratch in a completely unfamiliar yet such a beautiful and dynamic place. I’m still working on it—I can barely even speak Hiligaynon but I can understand it better now—but I’m grateful to find and harness this new passion for promoting my new community, my new province and region.
That said, I truly identify not just with the art but the artist whose new exhibit you’ll now find at the Hulot Gallery of Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Arts (ILOMOCA): Filipino artist Nune Alvarado’s first ILOMOCA exhibit, “Songs from the Sea,” on display from now until Dec. 10, 2018 only.
Why Nune Alvarado’s work is relevant and relatable
A proud Negrense who now resides in the coastal city of Sagay in Negros Occidental, Nunelucio Alvarado is known for his exceptional work as a social realist. A founding member of the Black Artists in Asia—one of the most prominent collectives in the region—Nune, as his friends fondly call him, is known for large-scale depictions of difficulty and despondency in the cane fields of Negros, monopolized by Negros’ elite. While these works have won him awards and recognition, they have also drawn critical attention to the plight of the sakada (laborers) as well as other marginalized members of society.
However, his latest series of paintings and objects dubbed as “Stories of Restoration, Songs of the Sea” is composed of works that appear to be a far cry from the jarring depictions of life in the cane fields and mills for which Alvarado has been known. Instead, the artist takes inspiration from everyday stories of the community he helped create, giving back through art what he himself has gained after over three decades of practice.
“Siga Mata” (2010, 36″ x 60″ oil on canvas)
In Sagay City—a town far removed from the concrete and cacophony of the city which is two hours away through a well-paved highway flanked on either side by vast expanses of sugarcane—he runs Kape Albarako, a café and art space that is integral to the city’s creative community. Here, the artist has made not only a home, but a community, far from the opulence of Bacolod and Silay, but in no way removed from the concerns of Negros Island. “Inaawitan ako ng dagat,” says Alvarado of the peace he found in this place—the kind that has paved the way for a new kind of prosperity, one that feeds back into his community to enrich the lives of its members through art.
“Nawong Series” (36” x 36” acrylic on handmade paper)
My husband and I attended the opening of Nune Alvarado’s exhibit last November 10, and our attention was drawn to his use of vibrant colors, expressive albeit otherworldly faces, and local scenes depicted. My husband almost bought some of Nune’s works on display, but sadly, the ones that interested him the most were no longer available. Still so many of his artwork on display are available for purchase, which would make unique and significant holiday presents to loved ones who collect local art or who would like to start an art collection; or it can be for your own collection. For instance, the pieces that make up “Nawong Series,” a vibrant collection of multi-faceted faces painted on handmade paper, and “Alvarado Nagbato?” a collection of volcanic stones painted with colorful acrylic, are sold individually.
“Nawong Series” (2017-2018, 8.5” x 11” acrylic, pen, ink, and colored pencils on handmade paper)
My husband’s favorite is “Kaupdanan sa Kampo” (2012, 5×8 feet, oil on canvas) because of the vibrant color and depiction of work in the fields, which is something my husband can relate to, being a farm owner himself who takes care of the farmers who work in his rice fields and who helps other farmers sell their rice.
From L-R: “Kaupdanan sa Kampo” (2012, 99.6″ x 57.9″ oil on canvas), “Isda sa Dughan” (2008, 36″ x 36″ oil on canvas), “Green Fish” (2008, 36″ x 36″ oil on canvas)
One of Nune’s older works, it’s a regular part of one of the galleries of ILOMOCA. The word “kaupdanan” means “company” in English, translating in this case to a camaraderie despite hard labor. The five men in the frame are surrounded on all sides by bundles of sugarcane; there is no space for anything else to peek through, no light nor air, stripping the work of the romance typically associated with depictions of farm life in the Philippines. “The myth of the rural idyll never did find a congenial ground among the artists of Bacolod,” wrote the critic and historian Alice Guillermo in her essay on Alvarado entitled “Sugar is Bitter.” Yet the men in the kampo, for all the darkness that surrounds, still display a dignity and resilience—traits Nune has over time become known for depicting without glorification.
“Kaplastikan ni Alvarado”
My personal favorite is “Kaplastikan ni Alvarado” (2016-2018, mixed media) because it spoke to my strong desire to become a more eco-conscious and sustainable traveler and consumer. The bits and pieces of plastic in this series were gathered from the two years that the now iconic Kape Albarako has been operating in Sagay. Each PET bottle is filled to capacity with a sack worth of plastic waste and weighed down by sand from Margaha Beach, where the cafe is located, and decorated with acrylic-painted volcanic stone. Through this process of “kaplastikan,” a new object is created while documenting consumption and the ensuing burden placed upon the environment by everyday life.
“Gugma Sing Mga Tigulang” (2018, 48″ x 96″ acrylic on canvas)
An arts and culture jewel in Asia’s “best township”
“[This] marks another milestone for us at Megaworld as we mark the first year since we ventured into the intricate world of museum management, and already we are closing the year with yet another highlight exhibit. Nune Alvarado’s ‘Songs from the Sea’ is a moving masterpiece that showcases the beauty of Filipino culture even in mundane everyday experiences. This is only the beginning, and we are committed to upholding the undeniable talent of local creative minds and the promotion and preservation of art in the entire region,” said Megaworld Lifestyle Malls Vice President and Head of Business Development and Marketing Tefel Pesigan-Valentino.
ILOMOCA is Megaworld’s first-ever museum located at Iloilo Business Park, the company’s fast-growing 73-hectare township development in Western Visayas, which was recently feted as the Country Winner for ‘Best Township Development in Asia’ at the 2018 Asia Property Awards held in Bangkok, Thailand.
The facility proudly embraces the distinction as 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. As a major component in the development of IBP, ILOMOCA serves as a platform for Megaworld in reinforcing its thrust to preserve and promote the Ilonggo brand of artistry, culture, and creativity. (Learn more about it on my blog post here.)
To know more about Nune Alvarado’s exhibit, call (033) 320-9903 and (033) 328 1028. ILOMOCA is located at Casa Emperador Building, Festive Walk Parade, Iloilo Business Park. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10AM to 7PM. Regular museum admission is P100, but it’s only P50 to students.