Pinta: Life onto the Lifeless
Eugenie A. Baluran
Iloilo City, dubbed as “The City of Love,” has had its local artists turn the tides against the blank and mundane concrete structures into a maze of surprises. In almost every corner, every turn, a piece of an artist’s soul is hidden in its crevices as the Iloilo City Government’s mural project was initiated October of 2019 by Mayor Jerry P. Treñas. With over 20 mural pieces, they soak the walls in colour with their figures serving as a modern testament to the history of the Ilonggos. Each piece tells the story of the past and present to provide a gentle reminder of what the future could be.
A SUMMARY OF OUR LIVES DURING COVID-19 IN COLOUR
The pandemic has swept the nation off its feet, dragging communities through the painfully rocky and long winding roads of hardship and loss. One may ponder if there even is anything to remember from the past year in the first place. And yet, the artists’ society group known as Baysulangpu has done exactly that with their 100-meter mural making a name for itself right across SM city in Mandurriao. “Ang general theme niya lang is to promote Iloilo city heritage sites and as well as to incorporate COVID pandemic subong. It’s also a representation for the frontliners and also the mayor himself and ang iban pa gid nga naging backbone sang fight ta subong for COVID and it was also nice man because that mural was also a visual representation of how artists can relay what they also want to say to our fellow Ilonggos [The general theme is to promote Iloilo city heritage sites as well as to incorporate COVID-19 right now. It’s also a representation for the frontliners and also the mayor himself and the others who became the backbone of our fight for COVID and it was also nice because that mural was also a visual representation of how artists can relay what they also want to say to our fellow Ilonggos],” Giah De los Reyes, Baysulangpu member, explained in an interview with The Augustinian.
In the junction between the streets of Jalandoni and Ledesma, 14 portraits standing tall and proud line the walls as another note amongst the melodies of praise sung for the modern-day heroes. The idea was tackled by Iloilo-based muralist Ronn Bulahan and his team from ABAY (Artista ng Bayan) and Cycling HeARTS. Close-up portraits of frontline workers have been meticulously laid against a blank white background, bringing the harsh vibrancies of the eight to-nine-foot portraits forward. It includes portraits of medical staff, government officials, and policemen just to name a few and is a dedication to honoring the work they’ve done serve and protect from the perils of the unseen enemy. “Parang giving honour bala sa ila nga efforts sa pandemic kag gusto namon ipakita man sa public nga sila gid mismo ga frontline so sila gid ang nagaubra so dapat nga hatagan gid sila recognition [It’s like giving honour to their efforts and we wanted to show the public that they are the ones at the frontline and they do the work so we should give them recognition],” Bulahan explained for the central theme of the mural.
BRIDGES AND FLYOVERS
Walls were not the only targets for the overflowing ideas that local artists simply could not put a stop on. The 500-meter Drilon Bridge along Muelle Loney St. within Iloilo’s city proper was revamped by Ronn Bulahan and his 10-man team. Decorated in abstract shapes that came in a variety of colours, the once plain structure now radiates vibrancy The 316-meter flyover at General Luna Street is another piece of the city that has been enriched with Ilonggo culture and is a celebration of colour despite hardships of life by the Baysulangpu art group. On the pillars is where the real magic happens as Baysulangpu’s artists took to decorating the concrete material with illustrations of historical landmarks and iconic tourist spots. “Mga establishment di sa Iloilo nga mga halin pa sang una. Mga muni nga concept ang gin propose para sa project nga ni para mas ma highlight ang mga muni nga lugar sa mga Ilonggo [The establishments here in Iloilo from way back then. These were the concepts that were proposed for the project to highlight these places to the Ilonggos],” Edwin De los Reyes, Baysulangpu member and the main artist of the mural explained the theme on the flyover bridge.
THE ART TO THE VIEWERS, THE ART TO THE ARTISTS
Art becomes a catalyst for the awakening of people’s spirits in being reminded of the pride that comes with being part of a certain community. There is integrity and beauty in the reality that local artists have been given a platform and in turn, their works encourage the rise in creativity and passion of young minds pursuing the field. “The highest form of art is the art that empowers people. Ang akon lang gid nga ma advice is that you should create something that we can resonate with in our work and that you should not seek validation from people [The highest form of art is the art that empowers people. My advice is that you should create something that we can resonate with in our work and that you should not seek validation from people],” Giah De los Reyes remarks as a reminder to young artists. The art to the artists is a different take from the art to the viewer and through the eyes of the modern-day heroes, they speak their truths. In an interview with Rowel Balino, a policeman, he expresses appreciation for the pieces. “Syempre, na-feel ko gid nga na-recognize ang mga efforts namon kag tungod sina, nagtaas pa gid ang amon morale sa paghimo sang amon trabaho [Of course, I truly feel that our efforts are recognized and it increased our morale in doing our work],” Balino stated. However, with art being a subjective matter, not everyone has the same interpretation or sentiments. In the eyes of Chryzel Rose Bermejo, a medical technologist, she meets murals with skepticism. “I acknowledge that these murals serve as a tribute to those at the frontlines but personally, this remains futile to what is really needed by the medical workers right now to which I speak more for the Medical Technologists who are undeniably undervalued and uncredited for the service that they give. Medical health workers face not only the physical hazard brought about by the virus, but also experience mental and emotional toll to a stretch which is painfully regarded as “heroic” and not what it really is: exploitation,” Bermejo shared in an interview with The Augustinian. Furthermore, with the bigger issue of underpaid healthcare workers still ongoing, thanks alone understandably cannot help the plights of our health workers in Bermejo’s point of view. “Until health workers who remain to be among those lowest paid are given just compensation and benefits, I will continue walking without gazing upon the wall,” Bermejo concluded to her interview. In a time where it feels like the darkest parts of the Ilonggos’ lives have just begun, the efforts of those who seek to uplift their fellow men are what make these pieces special. While the opinions on these works vary, it may continue to be a medium of expression for the artist and send stronger messages to the onlooker. Paint fades but the memory of these murals remains against the test of time. The city of love continues to prosper and the artful maze that Iloilo city has become is proof of that.
Published: May 25, 2022