By ALISHA DANIELLE M. GREGORIO
“EVERY CULTURE produces its distinct refinements,” is the saying that will first greet visitors and passersby in an exhibit titled “Distinct Refinements: Painting from the Provinces” in the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. It showcases the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ art collection that featured artworks of relatively unknown artists all over the Philippines. The artists created pieces inspired by small and personal details from their respective hometowns and provinces. In fact, this gave a feeling of uniqueness and nostalgia to every piece displayed.
Small towns and barangays are the simplest forms of living in the provinces of the Philippines. Farmers and fishermen are seen going about their work every day, while women and children are in their homes doing household chores. Upon entering the gallery, the artwork “Bahaging Tanawin ng Bayan ng Angono at Laguna de Bai” will be the first thing people see. The large frame and vibrant colors of the piece from the 1850’s created by Juan Senson, an artist from Angono, Rizal, is certainly hard to miss. Created with oil on canvas, the picturesque scenery showed a small town situated beside a lake. One could see the tall, green trees and the straw houses, as well as townspeople going about their business and daily work amidst the countryside’s breathtaking landscape.
Tomas Diores, in his painting titled “Pagsunog sa Cebu,” showcased a seemingly pleasant day blessed with blue skies and white clouds were overrun with black smoke from a group of burning houses situated beside a lake. The tall, dark trees and the branches lying on the stained grass provided a grim perception of the painting. Ironically, when examined closely, uniformed soldiers can be seen standing close to the burning houses; they seemed only to be watching as the flames rapidly engulfed the houses made of wood and straw. Disastrous and heartbreaking, this piece shows a heavyhearted scenario that no one deserves to experience. Tomas made relevant the impact of disasters and calamities happening especially those families living in the provinces.
The color green is always deemed to be relaxing and pleasant to look at. Since the provinces of the Philippines are known for their lush greenery and vast landscape, the color is no longer a surprising spectacle. Cenon M. Rivera, an artist hailing from the province of Bulacan, emphasized the color in his painting “Tanawin ng Gubbio.” It featured an assortment of three-story apartments colored in different shades of green. Round-shaped pathways, overgrown plants were strewn across the roof of a building, and the old-fashioned architecture seemed to make this small ‘green-themed’ town a rather picturesque one. The town, however, is missing a very important element—there are no people. Not a single soul can be seen walking around the streets, and the windows of the apartments do not show any sign of curtains, peeping faces, or any sign of life residing inside it. This leaves a question in the viewers’ minds. Why, despite its cheery atmosphere, is the town empty?
Gregorio Moneda’s “Liliw Laguna” depicted the calmness and simplicity of provincial life. The painting showcased beautiful clear skies accompanied with a cool breeze and tall fruit-bearing trees. There were houses made of straw and bamboo; cows and other farm animals peacefully eating grass; farmers going about their daily business; and the view of the majestic mountainside. The word ‘liliw’, which is derived from a name of a bird in one of their old, municipal legends, certainly describes Moneda’s painting—small, simple, and pleasant to look at.
Truly, the rural parts of the Philippines each have their own stunning and unique characteristics that every Filipino can love and be proud of. “Distinct Refinements: Paintings from the Provinces” aims to show that art is not defined by interjecting poise and beauty in every stroke of the brush, rather, it focuses on the small, significant, details that make up the whole picture. Overall, it aims to tell its viewers that home will always be where the heart lies. F
Distinct Refinements is on display until October 28, 2017. The exhibit is located at Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Bangko Sentral ng Pili