Sining Saysay: Philippine History in Art

The Story of Us
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte

The University of the Philippines (UP), the UP Alumni Association (UPAAI) and the Araneta Group formally opened Siningsaysay: Philippine History in Art at the Gateway Tower Gallery recently. The mounted exhibition of thirty selected paintings is the first of its scale and magnitude; a grand project and program that will forever be a venue for engaging the public in a continuous discourse on the important times of our nation’s history.
“This undertaking was meant to last for many generations. We conceived this in 2008, and the idea was further developed and refined to this kind of presentation,” recalled former UP regent and former UPAA president Atty. Gari Tiongco. “The concept was to be a come-on for students to learn the history of the Philippines in just half a day by going around. And not just going around a museum, but here it is given to you in the form of art. Not every country has this, but here, a tourist can come to the Philippines and learn our history by going over these artworks,” he continued.
Siningsaysay was coined from the Filipino words sining (art), kasaysayan (history), salaysay (narrative) and saysay (significant/meaningful). The exhibit captures the spirit of History in Art that takes its roots from the ‘grand manner’ in which painting has a long tradition in UP’s College of Fine Arts.
The ‘grand manner’ paintings or history art will be echoed with a more contemporary view of telling the story of our nation through the polyphonic route with the different voices of top Filipino artists now playing historians and speaking through the visual images they’ve created: from pre-historic times to the peopling of the archipelago; the Philippine resistance to colonization unto the times of different presidents who headed our government; and then to the more contemporary milestones.
Saysay, being at the very heart of our Kasaysayan, will bring back to order the many changes in nation-building. This is UP’s offering to the country so, we, as a people, will never forget our roots and how they’ve shaped who we are now. The aim is to provide a permanent home for the artists’ works in campus. We will be transforming a portion of the library into an art gallery.
“Appropriately captured in paintings, these works tell the story of us; the Filipino nation narrated visually. It is in every one of the artist’s inner desire that we learn more about us and how historical events shaped our nation’s story. Siningsaysay is an innovative way of teaching history, promoting art appreciation, understanding the Filipino identity, and imbibing cultural pride; all constituting valuable aspects of teaching and public service, which UP is mandated to do,” remarked UP president Alfredo E. Pacual.
There are thematic paintings like the history of labor (Leonilo Doloricon), Chinese in the Philippines (Janice Young), icons and symbols (Denes Villa Cruz Dasco), Philippine festivals (Romy Carlos) and women empowerment (Gigi Javier-Afonso) among others. Each artist captures the beat of our proud and brave nation in canvases measuring 6 feet by 12 (6’ x 12’) feet using oil and acrylic media.
Today, in contemporary times, we see the importance of public art which is really public discourse. This happens when we claim public spaces and contribute to our people’s pride and help build a sense of nationhood. Siningsaysay also features the works of Angel Cacnio, Adonai Artificio, Gig de Pio, Armand Bacaltos, Adi Baen-Santos, Vincent de Pio, Grandier Bella, Benjie Cabangis, Ben Cabrera, Cris Cruz, Gig de Pio, Simkin de Pio, Norman Dreo, Amado Hidalgo, Adbdulmari Imao, Ben Infante, Aileen Lanuza, Romeo Mananquil, Norlie Meimban, Julius Samson, Jonahmar Salvosa, Randy Solon, Michael Velasco, and Jun Yee.
The exhibit likewise features a video documentary covering the process from conceptualization, planning, curatorship, program team’s vision, individual artist’s view and process of creating the artworks, to the mounting of the large pieces. The video is continuously presented in a loop at the exhibition area. Siningsaysay took almost five years in the making.
“We bring art closer to the people and the public so that they themselves can share in the strengthening and the provision of meaning and enrichment of our nation’s history. This is also where the spectators and the supporters engage in the process of what we call ‘public discourse.’ The text and visuals that are seen in the artworks are what will excite and open the minds of the visitors of this experiential exhibition and will make them feel that they are indeed a part of the significance and shaping of our stories and that of our nation,” intoned UP project team member Gigi Javier-Alfonso.
“This is a living exhibit. In the future, there may be many other additional large-scale paintings visually narrating milestones and discursive issues in our nation’s history. We can therefore conclude that wherever Siningsaysay is, it will always become the venue for cultural dialogue and continuing public debate about the story of our nation,” she added.
The Gateway Gallery, touted as the country’s largest private gallery, is located on the 5th level of the Gateway Tower. The Siningsaysay exhibition currently displays the murals. The gallery will also be open to mount other works of art. Students from nearby schools and colleges are encouraged to visit during the exhibit’s long run.
“Araneta Center has been renowned as a shopping, leisure, entertainment, business, and residential complex over the years. With Siningsaysay, Araneta Center is affirmed as the arts and culture hub of Quezon City, We are housing a collection of great artistic and historic value. This is not just an educational opportunity but a source of national pride,” enthused Jorge L. Araneta, chairman and CEO of the Araneta Group.

Siningsaysay officially opened to the public on the first day of the Chinese Lunar Year, Feb. 19, and runs thereafter from 11 in the morning ‘til 7 in the evening. It fittingly opened in time for the celebration of National Arts Month, as well as the 60th anniversary of the Araneta Center.


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