Before all else, I would like to cite the Far Eastern University administration for giving space for a daring endeavor, space in its halls and tree-lined quadrangle, a hidden oasis in that busy part of Manila’s University Belt. It’s worth going there, even if only to behold the permanent outdoor sculpture by the late National Artist Vicente Manansala, his human figures beautifully aged by verdigris encrustation.
“Hudyat: Filipino Artists for Human Dignity,” a multimedia exhibit, runs till March 25 at the FEU, so catch it if you can. Because of its nature, security is tight, so try to contact email@example.com or register via Hudyat Filipino Artists for Human Dignity Facebook page. Or just dare show up. If you are a group you might even be given a guided tour because it is spread out on campus.
“Hudyat” means alarm or signal. Artists—painters, sculptors, photographers, writers, using their respective media—are raising the alarm, warning about these perilous, deadly times. The exhibit spotlights “human dignity amid the spate of extrajudicial killings in the country.”The opening last March 9 was so well attended that now one feels the urge to go back and gaze at the images in silence and solitude. Credits go to the organizers, among them Edna Aquino, photojournalist Melvyn Calderon, and curator Ricky Francisco.
National Artist Benjamin “Bencab” Cabrera leads the pack of 18 whose works in different media silently scream, assault, warn, remind. The exhibit brings out the horror, pain and fear that are the result of the killings, the “cleansing” done with impunity and in the name of anything but respect for human life.
Although there are works that stand out because of their size and piercing message, I do not want to single out any one because, for me, each one makes the whole. But I am biased and glad that writers’ words became art pieces in themselves, exhibited alongside the visual, tactile pieces. Hmm, gives me an idea.
All the 19 artists deserve mention: Bencab, Xyza Bacani, Melvyn Calderon, Sheila Coronel, Antipas Delotavo, William Elvin, Patricia Evangelista, Carlo Gabuco, Toym Imao, Marne Kilates, Jose F. Lacaba, Raffy Lerma, Julie Lluch, Nikki Luna, Resbak, Rick Rocamora, Jose Tence Ruiz, Ea Torrado and Mark Valenzuela. The paintings of young FEU artists add spark to the exhibit.
And what do some of the artists on exhibit have to say about what they do?
“My art practice has long been concerned with conflict and resistance, in particular, the points of tension between the individual and the collective. This work critiques the ways in which machismo and fanaticism are used to generate violence and gain dominance. Seeking to understand and question the process by which dominance is obtained can be viewed as a form of resistance.”—Mark Valenzuela
“The images in Hudyat stand for several issues that need our continuous attention. The role of photographs as evidence and an aid to social change needs to be reiterated and we as visual journalists hope that the public takes heed and sparks a continuous dialogue about the issues.”—Veejay Villafranca
“A good way to measure civil society’s sense of humanity and justice is to take a closer look on how it manages its jail system. The state of Detention Centers in the Philippines is a clear manifestation of the failure of the criminal judicial system to adhere to the 1987 Philippines Constitution’s mandate to build a just and humane society for the poor. No amount of penology expertise can solve the problem because the root is institutional and [there is] lack of support from our government to correct existing deficiencies.”—Rick Rocamora
“The worst cases are when the person is shot in the same area as their home, or in their neighborhood, or even if it’s a [body] dump, if they recognize the face, then that’s when you brace yourself, because the wife will walk in, the mother will walk in. And it’s weeping and wailing and screaming. And you know that you’re witness to the worst moment of a person’s life and you don’t know if you’re a voyeur. And you don’t know if you’re doing the right thing by asking questions.”—Patricia Evangelista #