Art and healing for Iloilo’s women inmates

Published March 31, 2021, 9:49 AM

by Tara Yap

Women artists share their time and talent with fellow women, giving them freedom in the arts

More than a year into the pandemic, not much has changed for the day-to-day life of women behind bars in Iloilo City. But an online workshop given by women artists and experts from different parts of the globe is slowly changing that.

Dubbed as the “Palangga Prison Art Project: Triple Lockdown Showdown,” the ongoing online workshop is a collaborative project undertaken by women artists and experts for more than 100 female inmates of the Iloilo City District Jail-Female Dormitory, which is managed by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP-Region 6).

“If you come to think of it, this is really a triple lockdown. The women in jail are in double lockdown while, we, the artists are also in lockdown,” shares Ma. Rosalie “Rosa” Zerrudo, adviser of the Fine Arts Major Organization (FAMO) at University of San Agustin and the project’s curator and director.

The online art workshop for the women prisoners, which has funding from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), is an evolution of the “Hilway Art: Freedom in Prison Project.”

“Hilway” is the psycho-social intervention and outreach project that Rosa started in 2016 with the original funding support for the professorial chair research at University of San Agustin. The initial project was the popular Inday dolls that women inmates made.

Rosa explains it is a holistic approach for women behind bars to find their own sense of peace and freedom while serving time, which has been made harder by challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We wanted them to have a venue where they can express themselves and have a voice—whether in visual arts, crafts or poetry.  We want this to be a holistic experience,” Rosa tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.

The “Triple Lockdown Showdown” features different women artists and experts for a series of lectures and workshops that will run until May 2021.  There’s Canada-based Francie Stohner and Gelaine Santiago, Spain-based Nikki Luna, Ireland-based Ursula Schloer, Manila-based Ditta Sandico, and Cebu-based Mangharam-Siap.

“With the pandemic, we have literally opened the prison doors to a global network of collaborators through Zoom care,” Rosa adds.

The online workshop tackles a wide range of topics, but its common ground is highlighting healing and finding meaning through the creative process.

Rosa admits the technical problems such as slow Internet connection and the lack of laptops are a challenge, but happily shares that there is funding to purchase laptops so more women can join the online sessions instead of crowding and using one desktop computer.

Women’s Month Exhibition

For this year’s National Women’s Month, there are different group exhibits by Ilongga artists.

There’s the “Millenia: Babayi. Tinuga. Baskog” at Robinson’s Place Pavia.  It features the works of Faith Ann Conlu-Rubinos, Rose Rubinos-Jabadan, Rain Dumagat, France Gose, Junalyn Dunton, Jane Grace Limoso, Marites Olivares-Eusoya, Christine Octoso, Kitin Javerto, Rhane Saba-Magpantay, Glyn Poblacion, Em-Em Estoce Guarin, Roushan Tolouei, D’yosa, Quennie Heart Garcia, Michaela Jem Biton, Joeva Paula Maguad, Gresaleah Gomari, Crisel Anne Brillo, Lovely Carias, and Nicole Nolasco.

There’s “4 Women in Art” exhibition at Festive Walk Mall of Megaworld Corp.’s Iloilo Business Park. It features the works of Adhara Sebuado, Gina Apostol, Madhu Liebscher, and Pam Reyes.

Mamusa Art Bistro, which is also at Megaworld Corp’s Iloilo Business Park, has two separate all-women art exhibitions.

There’s the “KaEVAhan” exhibition of seven female artists—Dhixie E. Berja, Maia Amo, Kate F. Cayetano, Hannah Marie Celso, Cyra Cordova, Vin Deza, and Sha Susmeña Drilon—from Dumangas town, Iloilo province. Exhibit runs until April 30.

There’s also “Mujer”. It features the works of Erika Mayo, Roselle Perez, Margaux Blas, Shiela Molato, Marge Chavez, Elwah Gonzales, Tara Illenberger, and Regine Espinosa. Exhibit runs until May 10.