A quick search of Pablo Baen Santos’ name on social media and one will see his colorful works that mirror the reality Filipinos endured during the 1970s. Sadly, those posts are up online only to celebrate his legacy as the artist is now with the Creator.
Born in 1943, Pablo started his creative journey as a Fine Arts student at the University of the Philippines. He then pursued a different creative track after graduating as an illustrator and photographer in the advertising field and for The Sunday Times. This media exposure helped him hone his aesthetic in becoming one of the noted social realist Filipino painters.
His canvases were the platform for his protest art, painting nationalistic agenda during the Marcos regime. Some of his notable works include the “Bumnabum,” which showcased a congested view of the life in the urban city. Another is the “Enhorabuena a los Ilustrados,” depicting the “masses laying down their lives at the foot of Inang Bayan while ilustrados dance in their finery.” In 1976, he became the founding chair of Kaisahan, a group of artists “with collective knowledge and thoughts on how to define political art in the country.”
“Alongside social activists during the height of the Marcos regime who took up arms and took to the streets, artists like Santos used their paintbrushes to champion guerrilla and protest art,” the Metropolitan Museum of Manila said. “His relentless unsheathing of the malignant cancers in the country is often seen in his depiction of faceless and nameless exploited laborers and the underclass. Driven by his social conscience, he utilized art to criticize society’s hegemonic and oppressive centers of power.”
While Pablo has left us, his life and works bearing truths about the society will be his lasting legacy.
Rest in peace, Pablo Baens Santos.