Finally a home for the artists
By Veronica Veloso Wuson
A visual manifesto is rising on a 200-sqm. lot in Metro Tagaytay, a tiny two story house with big dreams, fulfilling and uplifting the aspiration of artists from the Philippines for a haven to nurture their creative spirit.
After 74 years since its inception, the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) will finally have its own home, funded by artists for artists with a little help from private sponsors. Fidel Sarmiento, current AAP president, has been working on this mission since 2014 together with like-minded Filipino artists.
While it took a total of some 30,919 balloons for Pixar to carry the tiny house in the animated movie “UP” for the main character to fulfill his promise to his wife, it has been taking local artists 27,000 days and counting to rally successful and aspiring artists to join painted hands to build their forever home.
Big dreams (perhaps equivalent to multi million pesos) have been attained by several so-called “Kanlungan Boys,” who got their chops through the Kanlungan ng Sining at Rizal Park, entered a contract with the National Parks Development Committee from 2002 to 2014.
Sarmiento who has been AAP president from 2002 to 2008, then again since 2010 until the present, proudly rattled off names such as the celebrated Randalf Dilla, Robert Fernandez, Mark Louie Gonzales, Emmanuel Balboa, Averil Paras, Joseph Villamar. In fact, he added, the Kanlungan launched similar careers from Manila to Asia, Europe, and the rest of the world.
Famed Joseph A. Villamar of the Saturday Group, declared: “Ang AAP po ang naging daan ko upang makapasok sa mundo ng sining. Malaki po ang utang na loob ko sa AAP dahil dito ko nakilala ang mga tao na nagbigay sa akin ng lakas ng loob na ipakita ang aking talento sa pagguhit. Kung ano man narating ng aking sining ay malaking bahagi nito ay mula sa AAP.”
The park house had to stop operations in 2014 when the NPDC, under a new chief, refused to renew its contract reasoning office conversion. “And, as fate would have it, a few weeks after their park home was padlocked, a huge tree fell blocking its entrance,” related Sarmiento.
With the padlock etched in his mind, Sarmiento vowed to build a permanent AAP house. Inspired by two successful fundraisers—Artabang 1 and Artabang 2, dedicated to Ondoy victims and for victims in Ormoc—that garnered a total of P10 million, Sarmiento once again asked his good friend, Michael Dino, secretary for the Visayas under the Duterte administration, to host a third Artabang fundraiser for the AAP Home.
“We asked fellow artists to donate artworks for Artabang 3 and [they] raised P4.5 million to jumpstart our home. Together with the AAP officers: Roger Santos, Monette Alvarez, Margarita Lim, Angelito Florendo, and Veronica Olan, we combed [through] Metro Manila. Mahal. We ended up with this 200 sqm lot in Barangay Ulat, Silang, Metro Tagaytay [worth] P1.9 million,” Sarmiento said. “The balance will start building the AAP office and gallery. I hope we can get more funds from fellow artists, as well as art patrons to [finish] the home.”
Hyperrealist artist Robert Fernandez, whose works are displayed globally, said: “Nagsimula ako sa AAP na walang ideya sa pagpipinta, sa pagiging volunteer madami [akong] nakilalang mga batikang artist at, sa gabay ng mga opisyales ng AAP, nagsimula ‘kong tahakin ang mundo ng [art at] ngayon ang mga natutunan ko ay ibinabahagi ko naman sa mga kabataan at may edad na gusto rin matuto na walang inaasahang kapalit.”
AAP members numbering 8,000, with 2,000 active ones, are excited to see the two-story structure with a roof deck taking shape. Designed by Sarmiento, who took up architecture at Mapua in 1978, the engineering work is also given pro bono by his high school classmate John Morales.
“The Kanlungan [was once] a school field trip destination, an on-the-job training for [students from] nearby schools [such as] Feati, St Paul’s, the Technological University of the Philippines, EARIST,” Sarmiento added. “Finally, we will continue to have painting workshops again [so that] budding and established artists [can] learn from each other.”
Sarmiento was the main man who imparted the various painting techniques to those who once visited the AAP Home at Rizal Park. Among those is Jane Ebarle, manager for Faber Castell Phils., who gained additional artistic sense from Sarmiento. She even ran oil pastel workshops.
To this day, Ebarle generously supports all of AAP’s endeavors, donating materials to Sarmiento’s seminars in prisons, homes for the elderly, and to various schools in Metro Manila and in the provinces.
On their own, the artists are visualizing, stroke by stroke, color by color, what is to become the permanent AAP house, office, and gallery—a home as well as a school for exhibits, interactions, workshops, lectures, and art activities.
Founded in 1948 by Purita Kalawa Ledesma, the AAP boasts to have in its roster of past and present members international luminaries such as National Artists Vicente Manansala, Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, Jerry Navarro, Frederico Aguilar Alcuaz, Botong Francisco, and living legend BenCab.
Those who are interested to help the AAP in its efforts to rebuild its home may send donations to: ART ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC. (Acct # 122-124181-2, CHINABANK, SM MEGAMALL BRANCH).