These artists have found a home after 74 years

Published July 2, 2022, 6:47 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Art Association of the Philippines to turn 200-square-meter lot in Tagaytay into an art house

A visual manifesto is rising on a 200-square-meter lot in Metro Tagaytay, a tiny two-story with big dreams, a testament by artists for artists who will finally have their forever home, a yearning that incubated 74 years ago during the inception of the Art Association of the Philippines.

Big Dreams or multimillion pesos have been attained by several so-called “Kanlungan Boys” who got their chops through the Kanlungan ng Sining or Art Haven in Rizal Park contracted rent free with the National Parks Development Committee from 2002 to 2014 in exchange for 12 paintings monthly.

Designed by AAP president Fidel Sarmiento, the two story with roof deck AAP Tahanan is rising in Metro Tagaytay, Barangay Ulat, Silang, Cavite

Fidel Sarmiento, who was AAP president from 2002 to 2008, then 2010 to the present, proudly rattled off the names of artists like the celebrated Randalf Dilla, Robert Fernandez, Mark Louie Gonzales, Emmanuel Balboa, Averil Paras, Joseph Villamar and more, whose careers gestated at Kanlungan.

Founded in 1948 by Purita Kalaw Ledesma, the AAP boasts of international luminaries in its roster—National Artists Vicente Manansala, Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, Jerry Navarro, Frederico Aguilar Alcuaz , Botong Francisco.

“AAP was the path that led me to art. I owe AAP a lot for it gave me the impetus to share my talent. AAP played a big part in how far I’ve gone in art,” declared famed Joseph A. Villamar of the Saturday Group.  

The park house screeched to a halt in 2014 when the NPDC under a new chief refused to renew their contract reasoning office conversion. “And as fate would have it, a few months after their park home was padlocked, a huge tree fell on the roof and blocked its entrance,” said Sarmiento.

With the padlock etched in his mind, Sarmiento vowed to build a permanent AAP house “to avoid being at the mercy of any government official.”

Inspired by the two successful fundraisers garnering some ₱10 million called Artabang 1 for Ondoy victims and Artabang 2 for Ormoc victims, Sarmiento once again asked his good friend, Michael Dino, secretary for the Visayas in the Duterte administration, to host anew Artabang, a third edition benefiting the AAP Home.

AAP secretary Margaret Lim, a hall-of-famer watercolorist, said, “We asked 80 plus artists to donate their paintings for a one night auction on Dec. 19, 2019, raising ₱4.5 million.” Together with other AAP officers—Roger Santos, Monette Alvarez, Angelito Florendo, and Veronica Olan—Sarmiento and Lim have “scoured Metro Manila since Covid started in 2020, even up to Tanay where a misstep deeply scarred my right knee. We ended up with this ₱1.8 million 200-square-meter lot at Barangay Ulat, in Silang, Metro Tagaytay,” says Lim. “There are quite a few galleries in Tagaytay, so we decided it was the right location with our small budget. Groundbreaking was done March this year. We have already spent ₱1million for the steel bars. The weekly payroll and materials are fast draining our budget. We really need more help. An artist committed to donate 10 cement bags, another 20 bags. Still another got a congressman to donate a refrigerator.”

AAP members number 8,000 with 2,000 active. Sarmiento, who took up architecture at Mapua in 1978, designed the two-story structure with roof deck. The contractor/engineer, also pro bono, is his high school classmate, John Morales.

“The Kanlungan became a school field trip destination, an on-the-job training for nearby schools from Feati, St Paul’s, Technological University of the Philippines. We will continue to have painting workshops for artists of all levels,” says Sarmiento, who transfers knowledge of various painting techniques. One recipient is Jane Ebarle, Faber Castell Philippines manager. To this day, Ebarle thanks AAP for her success in the art world and the marketing field. In return, she generously supports AAP endeavors, donating materials to Sarmiento’s seminars in prisons, home for the aged, schools in the provinces and Metro Manila.

“AAP is a big part of my life. It is how I gained my art experience and knowledge and obtained so much opportunities. AAP helped, taught, and nurtured artists.” says Eman Mediana Santos, a versatile multimedia artist, whose works hang in homes from Manila to London, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, and Singapore.

“When I started with AAP as a volunteer, I had no idea how to paint. I met noted artists, and guided by AAP officials, I ventured into the art scene,” says Robert Fernandez, another multi-awarded hyperrealist, who enjoys passing on what he knows to young artists without expecting anything in return.

Founded in 1948 by Purita Kalaw Ledesma, the AAP boasts of international luminaries in its roster—National Artists Vicente Manansala, Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, Jerry Navarro, Frederico Aguilar Alcuaz , Botong Francisco, including living legend BenCab. The current members are painstakingly painting stroke by stroke, color by color, the biggest canvas, their collaborative obra maestra, the AAP Home. Donations can be forwarded to AAP Home. —Veronica Veloso Wuson