Filipino artist Juanito Torres presents ‘The Hero In Our Time’ exhibit

Published September 2, 2022, 10:19 AM

by John Legaspi

What should heroism mean in our time? That is the question Filipino visual artist Juanito Torres tries to find an answer to with his latest showcase dubbed “The Hero In Our Time.” Launched last Aug. 27, days before the annual celebration of National Heroes Day (Aug. 29), the exhibit puts the spotlight on new and old Filipino heroes and their roles in shaping who we are today.

Juanito Torres and his “Mga Bayani ng Rebolusyon” piece

Much like his “Tupada” show, “The Hero in Our Time” highlights Juanito’s signature in turning serious topics into humorous displays. While he tries to let viewers have fun with his artworks, there is still a statement that he wants people to see and ponder. With this exhibit, his goal is to create awareness and consciousness about the importance of history. 

“Before my muses used to my family and friends,” the artist tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “But as I looked back, and living in a place like Bulacan where there are many ancestral houses, I discovered more of my roots and our history.”

In his “Nakamit na nga ba ang Kalayaan” piece, Juanito puts on the canvas his two favorite Filipino heroes, Andres Bonifacio and Dr. Jose Rizal, joined by conquistadores and colonialistas images and Disney characters Marlin and Nemo, symbolizing an idea that indeed like the proverbial marine character, freedom still needs to be found. “Mga Bayani ng Rebolusyon” artwork features Bonifacio with Macario Sakay, Emilio Jacinto, and the brave Filipinos that took up arms against the oppressive colonial powers. While “Mga ideya ng Pagbabago” showcases Rizal hoilding an issue of La Solidaridad and joined by Marcelo H. del Pilar and Mariano Ponce, among others. But if people look closely, they will also see an image of actor John Arcilla as General Antonio Luna. 

Among the recurring symbols in Juanito’s paintings are the dogs. For him, the dogs serve as the silent narrators of the exhibit, as they can sense the feelings of their owners. “If only they could speak, they can share so many stories,” the artist muses. 

“The Hero In Our Time” also depicts the modern heroes of our pandemic time. It also explores the age-old idea of the youth being the champion of tomorrow. These themes are perfectly showcased by his artworks “Back to School” and “Ituloy ang Laban,” where young Filipinos are seen in school braving the Covid-19 threat, and the latter, presenting them cosplaying Antonio Luna and the Katipuneros.

Quotes by noted writer Jose Y. Dalisay underscore the exhibit. As the writer astutely observes, “Even as we see St. Michael battling the dragon, we are St. Michael.” The only thing is “who and what is the dragon of our time?” But just like our heroes of yesteryear, the Filipinos of today shall prevail.

“For me, the dragon of our time is our lack of knowledge about who we are,” Juanito says. “As my professor at the University of the Philippines said, ‘If you don’t know your history, you don’t have an understanding of who you are today.’”

“The Hero In Our Time” runs until Sept. 7 at Galerie Raphael in UP Town Center in Katipunan Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City.

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