Celebrating and promoting the arts

By Joshua Corcuera

Unknown to many, the month of February is celebrated as the National Arts Month. In our everyday lives, however, we are no stranger to the arts.

First and foremost, what is art? A lot of us would think that art pertains to paintings or sculptures. On a broader perspective, however, the arts are not limited to these works, but also extend to other creative activities such as music, literature, and dance. One definition of art is that it is “the expression of ideas and emotions through a physical medium.” With this, we can understand art, generally speaking, as a diverse range of human activity with outputs that express our imagination and creativity.

For historical context, the month of February was declared National Arts Month by former President Corazon Aquino in 1991 through Presidential Proclamation 683. It aims to “celebrate the artistic excellence and pay tribute to the uniqueness and diversity of the Filipino heritage and culture.”

Definitely, our country has a lot of talented artists, specifically painters, sculptors, dancers, writers, and so on. With a huge population and a melting pot of cultures, the Philippines can be proud of various artistic works. As we celebrate and promote the arts, it is a good idea to look at some renowned artistic works by Filipinos. More importantly, it is important to feature lesser-known works, especially those from the countryside and from indigenous peoples, that are worthy of broader recognition.

The Spoliarium is one of the most famous Filipino artworks. This 1884 painting by Juan Luna features dying gladiators being pulled and stripped of their clothes and weapons. Interestingly, the painting won a gold medal that same year in the Madrid Exposition proving that Filipinos, during a time of colonialism and foreign aggression, are capable of defeating its colonizers. At present, the painting is now at the National Museum of Fine Arts and is definitely larger than life as it measures 13.8 feet by 25.18 feet.

Moving on, indigenous peoples in the Philippines are also capable of making art. In the Cordilleras, one of the trademark artforms in the highland region is its weaving culture. According to some, most tribes consider weaving, the art of producing textile by interlacing yarns or threads, as part of their religious belief. Practically, the traditional handwoven fabrics of the Cordilleras are worn by locals as their clothes in their everyday lives.

To end this column, one way to appreciate the arts, particularly Filipino arts, is by visiting a nearby museum. Here in Manila, the National Museums (Fine Arts, Natural History, and Anthropology) attract a lot of visitors, especially during weekends. However, there are many other museums in the provinces as well. These include, among others, the Museo Iloilo in Iloilo City; the BenCab Museum in Benguet; the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, Rizal; and the Museo Sugbo in Cebu City.

Without doubt, Filipinos are talented and skilled in various aspects including the arts. It is definitely important, therefore, to support Filipino artists and recognize the efforts they have made with their outputs.