INTERWEAVING aesthetics and cultural identity, the College of Fine Arts and Design’s (CFAD) led by Professor Cynthia Loza launched the exhibit, Likhaan Bayan: An Exploration of Traditional Filipino Art, which depicted the intricate and colorful mesh of Philippine history and heritage as reflected in the nearly forgotten folk arts tradition of Bulacan and Laguna.

Held last month at the UST Museum of Arts and Sciences, the exhibit included folk art demonstrations.

Loza said the exhibit served to draw public attention to the neglected traditional arts and the need to include their study in the CFAD curriculum. The new module, she explained, would develop a sense of national identity among students while encouraging them to apply folk art motifs and techniques to their designs.

“We made the exhibit catchy to teachers so they could readily disseminate the skills to their students, which is one way of preserving the traditional arts,” Loza said.

Contextualized art

The exhibit tried to exude the ambiance of the traditional small-town Filipino fiesta. Colorful art made from organic materials such as bamboo and palm leaf filled the exhibit site, giving the audience an authentic taste of Filipino heritage.

“Most Filipino artworks are usually utilized during public celebrations such as weddings or festivals,” Loza said.

A featured traditional art was Puni, the art of folding palm leaves which originates from Malolos, Bulacan. The display featured two mobiles consisting of designs of birds, fishes, and shrimps made of colored palm leaves suspended in a mesmerizing arrangement.

Gigi Garcia, a Puni artist from Bulacan, demonstrated the meticulous process in folding the dried leaves into simple polygons and curves to resemble shapes of animals.

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Meanwhile, Abolario is the art of beading, from Pateros, Rizal. The beading portrays complicated designs ranging from birds of various plumages to Christian-inspired themes stitched on dark cloth.

Genny Cruz demonstrated the strenuous effort of creating patterns in the fabric before stitching each bead in the image.

Meanwhile, Pabalat, the art from San Miguel, Bulacan that creates wrappers for sweets such as pastillas, was displayed in the exhibit through a series of framed elaborate cut-out designs from colored papers forming distinct images and floral patterns.

In this art form, Luz Ocampo used specialized curved scissors designed for cutting selected parts of a folded paper to form different patterns.

Bulakaykay is bamboo craft-making from Hagonoy, Bulacan. The exhibit displayed pieces of bamboo with bristles made from the grass’s shaved part and arranged in a circular manner to resemble a flower in full bloom.

Francisco Eligio demonstrated the craft by using curved knives to shave the side of the bamboo to form the curved bristles before painting them with wood bleach.

Taka, the art of paper mache of Paete, Laguna, was featured through the unfinished figures of a horse, mask, and ladies in fine dress in their raw brown color together with a tableaux of colorful animal paper figures that had been made by students as a complement to the unpainted, unfinished designs.

“These traditional arts are not only aesthetic, but functional as well. However, due to the nature of their materials, they usually don’t last long,” Loza said.

Cultural conservation

Likhaan Bayan aims to revive the interest in the traditional arts.

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“Most artists fail to pass their art form to the next generation since the latter no longer find it relevant,” said Garcia. “In the past, these traditional art forms were used as toys and decorations during special events. However, with western influences, their importance to Philippine society gradually diminished.”

During the early stages of the project, CFAD students were sent to the locations where the traditional arts originated to document the artists and their creative process.

“The objective of this exhibit is for the audience to appreciate art as a part of their heritage, something that is worth passing on to the next generation,” said Loza. “This was based on the premise that cultural grounding is necessary for Filipinos.”

By meeting traditional art practitioners, students developed a better appreciation of traditional arts and cultural heritage.

“Our group’s goal is to revive our traditional art forms, and then present them with a new look, so they can be used today,” said Garcia. “We are grateful to UST, since it is making an effort to aid us in preserving these traditional arts by trying to incorporate them in the UST curriculum.”

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