THE HEROIC need not be ascribed only to extraordinary men of extraordinary feats; even the plebeian citizen has the capacity to become heroic.

The Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (CANVAS), with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, launched Everyday Filipino Heroes, an outdoor banner project cum art exhibit held in connection with the May 10, 2010 elections at the Vargas Museum in the University of the Philippines (UP).

Although the original pieces were displayed at the museum, images of the artworks were made into outdoor banners which were then shown around the UP Academic Oval. The exhibit featured artistic statements by the artists themselves. The artworks varied in genres, styles, and media, but had a singular goal—to give due recognition to the overlooked day-to-day feats of heroism by ordinary people.

Among the participating artists were Thomasians Daniel Aligaen, Anton Balao, Yveese Belen, Buen Calubayan, Salvador Ching, Julio Austria, Anna de Leon and Dr. Dante Lerma of the UST Health Service.

Everyday people

Heroes and heroines are present even in the typical household, playing their roles without inhibitions or expectations.

De Leon’s surreal “Mommy” depicts in mixed media a mother and child holding each other’s hands on an elevated platform made of narra wood. Strands of copper wire are woven together to form the intimate image, with the open sky as the background. Adorning the heavenly backdrop are separate lines of intertwined copper running vertically through the canvas.

“I idolize my mom. This is a tribute to all mothers,” de Leon said. Juggling her career as an artist and freelance interior designer while being a dutiful mother to her children, she strongly believes that mothers are heroes. “Mommy” is reflective of de Leon’s belief that the value of gratitude in all sons and daughters should be revived, as today’s generations seem to be taking their parents for granted, who ironically always see beyond their child’s faults and flaws.

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Austria’s “Wonder Boy” is inspired by the relentless hustle of everyday vendors in a dog-eat-dog metropolis. A fusion of urban art and abstraction, the picture depicts a dejected street vendor set against an abstract background consisting of graffiti and free-flowing brush strokes reminiscent of vandalism.

Austria implies that the informal sector are capable of nobility of work. “They earn a decent and honest living compared to corrupt politicians who live prosperous lives as a result of stealing from the country’s coffers,” the artist said.

Meanwhile, the surreal “Fish be with You” by Ching pays homage to the important role fishermen play in our society.

“Their job is to not only feed their families, but the whole community as well,” Ching said. His black-and-white depiction of a fisherman staring off into space gives an aura of solemnity and contemplation and the floating fish in the background ascribed the country’s marine bounty as a blessing from heaven.

What gives the painting distinction is Ching’s use of workmen’s denim as canvas, which embodies the Filipinos’ hardworking nature and ability to withstand strife.

Heroism Requires Action

Emphasizing how a single cast ballot can make or break a country, CCP 13 Artists awardee Buen Calubayan urges social and political transformation through “Pinger,” an edgy work depicting a red fingerprint set against a jet-black background. In his statement, Calubayan says that the work has been visually triggered by the rhetorical question “Ako ba ang simula ng pagbabago o panggagago?” (Am I the origin of change or corruption?)

On the other hand, Lerma’s “Call Juan 24/7 Heroes” commends the Filipino’s willingness to help anyone in times of need.

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“It’s always refreshing to know that then and now, at a moment’s call, there will be heroes ready to sprint into action,” the physician-artist said.

Inspired by the flourishing call center industry, the painting depicts a Filipina wearing traditional clothing with modern footwear and holding a cellphone—a traditional Maria Clara with a modern twist.

Meanwhile, Anton Balao’s oil-on-canvas “Everyone, Push” features a woman giving birth. Executed in tones of black, grey and white, the pattern on the woman’s body consists of small human figures awaiting their release into the outside world. The painting presents the pains of childbirth that a mother suffers willingly for her child from the time of conception. “Every Filipino who exerts an effort to become worthy children of the Motherland is a hero” is the tagline of the art piece.

Heroism is Innate

Daniel Aligaen’s black-and-white Japanese tattoo-inspired work,“It’s In Our Hands,” serves as an eye-opener for his highly symbolic and subjective art.

“My target is the one who is looking at the painting—it is you. The message depends on who is looking at it and how the person perceives the symbolism in my work,” Aligaen said.

The subjectivity of the painting is evident in its clashing images of a skull and random patterns on the background such as falling missiles, different flora and a Japanese mask.

“In Every Corner” by Art Petron Grand Prize winner and Benavidez awardee Yveese Belen, resembles a chess board with the squares displaying scenes. The artist’s trademark naïf figures go well with her simple yet resolute statement, “Filipino Heroes. Wherever. Whenever.” The painting portrays the Filipino as an all-around hero, whether it be at work or play and in times of hardship and doubt.

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The scenes in Belen’s piece show that Filipinos always persevere through times of trouble with their deep faith and an uncanny ability to smile despite their problems.

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