Filipino-Canadian artists display their creative masterpieces to celebrate Filipino Heritage Month and the 125th Philippine Independence Day, presenting their unique ideas of freedom to the multicultural community.
The Philippine Consulate General in Calgary organized the Malaya exhibit, an art display featuring more than 20 art pieces from six artists in observance of the country’s Independence Day and celebration of Filipino Heritage Month in Canada.
“We want to instil among the community to value our freedom and to honour the heroes who fought for this,” said Zaldy Patron, Philippine Consulate General in Calgary.
After the success of last year’s project, the Consulate aims to continue highlighting local artists’ craftsmanship.
“We would like to contribute to promoting Filipino culture, heritage, and arts by organizing this exhibit to showcase the talents and artistic skills of Calgary based Filipino artists,” said Patron.
He invites the Filipino community in Calgary, 89,000-strong, to visit the show as it is open for the whole month of June.
Art is just one of the many ways Filipino people remember essential days in their history when away from their country.
For Gladzy Kei, a muralist and illustrator, art is a “powerful tool that artists can use to express their feeling about the country and its culture in general.”
Kei uses her artwork to pay homage to the tribal communities of her country, such as the Igorots, who defended their ancestral lands, culture, and traditions against foreign colonization with their resilience, bravery, and unwavering spirit.
“My pieces reconnect me to my roots and the little things that remind me of who I am and where I am from,” said Kei.
“My junior high school teacher really inspired me to dive more into art,” Thea Galang, a 17-year-old artist, said.
As the youngest in the group, Galang described herself as experimental, creative, and analytical. She approaches her pieces with a lot of care and takes steps to research the processes she uses.
Galang dealt with an identity crisis after moving to Canada at a young age.
“I asked myself, ‘am I truly a Filipino if I don’t speak the language?'” said Galang.
In spite of this, Galang persisted in incorporating cultural elements of her country into her art, channelling her inner thoughts about her identity.
“You don’t have to be Filipino; you don’t have to be Canadian. You can have a mixture of both and always find that sense of home,” Galang says.
As someone born and raised in the Philippines, Day Pajarillo shows interest in the country’s art history; despite living in Canada for 15 years, she acknowledges that she still embodies the identity of a Filipino.
“I do create various forms of art since I have a diverse audience here in Calgary, but most of my artwork is heavily inspired by the Filipino culture,” said Pajarillo.
The unique visual representations of this year’s theme validate that individual perspectives influence the artist’s definition of art.
“Art is very meditative, and it is also a way to let people see how I see things,” said Audre Santos, a self-taught pen and ink artist.
Some engage in art as a full-time career, while others pursue it part-time. Despite their hectic schedules, they find time to practice their passion.
“I don’t do this often, so having an event like this where I am given a chance to show my art is amazing. It brings me so much satisfaction to see the finished results,” Santos added.
The art presentation presents diverse explanations and understandings of the selected individuals, highlighting the result of their labours in capturing the spirit of independence.
“Freedom has already been inside us; we just need to see and know how to use it,” said Ryle Ramirez, another of the exhibition’s artists.
After participating in different art projects, Ramirez expressed his pleasure in being part of this momentous event in the Filipino-Canadian community.
“I started showing my paintings publicly a year ago, and I am very thankful for the support of Calgary’s Filipino and international art society,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez has hopes that the Calgary community continues its support of Filipino artists.
They might be away from their motherland, but these artists are driven to introduce a glimpse of their background and character to their new community.
“It helps me understand that the Philippines is full of diverse cultures. It makes me feel more energized to visit the country,” said Moses Ovakporaye, an attendee from Nigeria.
In addition to its rich culture and history, the Philippines is known for its global contributions in the form of skilled human resources in different industries and fields. However, Filipino people have more to offer.
Patron stated, “Filipinos here are not only as hardworking employees in various industries; we are also artists that can create good artistic works.”