Paintings speak a universal language. The painter has this duty/burden/pleasure to express himself to his audience. For many years, Filipino artists have shown their remarkable skill through this medium. Our experiences as a people are reflected through their works and they serve as an inspiration for this generation to take it a notch higher.

The most notable painter who gained international recognition was Juan Luna. His work, the Spoliarium, won the gold medal in the 1884 Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts.

The Spoliarium by Juan Luna y Novicio.

If one would look at the historical context when Luna created this piece, one would understand its significance. It was from the 1880s to the 1890s that Filipinos were trying to gain recognition as equals to their Spanish counterparts. We were fighting prejudice and this achievement was our declaration that talent is universal and that no race can claim supremacy over the other.

“Filipino” back then was reserved to Spaniards born in the Philippines who were also called insulares. This name became more inclusive in the 19th Century through the likes of Luna.

It was in 1862 that the Suez Canal opened the doors to a vast export market for Philippine sugar, coffee, tobacco and abaca. Vast fortunes were then made by rich native families who were able to send their sons to Europe where they were exposed to liberal ideas. Ideas that fueled a movement that sparked the concept of “nation”.

Young men such as Luna were very much involved in this movement. He used his works to communicate and show the capabilities of the native. And that a Filipino like him can become a master of this medium.

* * *

Today, Filipino artists have different venues to show their talents. One fine example was a recent exhibit called ManlART 2010, which was held a couple of months ago. Here are two of my favorite pieces.

Abang by Emmanuel Garibay

Fifth Floor Tenement by Steve Santos

* * *

The sons and daughters of Luna have also explored the digital medium and this time, it’s no longer a crusade for recognition in terms of talent but also to be recognized as a country that welcomes everyone.

Philippine-Mango by Team Manila.

The creative minds of Team Manila came up with posters to promote the Philippines. See more of their awesome works in their Flickr account.

Read more:
Manila With Photos
A Marriage That’s Music to the Ears
Music & Traditions in Cismigiu Park

About the author

I’m a marketing management graduate from one of Manila’s universities. After years in sales promotions, public relations, and advertising, I've chosen to pursue tour guiding as a profession. Currently, I’m working with the Philippines’ Department of Tourism as a Mabuhay Guide.