Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mga Musmos (Innocent Children)

Coming back after four (4) years of being away, I was so struck by the increase of children living, roaming, working, and begging in the streets of Manila especially during the holiday season. The phenomenon of street children first came to public awareness in the eighties when children, whose parents at times were also still children, stowed-away via vessels and buses from different parts of the country to venture living in Manila. UNESCO counts around 1.5 million street children nationwide and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) estimates a yearly increase of 630,000. This is very disturbing.

I have often created works that depict social problems and show root causes in order to awaken the viewer into thinking up ways of contributing to positive change. This art practice while necessary, has its risks because viewers could fall into the victim syndrome. I realize that depicting images of hope that empower is just as important.

I paint about young girls with great optimism, anticipating greater empowerment of tomorrow’s Filipinas. Children’s rights, as declared by th UN are the right to a nation, a family environment, food, shelter and clothing, education, recreation, to grow up in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

For “After the Fact”, the 50th anniversary show of the Lopez Museum and Library (, I selected two (2) existing works (Musmos and Tarana) and made a new one (Tatlong Musmos), as response to Juan Luna’s portrait of a boy with violin, and Amorsolo’s face of a child.

In Musmos, these have largely remained aspirations and wishes, as abstracted in the child’s innocent smile, the empty plate, a piece of homey sawali wall, food and toys that float in the air. Papier mache toys, crafted with rough texture and finish, emphasize the work-by- hand quality, contrasting prevailing consumer and digital toys which when used inappropriately, dull children’s motor skills and imagination.

In Tarana, the aspirations are symbolically expressed by the background flourish of colorful abundance, contrasting the black-and-white image of child being led ahead to a better life by a single androgynous parent, which is the prevailing profile of current families.

Tatlong Musmos, a digital print in a lightbox calls attention to education for girls and women. Using two photographs from the LMM Library: children of Southern Luzon from the Brown Album, and school children receiving books. I interplayed this with image of my plasterbonded book/ box “ Kasaganahan Para sa mg Bata”.

The “After the Fact”, 50th anniversary show of the Lopez Museum and Library will be on from today, February 12 to September 18, 2010.

90-063 Musmos1990, oil on canvas and assemblage mounted on plywood, 122.5 x 122.5 cm. , First exhibited at Gawad CCP 1990 Exhibition, exhibited by Japan Foundation at MOT Tokyo & Hiroshima,
Tarana1994, acrylic on canvas, 175cm. x 175 cm.i mage, 182cm. x 182 cm. canvas with frame.
Tatlong Musmos2010, digital print