Ilonggos Bravos: The Triumvirate of Zambarrano, Cerbas, and Dela Cruz


Having visited Iloilo City recently, the province is up and about with preparations for the APEC summit this coming November. Rich in natural and cultural heritage this sunny city of western visayas was chosen as one of the venues for some of APEC’s more important activities. Bustling or better yet, the main roads were smoking with the air filled in by the bevy mix of sand and cement from non-stop construction work. With infrastructure being built here and there, one would get an idea that progress has indeed arrived for the Ilonggos and there to stay.

With much pun intended comes Ang.gulo: Three-man Exhibition of Arel Zambarrano, Leoniel Cerbas, and Richard Dela Cruz at Artes Orientes whose perfect timing speak both of the state of disarray these artists are thriving and a sordid reminder that what we see in Iloilo is not exactly what’s there. In hindsight it could be more of Iloilo’s sampler of its contemporary visual arts than a blatant critique of its socio-political milieu. When its artists concern themselves with the impending reality than doing say portraits of celebrities with the Pope, or fantasy mother-and-childs or school of coy fish for demanding clients; when artists poke at what ills our already badly beaten country mired black-and-blue by corruption, and greed. Instead of rendering them in the usual in-your-face-realism these artists seeks to poignantly interpret them in an artistic genre of their making, culling from their own personal 
Tricky Trail 2

Few artists can lay claim to be among the subjects they depict. Being a farmer's son, Dela Cruz knows how it is to till the land they have yet to own, toiling in dignity and by perseverance; how hard it is to labor and still not get enough from what you work for. The irony of it all those who plant rice are those without it. Tricky Trail 2 clearly portrays this sad plight not only of farmers but all those who carry the heavier burden of making the most in what so little. In an almost three dimensional manner, painstakingly rendered in a serene yet overwhelmingly detailed strokes in Dela Cruz’s working multitude. There is loudness in silence as one could hear the groan of the mass assembled in unison. The collective echoes of their empty stomach unwillingly trading half told truths over meager earning in their average daily grind.  

The overpowering double whammy in Babuwaya lords it over a plethora of the exploited while being pitted on an unequal set up—those who put a lot of effort are less rewarded. In this situation everyone feeds the glutton in the politician who gets more out of his bloated budget. There is grandness in the manner of how Dela Cruz composes yet he keeps their dignity by freely arranging his elements like a overpopulated tableau on stilts.  

Artist's Shoes

In Artist’s Shoes Arel Zambarrano continues the lesser travelled artistic road immortalized in his P25 shoe bought in a nearby thrift shop. It has been a witness to his triumphs, tragedies and the inner conflicts of his existence. His brilliance is evident in the diptych Garden of Self Realization as handle of his symbols morphed into his battered footwear epitomizing how his art has struggled--unkempt, deformed and tattered. Merged with his signature needles, Zambarrano likes his painting muddy and less formal manner. How this visual style will evolve is something to look forward to.
Garden of Self Realization

Moving Forwardcomes at a time when everything these days is short, easy and bite-size. It is a reaction to the kind of relentless pursuit for things arbitrary yet artificial. Cerbas manages to control his haste by choosing his battles. In his alter ego represented by the fighting fish that guided him like a lodestar in a wide open field called uncertainty and confusion. Done in overlapping with transparent layering, he starts priming with wash similar how one does watercolor before finishing off with monotone acrylic. 

Moving Forward

As in any kind of unfair practice wealth has often been at the expense of the unmindful many that have been abused enough to blind injustice done by the false brightness of polish deceiving and disguising everything under an increasing profit. Sa Ilalim ng Kinang Cerbas reminisces many drawings depicting an authoritarian regime trampling on its people. Done in resin, behind the shiny shoes is a revolting throng fighting its collective right to emancipation. 
Sa Ilalim ng Kinag
Far from the art center that is Manila, Ang.gulo shows how distance provides a clearer and tighter perspective to Zambarrano, Cerbas and dela Cruz who have earlier in their student days have already honored Iloilo in the Philippine art map by winning major art competitions. They are the young new realists who put their art to good use and not just decorations to hang on the walls. Immersed in deep thought they make us realize how Filipinos have been victims of their own slavery. They enable us to imagine further too how art can make us aware what is needed in our society, of how it can make us overcome our plight.
When life hands more than half of the population in dire poverty, when everything around you is politically orchestrated, for these three artists the last thing you do is wallow in your quagmire. In disturbing the peace by fighting for change in one’s consciousness one artwork at a time. Or in their case, make that three.