Paeng’s Homecoming

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Thursday, March 20, 2014


By Ching Pangilinan
Culturati

ONE of the moments which make me proud as a Kapampangan is when a successful Cabalen never fails to pay homage to his roots. This is how I feel whenever internationally renowned and multi-awarded painter Rafael Maniago comes home.

Tito Paeng, as I fondly call Rafael Maniago, is the premiere Kapampangan portrait artist of his generation. His being prolific as a portrait painter has resulted to more than a thousand works including portraits of past Pampanga governors and noted Philippine leaders. At the Mayor’s executive offices in the City of San Fernando, portraits of President Noynoy, the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, and current Mayor Edwin Santiago gracefully adorn the hallowed hall.

As a highly-talented painter, Tito Paeng’s works also include landscapes, streetscapes and still life done in his classical realistic style. As a versatile artist, he has also ventured into writing Kapampangan poetry and was even crowned as a Poet Laureate in our province. His boundless love for Kapampangan culture is manifested in his life and body of works.

While Tito Paeng has been based in the United States for decades now, he makes a yearly or sometimes semi-annual sojourn to Pampanga. What differentiates Tito Paeng’s homecomings are the breathtaking art works filled with indomitable Kapampangan spirit that he brings home from the US. While you can take the man out of Pampanga, you never really can take Pampanga out of the man.

About five years ago, I was gifted with a wonderful surprise from Tito Paeng in the form of a portrait which has immortalized my youth, if not beauty. The said portrait which graces my weekly column in Sun.Star Pampanga won for him the grand prize in a portrait competition in California in 2009. That year the City Government of San Fernando hosted an art exhibit in celebration of San Fernando Women’s Day and some of the portraits which Tito Paeng made were featured in the exhibit.

For his homecoming this year, Tito Paeng has brought home 18 paintings which give tribute to a humble yet symbolic feature of Kapampangan everyday life – the kalesa. A variety of streetscapes lifted from downtown San Fernando evoke nostalgia for an era that passes before our very eyes. With masterful brush strokes, Tito Paeng captured the snippets of this fleeting reality. Far from his homeland, he was able to create masterpieces teeming with Kapampangan vibe.

The kalesa and the kutseros take centerstage as Rafael Maniago unveils to the public for the first time his whole Kalesa series in an exhibit entitled “Kalesang Kapampangan” on March 23, 2014 at 8:00 in the morning at the San Fernando City Proper. The City Hall fences will be transformed into a gallery for a day in an attempt to bring art closer to its subjects. Art lovers, Kapampangan or otherwise, are welcome to join the event.

As much as Tito Paeng is excited to be back home and share with us his works of art, may I say that the Kapampangan art community is equally happy to have him back into our fold. Paeng Maniago’s homecomings are lovely and lively events that each Kapampangan could look forward to. For a man who has seen so much of the world, I salute Tito Paeng for never failing to go back home, both in his art and his heart.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on March 21, 2014.

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