THREE years, a photographer, seven artists, countless shots, and an island. It sounds like a plot for a book or a show, but no, it is simply a brief look into what happens when passion and drive come together with an endless stream of creativity.

This is the story on what drove a group of artists into paying homage to the land that continues to not only feed their physical beings, but their souls as well.

It took some time and planning to turn the art exhibition now titled “The Unseen Negros” into a reality. What started as photographer Ronnie Baldonado's love of travel and getting to know the place he calls home has led the way to a group of artists into immortalizing his memories beyond his photographs and onto their canvases.

One might wonder what led to this collaboration but like a lot of successful partnerships, this was greatly helped by friendship. It may have taken three years to make it happen, but what sought these people through has a lot to do with ties forged long ago.

Baldonado has had his share of trekking the Negros Islands, armed with nothing but a camera and a desire to find every beautiful nook and cranny from one town to another. Be it a breathtaking vista or a heartwarming moment from the heartland, he is the epitome of a true shutterbug— ready as ever. Photo after photo, he never tires of the bounty this land has all too generously laid at his feet.

And what of these treasures, these pieces of Negros that he takes with him with every snap of his camera? Enter Bacolod artists Leah Divino-Samson and Nilda Claveraz. The photos were shared and as with Ronnie, they did not fail to see the beauty frozen in time in those photographs. It didn't take long before the idea was formed—why not take it a step further? From photographs to the canvas. It wasn't a farfetched idea.

Two women, different styles, different mediums but sharing an eye for beauty and boundless creativity: Samson, known for her keen eye and astounding capacity for detail where each gliding grass and swaying leaf on her landscapes could pass as too eerily lifelike; and Claveraz, known as the “Ballpen Artist,” with her bursts of color and life, celebrating her medium with each swipe of her pens, each brush of color.

Their kind of art and style coupled with Baldonado’s photographs, it seemed only natural that their worlds would collide and bring forth something incredible.

The colors, the scenes and the life that oozed from each photo simply beckoned to be painted. And when passion and creativity collide, there simply isn't much that can be done until the muses have been sated.

With the two women and the photographer, it was inevitable that the group they have formed would catch the bug, too. The Chroma Group comprised of Cristina Labayen Iral, Rico “Pack” Iral, Kate Kirsten Iral, Severino Labayen and Ritchie Arvin Cuesta readily jumped into the bandwagon for this.

Each artist in the group was given access to photographs taken by Baldonando from around Negros. One town after another, one scene to the next, nothing was overlooked and it was almost an embarrassment of riches in terms of the subjects so readily offered. Their interpretations of those pieces- this world now shown through their eyes and their hands- and this was how “The Unseen Negros” came to be.

To say beauty is everywhere is true. What makes this collaboration stands out is the fact that their subjects are not the everyday kind of beauty. These are pieces of this land that we may overlook or even simply ignore. They are reintroducing this life to us through their eyes, to share what ignites their passions and what makes them pick up those pens, brushes, pastels and canvases. These are the true forgotten beauty in our lives, our homes, and of all of us.


"The Unseen Negros" exhibit opens at the Negros Museum on June 5, Friday, at 6 p.m. It will run until July 5.