FEBRUARY 29, 2020 was a red letter day in our city as we culminated the National Arts Month and Cityhood anniversary with the Artists’ Open House featuring three home-based art galleries, studios, and art spaces run by Kapampangan visual artists. It was the first time for the City Tourism Office to organize such event, in an attempt to give life to an arts trail in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga.

For its first edition, the featured artists and art groups which opened their homes and hearts to the public were esteemed Kapampangan master painter and portrait artist Rafael Maniago, Guhit Pinas Pampanga president and ballpoint artist extraordinaire Erwin Dayrit, and the avant-garde art collective Kalinangan Telabastagan which counts among its present members mixed media artist Conderlos Lingat and art guru Ronnie Tayag.

Rafael Maniago’s Art Studio is located along the busy Mac Arthur Hiway thoroughfare in Barangay Dolores. Largely overshadowed by a commercial building in front of it, a small green gate leads to a walkway that ends at one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Tito Paeng brought out for display a significant number of paintings from his personal stash, covering a wide range of subjects and themes, from still life paintings to countryside landscapes, to urban cityscapes that capture the spirit of our city with the ubiquitous calesa and other cultural icons. The artist has mastered the use of various media on paper and canvas, from pastels, pencils, acrylics, to oils. During the open house, lucky visitors were delightfully surprised with an impromptu painting session by the artist.

Late 2019, Erwin Dayrit and his family finished upgrading his home-based art studio and turned it into a gallery aptly named Pintahanan, coined from the words “pinta” and “tahanan”, within their compound located at Saint Augustine Village. A well-maintained and colorful garden welcomes guests at the gallery which is very clean and organized too. Erwin’s masterpieces such as the widely exhibited portrait of a victorious Manny Pacquiao done using ballpoint pen and the black and white life-like portrait of Apo Whang-od are prominently displayed along with his other works. There is a panel that chronicles the inspiring story of Erwin which has been featured on national television and a shelf that holds the numerous awards and recognitions he has received. Among Fernandino artists, Erwin has one of the largest followings among the youth and in social media as well.

Kalinangan Telabastagan in the city’s northern part mounted a series of workshops and a jamming session during the open house which they entitled “Pupul ning Kalinangan” in celebration of the Arts Month. The workshops and talks included an introduction to Pyrography by Lowry Maniego, Silkscreen Printing Technology by Poy Acervo, Dreamcatcher making by Michael Serrano, Canvas stretching by Rene Calma, Alikebana Art: Local Flower Arranging by Ronnie Tayag, Driftwood Chimes making by Donald Lingat, Bamboo chimes making by JR Garcia, Batirol making and palm frond weaving by Hermès Gomez, and Wood sculpture by Jeremy Belnas. Jamming and open mic sessions were done in between the talks, resulting to a whole day and night of fun, festive, and creative gathering among artists and visitors.

Visitors who completed the trail from Dolores to San Agustin to Telabastagan received art prints signed by the different participating artists. Meanwhile, local businesses also celebrated Arts Month by giving special discounts to artists and cultural workers like Arts & Cuts Nails and Gallery, a unique experience that combines pampering in a gallery’s artful ambiance, located along MacArthur Hiway in Baliti. I hope that others will follow suit next year.

Thank you to all artists and cultural workers for generously sharing their homes and hearts to the public in the Artists’ Open House 2020. May this be the first of many in the years to come.