I AM excited beyond measure to finally receive the painting which I won in the 2020 ArtSieteRa Art Auction-for-a-cause last December. ArtSieteRa Birthday ARTreach is the brainchild of my good friend, art aficionado, and multipotentialite Earl Tongol, and has been one of the most consistent and sustainable art outreaches in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga that I know of.

The recent edition of ARTsietera featured an online auction of paintings from the Vitalez and Villaester Collections and the proceeds of which benefited both the Children’s Joy Foundation residents and a few less-privileged Persons Deprived of Liberties who will be given a second lease on life through the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s pioneering Sponsor-A-Release Program in Naic, Cavite. Peter Vitalez is an abstract artist from Paranaque City who has made a name for himself with his work that focuses on women and contemporary takes on classical themes brandished with bold, intense colors using a variety of media. The ArtSieteRA pieces entitled “Hector,” “Aeneas,” “Odysseus,” and “Perseus” are part of Vitalez’s Faith and Mythology oeuvre, drawing inspiration from Greek heroes. Meanwhile, the Villaester Collection was named in honor of Naic Jail Warden Captain Bryan Villaester whose much-acclaimed advocacy started in using art as a way of securing much-needed funds which will enable PDLs to afford their bails and have a chance to change for the better. The collection includes 10 works of art, the subjects of which range from cityscapes, landscapes, and montages.

The painting, which I happily bought for my budding art collections, is entitled “Amazon,” a surreal explosion of rainforest life that appealed to my sensitivities and sensibilities as a plantita and my love for the environment. The painting measures 25 by 35 inches and used acrylic on canvas as a medium. Alas, this painting will forever be shrouded with its own mystery as I will always be wondering who NMJ alias “Maygab” is, the PDL who painted this piece and whether he would eventually find his way to freedom. As I look at this work of art in a happy corner of my home, I find myself immersed in a lush and vivid figment of the artist’s imagination and feel immensely blessed.

ArtSieteRa Birthday ARTreach started in 2013 during Earl’s 26th birthday, as a meaningful way of celebrating a personal milestone. Through the years, the event has evolved into unique art advocacy that empowers marginalized young people by providing them with enriching art experiences, and a community of committed volunteers, originally from Earl’s family and friends but has expanded into a wider circle of support.

Prior to the pandemic, ArtSieteRa featured a series of art workshops for children at the Children’s Joy Foundation in our city, with a top-notch lineup of artists as resource speakers. In the first-ever workshop, UP Fine Arts alumnus and graphics artist Jerrold Dizon coached the children on the basics of drawing. In 2014, the workshop theme was art out of scraps with Arkicamp Foundation’s head and heritage architect Ed Castro as the mentor in creating collages. The 2015 workshop centered on animation as a theme, with writer and illustrator Alberto Otchengo Jr. at the helm. The 2016 event featured Camille Binuya Hernandez of Crafting Holiday as the resource speaker and she taught the kids how to make wonderful DIY snow globes. In 2017, Arrah Lagman of Bliss Designs shared her expertise in the sophisticated art of calligraphy. 2018 was the year when the children learned how to make caricatures under the tutelage of cartoonist and visual artist Emerson Salonga. The last workshop during the normal years was in 2019 when famous origami artist Sarjit Singh taught the kids the fun and skillful Japanese art of paper folding. One of Earl’s cherished dreams to produce a future National Artist from our City through this advocacy.

Ever the innovator and game-changer, Earl came up with the most creative way to still pursue his advocacy of helping the Children’s Joy Foundation while promoting the arts at the same time. The pandemic birthed the idea of the ArtSieteRa Art Auction-for-a-cause virtual event last December 12, 2020, with beauty queen and achiever Korina Christiene Reyes as the guest auctioneer. All proceeds were given to the two groups of beneficiaries and just in time for Hearts Day this year, about five PDL-beneficiaries will be “reintegrated” into society, empowered by an opportunity to be better while the residents at Children’s Joy Foundation received much-needed supplements.

From a personal act of selflessness and love, Earl’s heart for the arts has truly become a noble act of kindness that continues to be inspired by the spirit of friendship, volunteerism, and generosity. I can only look forward to seeing it thrive and gain a wider reach in the years to come.