Salvador: Dominic Rubio, a homecoming

Fruit Vendor (Photo by Jinggoy I. Salvador)
Fruit Vendor (Photo by Jinggoy I. Salvador)

FIGURES with long necks garbed in turn of the century clothes riding bicycles or strolling in Binondo painted against a vivid red background. I have seen Rubio’s works during my short visits in Manila, where I make sure I pass by art galleries. It was attraction at first sight. Sadly, I never got the chance to acquire one, most especially when it cost less than it does today. But like any fine works of art, each piece is “worth it.” Rubio’s works are some of the most collectible pieces today.

A homecoming art exhibit. “Is Dominic Rubio from Davao?” many asked. Why would a Laguna-born artist do a “homecoming” exhibit far from his hometown?

I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone across the Philippines will call Davao home after spending time in this Mindanao city. I know of many who decided to relocate to Davao after experiencing how beautiful life is in this part of the country.

In the case of visual artist Rubio, he lived in Davao for three years from 1994 to 1996. In the 90’s, when city life was much simpler and slower than it is today, three years is long enough for anyone to realize Davao can be called home.

Rubio comes from Paete in Laguna, the town famous for its woodcarving tradition. After graduating from UST College of Fine Arts and working in Manila, he came to Davao.

“I lived and worked in Pearl Farm Beach Resort. While working as a part-time in-house artist I found time to travel around Mindanao,” shared the artist. He traveled to the Caraga Region, learning about the Mandaya and T’boli tribes, and lived with the B’laans and the Badjaos as well.

If I heard him right, his first love was sculpting but had to shift to painting. Artworks on canvas had a market. It was in the mid 2000’s that Rubio created figures in elongated necks in typical Filipino garb. It was a big hit with the audience. This became his signature look.

“Art critics have said that with these figures, Rubio has shown a proud race that can hold its own in the community of nations,” was written in a commentary.

Finding his style and created a following, Rubio returned to his first love-sculpting. No, he didn’t stop painting. The artist also interpreted the long-necked figures in three dimensional figures. Of course, that too was grabbed by collectors.

Both paintings and sculptures found its way on the artist’s very first one-man show in Davao City entitled “Living Heritage (Homecoming)”.

“This is my first one-man show here in Davao. Sa Manila, marami na akong shows. So, gift ko ito sa Davao. Three years akong nag stay dito, 1994, ’95, ‘96. So, I’m here now. Welcome (to the exhibit),” said the artist on the opening of his “homecoming” show at the dusitD2 hotel recently.

Paying tribute to Davao, Rubio painted and sculpted 21 images and scenes of his memories of Davao during his three-year stay in the city: a sabungero in “Game Fowl” and “Favored Pet” presented a rural and relaxed vibe within an urbanized city; “Fruit Vendor” and “Banana Vendor” perhaps signifies Davao as major banana grower and exporter and the country’s fruit basket; and “Yellow Fin Tuna” depicts how Davao, with its close proximity to General Santos City, is also known for the fish.

How did the exhibit turn out? Rubio’s works were sold out. What did you expect?

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