Art reflections

 “Don’t take too much effort to be noticed in Manila. Nurture a deep ability to see the world from your perspective. Then Manila will notice you.” – Manny Garibay

 He just came to visit the city, and like the previous Manila-based artists,  he found himself onstage talking to artists and Fine Arts students of the University of Mindanao at Cinematheque  last Friday, August 4.

Emmanuel Garibay or Manny, “is known as much for his expressionist figurative style as for the content of many of his works, which often express a keen social and political consciousness“  (Overseas Ministry Study Centre).

DOGMA and Wisdom. Photo by Kublai Milan

DOGMA and Wisdom. Photo by Kublai Milan

He was born in Kidapawan, North Cotabato  and admits he has no early recollection of the city as their family moved to Davao City, first residing in Claveria Street then to Obrero where he went to study grade school. The family then transferred to Manila.

Artist Kublai Milan who invited him to speak at the hastily prepared forum, reminisced that as a Fine Arts student at UP, Garibay was one of the artists considered “rock stars.” This is no wonder because Garibay’s stark and in-your-face portrayal of ordinary people, injustice and an oppressive worldview is at once staggering and illuminating. He elevates an ordinary subject to the level of the sublime and pierce the hearts of the viewers, challenging their own perceptions.

Garibay said he consumes most of his days painting but he could not come close to Kublai’s voluminous works, which he describes as art that is wrenched from the gut. It overflows from Kublai’s deep understanding of the world around him as art is a “process where you are converted to who you really are.”

To Garibay, painting has a gratifying effect and at the end of the day, it is the experience and the process that matters.

He admits to having one of the sloppiest works in school growing up. He said he doesn’t observe margins and his works were quite messy. This of course earned him low grades but did not discourage him from pursuing art.


“I don’t consider myself as a good artist. There are many who are very good and I don’t consider myself in that category. I am just persistent,” he said, adding that he does “whatever it takes to win the game.”

It was by chance that he had with him a USB of his works which he presented in a show in Sydney. The first painting he showed, entitled  Armchair Christ, is  a critique of the institution which gives more emphasis on perpetuating itself than its prophetic role in society

 “What keeps us from moving on is that we have been curtailed in a worldview that does not reflect who we really are,” he said.

In his Dogma and Wisdom, he said the Christian dogma is created by white male Caucasians  and it evolved to become more concerned with itself, not the world. It is a critique of the scholars of the Church in contrast to the wisdom of nature which was symbolized by a squirrel. It also showed the proclivity of humans to control nature and how we have exploited the world to suit our needs.

He claims he has a certain level of competency in discussing theology as he once contemplated on joining the institution after he finished Sociology and Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines.

The painting “Empire” shows that during the Renaissance period in Europe, what was liberating for the Europeans became “colonizing for us.”

Garibay received the prestigious Thirteen Artists Award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2000.

Alex Alagon of the Davao Durian Artists shared the regular art event in the city which happens every other Saturday at the People’s Park where visual and performing artists gather. For more than a year, the crowd has grown and they will soon be embarking on a project at the barangay level which they hope to replicate in all barangays in the city.

Perry Lequigan of the Guhit Pinas Davao also spoke about the activities of the organization to help young people in the communities learn to love art and express it through that medium.

This is the second forum with Manila-based artists, and participants say the exposure to different art perspectives help create their own grand narrative.

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