Though the word “waray” means nothing, the Waray region (i.e. Eastern Visayas) has something. Better yet, has somebody- Dante Enage.
Dante is no doubt one of the most celebrated visual artists in the region today. Fresh of his feats is bagging the top prize in the recently concluded Philippine Visual Arts Festival (PVAF) painting contest funded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, held February 7-12 in Pagadian City in Mindanao.
Dante’s artwork manifests a unique artistry that embodies a personality revealing and reveling Waray culture and identity. Cognizant with the Waray peoples’ despairs, dreams, joys and pains, he renders these particular experiences into a universal expression through tuba (coconut wine) painting, banig (weaved mat) patterns, pintados tattoo patterns, among others- painting the Warays’ stroke of imagination and bringing it forth to the Philippine art in particular, and Humanities in general.
In his artistic Mind
Manila Channel asked Dante several questions bringing the answers below:
MC: Leo Villaflor created a name in the realm of visual art with his exceptional media, one of which is tuba painting. Do you consider yourself his contemporary? Why tuba painting?
Dante: Leo Villaflor is … consider[ed] a mentor and an inspiration [to me]. Tuba painting is more than an art form. It is also my own way of promoting our local coconut wine-making industry. When people see my work, they also get a glimpse of our culture.
MC: What do you think is the challenge to visual artists in the region, pecuniarily speaking?
D: Most buyers are visitors; it is seldom that you can find a fellow Waray who is willing to shellout money for an art piece. Blame this perhaps on the local government’s disinterest in this matter. It is very difficult and challenging to get sponsorships and support for exhibits as well as fostering of art groups and museums. There are no art galleries where we can put up our paintings and sell.
MC: Do you think the Waray people are supportive to local visual artist? If YES, in what way? If NO, why did you say so?
D: Generally, [Waraynons are] indifferent when it comes to art. They [do not value] a piece of art.
MC: What advice would you give to budding artists in the region who want to enter the world of visual arts?
D: It is a challenging world where you will meet lots of disappointments & little reward. Find a mentor who can help you… Practice, practice, practice to create a signature style.
MC: How do you project the future of Visual arts in the region?
D: May paglaum pa gad nga umasenso it art scene dinhe ha aton. [Ngan kunta], magka may-ada hin suporta ngan… bulig nga magkaada kita museum ngan gallery.
Bugkos, tying us together
In celebration of the National Arts Month, Dante, together with his partner Ge-Ann and daughter Yumi, is exhibiting their artworks tagged Bugkos. It will be running from February 17 to March 16 at Café Lucia in Tacloban City.
Aside from an invitation to exhibit his works in Kuala Lumpur this coming September, he is having exhibits on the following dates:
Feb.8-28. LARA ( with Kasikasi Art Assoc. Inc.) at UP Leyte Samar Heritage Center, Tacloban City
Feb.23-March 23, PANIMULA (with MASA International Art Group) at ARTbox in Las Piňas City
Bugkos (which means to strap up, tie together, or bind in Waray) is indeed connecting us to an enhanced understanding of ourselves- the Waray ethos- and showing the nation and the rest of humanity with our fundamental and distinctive character, through the arts.
For when we understand ourselves better, we become one.
For more sample of Dante’s tuba artworks, read “Get ‘high’ with Dante Enage’s tuba artworks”
(NOTAM: This is a revised version of When Nothing Means Something: Placing Waray Visual Arts in the Mainstream which appeared in Tribune, Feb. 18-24 issue.)