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‘Nasa sining ang pag-asa’: A rundown of Filipino artists who continue to inspire us amid tough times

In 1991, then President Corazon Aquino promulgated Presidential Proclamation No. 683 which declares February of every year as National Arts Month in the Philippines. This yearly celebration aims to commemorate Filipino artistic excellence, and to bring forth the uniqueness of our culture through diverse art forms.

This year, the theme is “Sining ng Pag-Asa.” It recognizes art as a source of expression and solace as we all navigate the bleakness of our current reality and hope for a brighter future.

Here’s a list of Filipino artists whose artworks are giving us hope during these difficult times:

Elly Cua, multimedia artist

Art: Elly Cua

Elly is an established multimedia artist from Makati City. She started creating art in 3rd grade after being inspired by a seatmate who was very good at drawing the Powerpuff Girls. She practices both digital and traditional art, and gets her inspiration from video game art, manga and 2000s art direction. Her work was recently featured in the Graphika Manila 2022 Art Book. You may view her art through this link.

  1. When did you start creating art?
    I started creating art when I was in third grade! I got amazed and inspired by my seatmate who is great at drawing Power Puff girls all over the back of her notebook and pad paper. Because of that, I learned to do illustration by practicing at home, copying the characters from the shows that I watch, including anime and video games.
  2. What are your mediums?
    Most of the time, in my current illustration workflow, I use my pen tablet (Wacom Intuos Pro) together with Clip Studio Paint or Photoshop. Sometimes, I get invited to some exhibits as well. For traditional medium, I mainly use gouache, pencils and acrylic. I also love to do anything; mixed media when I’m not using my PC. I almost use everything except oils, I can’t use oils because I’m allergic to them.
  3. What is your art style? Who are your inspirations?
    I don’t really think about having the curated art style. I just draw whatever I want and whatever ideas I come up with from my sticky notes and sketchbook. I’m really inspired by my personal experiences, video game art, visdev books, manga, and 2000s art direction (since I grew up with this era). Whenever I have free time, I also self-study from videos I see on YouTube and [other] helpful resources I find online. Yoshitaka Amano, Tetsuya Nomura, Takeshi Obata, Froyo Tam, Kojima Ayami and Joseph Leyendecker are some of my inspirations.
  4. What is your most favorite achievement as an artist?
    I’m proud of getting into one of the best companies in the Philippines as one of their graphic designers, it’s really a dream of mine because I finally have a bigger source of income that will help me as the sole breadwinner for my family. They also really support your growth and skills by providing allowances for self-growth and well-being. Another set of my favorite achievements recently is when my artwork was selected for the Graphika Manila 2022 art book, my illustrations were used for Payless PH Flip Flop merchandise, and my illustrations were used as cover art for a podcast, wine ad and EP.

Mokua, producer and multimedia artist

Graphic: Marie Faro

Mokua (Dominic Chua) is an electronic music producer. He began producing music in 5th grade, honing his skills by recreating music released by his favorite artists. He describes his music as having nostalgic elements, as he mostly draws inspiration from his personal experiences. Among many other achievements, he’s most proud of the time he was invited to play at the Malasimbo Music Festival back in 2017. He describes it to be a surreal experience, to be seeing people enjoy and dance to his music for the very first time. You can listen to his music through this link.

  1. Describe your music
    I would say my music always has a touch of nostalgia to it. I like bringing in old ideas/sonics and represent them in a contemporary context.
  2. When did you start producing music?
    Back when I was in grade 5, around 2009.
  3. What is your main inspiration when it comes to creating music?
    Honestly, [it’s when I listen to the music of my favorite artists and musicians]. From the very start, [I learned to make] music by recreating songs that I love, or [if there’s an] element [in this] song [that] catches my attention, I always try to recreate it [so I would know the process by which my favorite artists achieved that sound]. Reverse engineering, [somewhat].
  4. What do you think is your defining moment as a producer? What are you most proud of? Probably when I got invited to play at Malasimbo Music Festival back in 2017. [I never imagined] someone in that level listens to my songs, then proceeds to book me for their event. It was also very cool to see people dancing to my songs [which I only created from my very slow laptop then. It’s too surreal].

Luchi, painter

Art: Lucille Garibay

Lucille began her journey with art at the age of 6 years old. She went on to pursue Fine Arts at the Technological University of the Philippines, ultimately gravitating towards watercolor. These days, she paints with watercolor and gouache, and sometimes sculpts with air dry clay. Her art is heavily influenced by manga and movies that she grew up with, such as “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spirited Away” from Studio Ghibli.

  1. When did you start creating art?
    It all started as a hobby when I was 6, my school notes will always be full of doodles and anime characters. Then I kept joining in poster-making competitions and involving myself in art clubs in school. It became my pride to be the class representative and also gave me the confidence I need to further train myself. I pursued Fine Arts in Technological University of the Philippines. That’s where I formally honed my skills and acquired the knowledge about painting, and there are many mediums to choose from. But the one that took my heart is painting with watercolors.
  2. What are your mediums?
    I usually paint with watercolor and gouache. Sometimes I sculpt with air dry clay.
  3. What is your art style? Who are your inspirations?
    I would say my art is figurative and stylized. It’s heavily influenced by manga and anime and movies that I grew up with, like “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spirited Away” from Studio Ghibli. I remember, back in the day I would only do pencil sketches, and coloring for me is a struggle. So I end up just using monochromatic painting using coffee. You can see this evidently in my early works, which are mostly female portraits in sepia tone. But when I became a member of Ilustrador ng Kabataan for sometime, I got super inspired by how colorful the worlds they are able to build with their art, so I began doing more lively illustrations and producing paintings of local food and natural sceneries. There are a number of inspiring people that I look up to. May Anne Licudine, Claude Monet, Heikala, Mateusz Urbanowicz, James Gurney, to name a few.
  4. What is your most favorite achievement as an artist?
    Being able to provide for the family using the talent that I have and that I’m able to do what I love to do.

Stef Aranas, singer

Graphic: Marie Faro

Stef is an up and coming pop and R&B artist. With her smooth and lush sound, she sings about her unique experiences with romance and intimacy as a trans woman. She started releasing original music in 2015 with the help of her producer friends, and when asked about her inspirations, she mentioned looking up to divas such as Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and Rihanna. In 2019, she released a debut EP called “Palate Cleanser” alongside fellow artist Euge, which they performed at Mow’s in Quezon City. She spoke fondly about this specific performance, stating, “having a full audience singing my lyrics back to me was so extremely beautiful.” You can listen to her music through this link.

  1. Describe your music
    Lyrics-wise, I tend to be very upfront with my emotions. I also write about romance and intimacy a lot. As both a hopeless romantic and a trans woman, dating is a very unique and specific experience for girls like me. This influences how I write my music. Sonically, my style is very bright and sparkly for the most part. Especially in my duo, Stef & Euge, we love to give listeners a refreshing time with our music. More recently, I’ve been exploring a more lush, intimate R&B sound a la SZA or Snoh Aalegra. I definitely plan to bring more R&B vibes when I make my solo comeback this year.
  2. When did you start producing music?
    I started recording and releasing original music in 2015. I have always composed my own lyrics and melodies while my producer friends (usually Eugene Yaptangco) handle the mixing, mastering and arrangement.
  3. What is your main inspiration when it comes to creating music?
    I am largely inspired by pop and R&B music. Since I was a kid, I’ve looked up to divas like Lady Gaga, Ari and Rihanna. More recently, I’ve been loving Chloe x Halle, Rina Sawayama and Doja Cat. Powerful, unapologetic women have always inspired me to keep expanding and evolving with my artistry. They’ve also taught me to be a bad bitch.
  4. What do you think is your defining moment as a producer? What are you most proud of?
    I don’t think I’ve had my defining moment just yet. I’ve had many extremely memorable performances and events but I feel I’m still at the cusp of whatever that defining moment will be. That being said, I am most proud of Stef & Euge’s debut EP, “Palate Cleanser.” Creating those five songs with Euge was an artistic, emotional and technical feat in and of itself. After the music was complete, I spearheaded the launch of the EP: video shoots, promotions, merch, event planning, you name it. So during the EP launch at Mow’s, having a full audience singing my lyrics back to me was so extremely beautiful. At the end of our set, my voice was almost gone but my heart was so full.

Bel Web, multimedia artist

Art: Isabel Weber

Bel has been making art since before she can even remember. She pretty much grew up with a pencil in her hand. Though she creates purely digital art, she’s also looking to explore how her work could be translated on different mediums such as tufting, textile, etc. Regarding her art style, she says hers is constantly changing; that it depends on how she feels and what she wants to communicate. She sees art as an escape and as a way to heal.

  1. When did you start creating art?
    Been drawing since before I could ever remember! My mom was always very supportive of me drawing and being creative. It was what most of my days as a child consisted of, it’s the most constant thing in my life, and I think it’s what I’ll be doing until the end.
  2. What are your mediums?
    As of now, purely digital. But I am also looking into and exploring how to expound on the digital medium and see how my work could be translated on different materials and mediums like tufting, textile, etc.
  3. What is your art style? Who are your inspirations?
    I feel like my art style changes from time to time and really depends on how I feel and what I want to communicate. Especially right now, I just feel like there is so much change happening around and within me, that I really don’t feel like a single style would work or capture what I want to convey. I’ve always used my work as a means to process (and sometimes, heal from, or even serve as temporary escape from) experiences, thoughts, emotions, etc, particularly as a person that embraces the beauty and chaos that comes with girlhood and femininity. It’s something that feels very necessary to me because even though my experiences and stories are personal, there is often still an element or an essence to it that’s shared in one way or another. I like the idea of being able to share in these feelings of joy and pain and contradiction and find comfort in the void, in a way. I also generally like to explore these themes in a somewhat surreal, fantastical way with tinges of nature thrown in here and there, because these feelings are ridiculous, confusing and don’t feel real sometimes ,so it feels like it only makes sense hahaha.
  4. What is your most favorite achievement as an artist?
    Being alive [laughs] just happy to be here and still have chances to do what I love. Still have chances to be a be a good, honest person that can accept themselves, acknowledge their capability to grow and to love.

Jammar, producer and singer

Graphic: Marie Faro

Jammar is a singer-songwriter and producer from Muntinlupa. He learned how to play guitar from a classmate in high school, and eventually began to write his own songs. Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, he often writes about his experiences with love, infatuation, heartbreak and loss. He takes great inspiration from a lot of great artists and producers such as Taylor Swift, Lorde, Carly Rae Jepsen, Jack Antonoff and Lana Del Rey. In 2020, amidst the pandemic, he released his debut album titled “Serotonin Levels” which now has almost 20,000 streams. You can listen to his music through this link.

  1. Describe your music
    While my style is pretty diverse, most of the stuff I have already put out I would describe as “synth pop” at the very core. I take inspiration from a lot of great artists and producers such as Taylor Swift, Lorde, Carly Rae Jepsen, Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey, and many others. But apart from the sound itself, I am also very particular with my lyrics. A lot of my songs start out as one-liner scribbles on my notebook or notes on my phone. I like to think that I am a writer before I am a singer and producer.
  2. When did you start producing music?
    I’ve always been a musical person. As a kid, I would always get excited when I get to learn how to use musical instruments. But I only started making my own music when I was 13. I learned how to play the guitar from a classmate in high school, then a few months later I began writing my own songs. By the time I was 15, I started trying out music production software, and I have never stopped since. I write and produce my songs all by myself, which is my absolute favorite thing to do.
  3. What is your main inspiration when it comes to creating music?
    I mostly write about love. I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, and that has allowed me to really explore a wide range of emotions with my writing: infatuation, heartbreak, loss, euphoria, and so much more. I also write a lot about mental health, politics and equality, the last one being especially important to me since I am a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
  4. What do you think is your defining moment as a producer? What are you most proud of?
    Putting out an album during a pandemic was a surreal experience. I had always put it off for so many reasons, like “I’m not ready yet.” But the pandemic made me realize that there is no other “right” time but now. So I just went and did it. I spent 3 months recording, mixing and polishing everything by myself, then put it out independently. It has now garnered almost 20,000 streams since it came out, which is something that never in my wildest dreams I thought would ever happen. I am so grateful for everyone who has supported and continue to support it.

Ej Uy, illustrator and graphic designer

Art: Ej Uy

Ej belongs to a family of artists. Growing up, he was drawn to cartoons and children’s storybooks, which is why he became determined to pursue a creative career in the future. In 2019, his very first children’s book titled “Ang Maraming Kaarawan Ni Martin” was published. He has illustrated three more titles since, and is set to publish another this year.

  1. When did you start creating art?
    I started creating art as early as I remember, when I was a kid. There was always a ton of drawings at the back of my notebooks, and they took up most of the pages. My mom would then get mad at me because they were filled with drawings, as well as the walls of our house. Basically anything that had a large space is my canvas. I liked to draw random stuff with my color set, doodling what interested me or what I saw on the television. During my high school days, my classmates chose me to be the participant in our poster-making contest every year. I didn’t know that was the beginning of my decision to choose what course I should take in college. I thought I would take up architecture because it was usually what I said whenever someone asked me, but my friend suggested I take up Advertising since it’s more of what I like to do, that is, to design fast forward. I’m now working as full-time graphic designer.
  2. What are your mediums?
    Digital art that focuses on digital paper art. I really like something that has texture. I tried to experiment with different styles before, but this style is something that I’m comfortable working with. I also like working on traditional art such as watercolor, or sometimes I mix both of these mediums to experiment.
  3. What is your art style? Who are your inspirations?
    My art style is a mixture of the things that I see in everyday life, and the people that I follow. I’m a huge fan of the works of James Jean and Tokwa Peñaflorida. To me, their works are dream-like; with these pigmented colors that are clashing with each other. They build this surreal fantasy world in technicolor, which I am inspired by. From that, I take inspiration and make it my own version through my works. I found Paper Tole really beautiful. I was so amazed seeing this three dimensional kind of style on storybooks. It’s an intricate style to make by cutting these shapes and layering them into an image. It inspired me to do that on my thesis report. I created a storybook that is made out of Paper Tole and it was very tedious to make; it’s good but it’s not what I’m expecting in my mind. So I said to myself if will re-create that storybook, I’ll make it to a digital paper art so it will be much easier, I can erase the mistakes and saves me some more time.
  4. What is your most favorite achievement as an artist?
    Well… this question made me look back on things I did before. I was caught up in everything and I feel like I still have more to do, but looking back, I was able to do some of the dreams that I dreamed of back when I’m still in college that I never thought I would achieve. I never thought that I would publish my first book back in 2019. I thought that the last storybook I would ever make was for my thesis, and fast forward, I published four titles, and this year I’ll be launching my fifth book. Last year, I was able to create a poster for a short film. It is something I wanted to do even before. It’s a check on my bucket list but still I want to do some more in the future, as well as collaboration with different brands if there is an opportunity. You know when you keep on doing what you love and you think of these big and small achievements of yours, it makes me want to work harder and push myself to my limits to be able to achieve those dreams. We just have to be patient. It will come in the right time.

Prod. Radicxl, music producer

Graphic: Marie Faro

Brylle is an up and coming Hiligaynon electronic music producer. Born into a musically-inclined family, he was exposed to music throughout his childhood. With self-taught skills, he began to record his own music in 2016, and in 2021 dropped a single with former “Tawag ng Tanghalan” contestant Eian Bryle titled “Langga.” The release has amassed around 30,000 streams on Spotify.

  1. Describe your music
    Most of my releases are alternative R&B and trapsoul. They are usually characterized by lush pads, simplistic bass lines and textured keys that follow a soulful chord progression. On top of that are drums reminiscent of the classic Roland TR-808.
  2. When did you start producing music?

    I got into music at an early age [because] I got musician relatives, specifically my uncle who had become my biggest influence in music. I got into high school garage bands, and eventually I had the urge to record the music that we were making at that time, this was around 2016 to 2018, so I downloaded a copy of Fruity Loops Studio. [Then I was hit by the reality that it was not that easy. Like recording a song requires expensive gear and equipment, on top of technical skills]. So [there, I told myself that since I already have an FL studio], I’ll just make music with whatever stuff that I have, that being a laptop and a pair of apple earphones. Before I knew it, I was making beats every day. Then come 2020, [there was a lockdown so I had nothing to do. I was also so bored with online class. That was when I started reaching out to people], if they can rap/sing on my beats.
  3. What do you think is your defining moment as a producer? What are you most proud of?
    The first person I contacted to create a track was Eian Bryle. We had been making a lot of music [but] for our own enjoyment [only]. Usually R&B, pop and hiphop. Then he joined “Tawag Ng Tanghalan.” He gathered a small fanbase [yet it’s already big for us] so we decided to drop a single. That’s my biggest release by far, about 30,000 streams on Spotify. The song is called “Langga.” It’s a Hiligaynon [alternative] R&B track.

  4. Do you plan on releasing your own music one day?

    Yes, when I finally find my sound. [Because] right now, the type of music I am doing is all over the place. Given [that] I work for a lot of people with different musical styles and abilities [too].

Mich, illustrator

Art: Mich Cervantes

Mich is a non-binary (they/she) digital illustrator and art teacher. On top of teaching and illustrating, they also D, and make music on the side with their roommate, BEDSPACER. One look at their art page and your eyes are instantly satisfied; their art style can be described as being all over the place, albeit in the best way possible.

  1. When did you start creating art?
    Like most of my peers I’ve been drawing since I was little. I only really began to take it seriously as a career during college. I also started producing music on the side at the time.
  2. What are your mediums?
    I draw digitally exclusively these days. I use Procreate on the iPad Pro and Clip Studio Paint on PC.
  3. What is your art style? Who are your inspirations?
    I have an animation background and have mostly specialized in drawing stylized characters for most of my career. Right now, I’m really interested in creating composition-heavy character art with lots of fun shapes and bright colors, but it’s hard to pinpoint a description really because my style is always changing. Some of my favorite artists are Masaaki Yuasa, Lisa Hanawalt, Rodney Greenblat, Keiichi Arawi, Wisut Ponnimit and Freddy Carrasco.
  4. What is your most favorite achievement as an artist?
    Hard to say. I’m not sure if I really have a specific answer yet. I treasure every chance I get to make a meaningful connection with another person through the work that I do, be it through teaching or just chatting. JB

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