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7 visual artists win 2023 Metrobank Art & Design Excellence Competition

The exhibit, now open to the public, caps the Foundation's 40th year of discovering artists—'to champion not only excellence, but also the nation's artistic tapestry'

Emerging artists chosen for exceptional works were selected winners of the 2023 Metrobank Art & Design Excellence.

Seven visual artists were chosen over 400 others in the 2023 Metrobank Art & Design Excellence (MADE) Competition, organized by the Metrobank Foundation Inc. (MBFI)—definitely a jumpstart to their careers in the arts.

With the theme “Connect: Stronger Ties, Bolder Strides,” this year’s competition drew young artists nationwide to take a leap of faith and seize opportunities to unlock their full potential. The theme speaks of the transformative power of creative collaborations, and how art can create linkages and transcend boundaries.

“In our 39 years of sustained service to the art community, it is our privilege to care for artworks that reflect the soul of our nation. As we approach our 40th year, we look back at tradition while braving the times. In the journey ahead, we will continue to champion not only excellence, but also the sustainable development of our artists and the nation’s artistic tapestry,” said MBFI president Aniceto M. Sobrepeña.

Of the 402 entries this year, seven up-and-coming Filipino painters and sculptors were named as 2023 awardees by an esteemed board of judges.

Two were adjudged as Grand Awardees for the Painting Recognition Program and will receive P350,000 cash incentive. On top of this is P150,000 worth of scholarship at the Linangan Art Residency, as part of the Foundation’s support for their artistic development. Another three artists for the Painting Recognition Program bagged the Special Citation with P100,000 cash prize each.

One Grand Awardee for the Sculpture Recognition Program will be awarded P500,000 cash incentive. Another artist will also be awarded a Special Citation, with a P100,000 cash incentive.

All seven awardees will receive the “More” Trophy designed and created by Juan Sajid, recipient of the 2007 Metrobank Foundation Prize for Achievement in Sculpture. Called More, the design signifies the growth of hundreds of homegrown talents recognized and presented to the larger art community.

MADE awardees will receive the ‘More’ trophy designed and created by 2007 Metrobank Foundation Prize for Achievement in Sculpture Juan Sajid.

The awardees are now part of the MADE-Network of Winners, the alumni organization of past winners that implements pay-it-forward projects for the marginalized sectors.

This year’s Final Board of Judges was chaired by artist, educator, and consultant Sandra Palomar and co-chaired by Qube Gallery founder Maris Holopainen. Members include visual artist and sculptor Kublai Millan, painter Golda King, visual artist Raffy Napay, sculptor Richard Buxani, and curator and educator Laya Boquiren-Gonzales.

“On behalf of my fellow panelists, I congratulate this year’s MADE awardees for their artistic rigor and ingenious allegories. Not only do their artworks reflect truthful conditions and enduring values of Filipinos—they urge careful consideration of the persistence of figuration in Philippine contemporary art,” said Palomar.

The awardees were feted during the Awarding Ceremony and Exhibit Opening last September 21 as part of Metrobank’s 61st anniversary celebration at The Metropolitan Museum of Manila, BGC, Taguig. Co-presented with Samsung Philippines, the exhibit is open to the public until October 6, Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Through Samsung’s cutting-edge technology, this year’s exhibition has been transformed into a space where audiences can innovatively experience art and immerse themselves in the world of artists.

In the same venue, a public exhibit tour and forum called Art MADE Public will also be held September 30, on the topic “Fostering Thriving Art Communities,” to provide artists with a platform for storytelling to highlight the ways art serves as a force for good. The forum will feature Emerging Islands, a coastal-based organization and art residency based in La Union, focusing on art, community, and ecology. Visual artist and core community member Jao San Pedro will present her journey through and within the practice of collaborative artmaking and caregiving through Emerging Islands and her own art practice.

Founded in 1976, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila aims to amplify the Filipinos’ sense of cultural and artistic heritage from the past, present, and beyond, becoming the leading hub for contemporary art by Filipino and international artists engaging in the ever-renewing contemporary discourses and experiences that shape our understanding of society. Today, with a refreshed dynamism for the 21st century, the museum re-introduces itself as The M as it reopens its new art spaces in the emerging vibrant cultural hub that is BGC. It renews its commitment to its core mission of Art for All, with a bold curatorial direction that takes an interdisciplinary and multicultural approach to art exhibition programming in a location with greater accessibility to a wider and more inclusive audience.

The events are also made possible together with advocacy partner Project PEARLS. More than a non-profit organization, Project PEARLS is a powerful movement driven by a heartfelt promise: to offer underserved Filipino children education, literacy, empowerment, nutrition, and healthcare, aiming to break the chains of poverty and help them achieve their highest potential. Their vision stretches beyond traditional outreach, molding brighter futures from Tondo, Manila to Zamboanga Sibugay.

Established in 1984 by the late Metrobank Group founder and chairman Dr. George S.K. Ty, MADE has served as a platform for discovery for the most passionate and persistent creative visionaries in the country. To date, more than 500 visual artists and design professionals have been recognized. A majority of them are now carving significant names in the local and even international art and design scenes. Past awardees include Elmer Borlongan, Mark Justiniani, Jan Leeroy New, Alfredo Esquillo, Andres Barrioquinto, Yeo Kaa, and Cedrick dela Paz. – Janine Bernardo

Oil/Acrylic on Canvas Category
Jowee Anne M. Aguinaldo
Puro Kahig, Walang Matuka
(All Scratch, No Peck)
Oil on canvas
91.44 x 121.92 cm

Jowee Anne Aguinaldo’s Puro Kahig, Walang Matuka, the Grand Awardee in the Oil/Acrylic on Canvas category, suggests a timely expression to the Filipino idiom “isang kahig, isang tuka.” It is related to the plight of farmers and their families across the country whose livelihood rarely receives support.  In the painting, the farmers are bent downwards, perpendicular to each other, sowing over barren land. Their intertwined bodies form the image of a dinner table, a symbol of togetherness and connection for the family. Yet, the artist instills the composition with irony—the irony of working tirelessly to put food on everybody’s table except their own.

The farmers’ clothes allude to the colors of the Philippine flag, echoing the central message of the work. Burdened not only by their own hunger, the living conditions of Filipino farmers continue to worsen. Aguinaldo highlights these painful truths to raise awareness to the situation of the farmers whose harvest we enjoy.

Oil/Acrylic on Canvas Category
Dexter B. Cinco
Prima Custos (First Guardian)
Oil on canvas
121.92 x 91.44 cm

Bagging the Special Citation in the Oil/Acrylic on Canvas category, Dexter Cinco’s Prima Custos is a “homage to elderly members of society” who have imparted their wisdom and care towards the youth. The Latin title translates to “first guardian,” which aptly describes the roles they’ve played in the lives of the youth.

The image is cut in two parts, with each half conveying a story of its own. Cinco maps out personal history like lines and impressions pressed on skin in her portrait of her grandmother. Displayed in her careful attention to detail is the longing of wanting to understand the lives of the older generation. The closeness of the artist to her subject imbues the work with the values of care and love that can only be found in the bond between parents and their children. Prima Custos is deeply personal, yet cuts through the warmhearted message of loyalty and honor to the people who have raised us.

Oil/Acrylic on Canvas Category
Jonas Miguel S. Arlegui
Pagitan (In Between)
Acrylic on canvas
91.44 x 121.92 cm

In Jonas Miguel Arlegui’s Pagitan, the recipient of Special Citation in the Oil/Acrylic on Canvas category, the artist opens up a rift between earthly objects and beings in his landscape of monotony and incongruous shapes. A landfill and a mass of people cover opposite ends of the landscape, defying the laws of gravity while tilted vertically. The individuals stand close together but they seem alienated by each other’s existence. The only light that passes through in this painting comes from the backdrop of the cloudy sky, but communication lines hovering in different directions obstruct the view.

Regardless, Arlegui inserts religious allegory in his work with the telephone pole that bears the image of the cross. Lines meet and intersect as they journey to their destinations, similar to the lives on Earth. Arlegui reminds us that the connections we make during our time spent on Earth saves us from isolation and despair.

Watermedia on Paper Category
Jerome G. Santos
Ha(Pagpag)kaing Pinagkainan
(“Pagpag” Recycled Leftover Food)
Watercolor on paper
66 x 48.2 cm

Pagpag, meaning to shake off dirt, also refers to the practice of scavenging for scrap food from restaurants and fast-food chains to be cooked and served again as a fresh meal. In Jerome Santos’ ha(PAG PAG)kaing pinagkainan, the Grand Awardee in the Watermedia on Paper category, a table for three with refried bones and chewed-up leftovers overflowing in buckets is set. Piles of rubbish are stacked behind and small critters move around, asking to share portions. The group of unbothered men dining together turn their attention outside of the frame.

The use of watermedia amplifies the unique perspective of the work. It repurposes the juxtaposition between humor and wit to the weight and seriousness of this issue. This depiction of pagpag sets off a deeper discussion on the series of interconnected issues that question and give awareness to the lived experiences of Filipinos in poverty-stricken communities.

Watermedia on Paper Category
Zarlien M. Delgado
Some Threads are Made of Flesh and Blood
Watercolor on paper
51 x 71 cm

Some threads are made of flesh and blood, conferred with the Special Citation in the Watermedia on Paper category, is a multi-generational family portrait that treads the line between craft and fine art to portray an enduring story of honor and love that is nurtured at the home. Zarlien Delgado immortalizes her family’s history of dressmaking that started from her grandmother and was passed on to her by her mother.

In the painting, the artist palpably visualizes a passion so deep that it takes root in one’s heart and soul, visualizing a tangible thread that connects generations together. The deep color red evokes fervent emotions of love and devotion but also calls to the rigorous work and effort given to reach this far.

The painting interlaces narratives on domesticity, femininity, and maternity that create a feeling of warmth and a virtual embrace. It questions the fundamental roles that mothers play in the lives of their daughters, shaping the women that they eventually become.


Abril Dominic A. Valdemoro
Last Trip
Marine epoxy resin, metal, wood, acrylic paint, sticker
61 x 23 x 23 x 2.5 cm

The Grand Awardee for the Sculpture Recognition Program, Abril Dominic Valdemoro, upholds the significant roles of jeepney drivers as public workers and cultural icons in his marine epoxy resin sculpture titled Last Trip. The artist displays ingenuity and skill by melding together local materials with classical visual elements. The relaxed, life-like stature of the man follows the concept of contrapposto. The artist incorporates jeepney placards redesigned as armor and winged headpiece—pieces that allude to Hermes, the Greek god of speed and travel. Inscriptions “God Bless Our Trip” and “In God We Trust” corroborate religious motifs that are often seen on public transport vehicles and display our vibrant culture and identity.

The sculpture embodies the qualities of the Filipino spirit that remains strong and unrelenting in the face of struggle. Jeepney drivers represent thousands of Filipinos who embark on their own journeys.  Last Trip honors the enduring dedication and commitment of jeepney drivers on the road.

Michael Art M. de Leon
Mundong Pinag-isa ng Tubig
(World United by Water)
40.64 x 39.37 x 54.61 x 5 cm

Awarded with the Special Citation in the Sculpture Recognition Program, Michael Art de Leon’s resin sculpture titled Mundong Pinag-isa ng Tubig explores the interconnectedness between water and people—a liquid symbolism that flows into social and cultural systems, affecting the way we interact and exchange with one another.

A figure of a man is depicted partially submerged in a pool of clear blue liquid. The artist’s use of resin to materialize water suffuses the work with dimension and dynamic movement, achieving the look of still water. The scene feels tranquil, almost primal, capturing an intimate moment between two bodies, of man and water coalescing.

The ivory-like wash of the figure and the glass-like finish of the water display the fragile and tense conditions that surround the forces they represent. In search of peace, the sculpture invites us to reexamine how our primordial connection with water could potentially transform the way we perceive the world and act upon our environment.

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