Passions and Obsessions

Finally, a ‘visual manifesto’ and a home for artists

The Art Association of the Philippines is building in Tagaytay

The history-rich Art Association of the Philippines is drawing support for the construction of its headquarters in Tagaytay.

A visual manifesto is rising on a 200-sqm lot in Tagaytay, a tiny two-story building with big dreams, a testament by artists for artists who will finally have their forever home, a yearning that has incubated for 74 years, since the inception of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP).

The AAP Kanlungan ng Sining at Rizal Park before AAP lost the venue

Millions of pesos have been raised by several so-called “Kanlungan Boys” who honed their chops through the Kanlungan ng Sining, the art haven at Rizal Park, contracted rent-free with the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) from 2002 to 2014, in exchange for 12 paintings yearly.

Fidel Sarmiento, AAP president from 2002 to 2008, then from 2010 to the present, proudly rattled off names of artists such as the celebrated Randalf Dilla, Robert Fernandez, Mark Louie Gonzales, Emmanuel Balboa, Averil Paras, Joseph Villamar and more whose careers gestated at Kanlungan.

Students listening to a lecture in the former AAP home at Rizal Park

Joseph A. Villamar of the Saturday Group declared: “Ang AAP ang naging daan ko upang makapasok sa mundo ng sining. Malakitang utang na loob ko sa AAP dahil dito ko nakilala ang mga tao na nagbigay sa akin ng lakas ng loob na ipakita ang aking talento sa pagguhit. Kung ano man ang narating ng aking sining, malaking bahagi nito ay mula sa AAP.” (AAP was the path that led me to art. I owe AAP a lot for it gave me the impetus to share my talent. AAP played a big part in how far I’ve gone in art.)

The park house project screeched to a halt in 2014, when the NPDC, under a new chief, refused to renew their contract, on the pretext of office conversion. “And as fate would have it, a few months after their park home was padlocked, a huge tree fell on the roof and blocked its entrance,” said Sarmiento.

Artists’ works donated to Artabang 3

With the padlock etched in his mind, Sarmiento vowed to build a permanent AAP house “to avoid being at the mercy of any government official.” Inspired by the two successful fundraisers garnering some P10 million called Artabang 1 for Ondoy victims and Artabang 2 for Ormoc victims, Sarmiento once again asked his good friend, Michael Dino, Secretary for the Visayas under President Duterte, to host a new Artabang, a third edition, benefiting the AAP Home.

AAP secretary Margaret Lim, a Hall of Fame watercolorist, said, “We asked 80 plus artists to donate their paintings for a one-night auction on Dec. 19, 2019, raising P4.5 million.”

Together with other AAP officers—Roger Santos, Monette Alvarez, Angelito Florendo, and Veronica Olan—Sarmiento and Lim “scoured Metro Manila since COVID 2020, even up to Tanay, where a misstep deeply scarred my right knee. We ended up with this P1.8 million, 200-sqm lot in Barangay Ulat, Silang, Metro Tagaytay,” Lim said. “There are quite a few galleries in Tagaytay, so we decided it was the right location for our small budget.”

‘There are quite a few galleries in Tagaytay, so we decided it was the right location for our small budget,’ says secretary Margaret Lim

She added: “Groundbreaking began March this year. We have already spent P1 million for the steel bars. The weekly payroll and materials are fast draining our budget. We really need more help. An artist committed to donate 10 cement bags, another 20 bags. Still another got a congressman to donate a refrigerator.”

AAP members number 8,000, with 2,000 of them active. The two-story structure with a roof deck is designed by Sarmiento, who took up architecture at Mapua. The contractor/engineer is also working pro bono, being Sarmiento’s high school classmate, John Morales.

“The Kanlungan became a school field trip destination, on-the-job training for nearby schools Feati, St Paul’s, Technological University of the Philippines. We will continue to have painting workshops for artists of all levels,” said Sarmiento, who shares knowledge of various painting techniques. One recipient is Jane Ebarle, Faber Castell Phils. manager. To this day, Ebarle thanks AAP for her success in the art world and the marketing field. In return, she generously supports AAP endeavors, donating materials to Sarmiento’s seminars in prisons, homes for the aged, schools in the provinces, and Metro Manila.

Hyperrealist artist Robert Fernandez, whose works are displayed globally, said: “Nagsimula ako sa AAP na walang ideya sa pag pipinta, sa pagiging volunteer madami ako nakilalang mga batikang artist at sa gabay ng mga opisyales ng AAP, nagsimula ako tahakin ang art scene. Ngayon ang mga natutunan ko ay ibinabahagi ko naman sa mga kabataan at may edad na gusto din matuto na walang inaasahang kapalit.” (When I started with AAP as volunteer, I had no idea about how to paint. I met noted artists, and guided by AAP officials, I ventured into the art scene. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with the young and the adults who want to paint without expecting something in return.)

Founded in 1948 by Purita Kalaw Ledesma, the AAP boasts international luminaries in its roster—National Artists Vicente Manansala, Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, Jerry Elizalde Navarro, Frederico Aguilar Alcuaz, Botong Francisco, and living legend BenCab.

The current members are painstakingly painting stroke by stroke, color by color, their biggest canvas, their legacy, the AAP Home.

For those who want to donate for the AAP home: Art Association of the Philippines Inc., account no.122-124181-2, Chinabank SM Megamall branch

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