Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

Project Hulmahan: Filipino ingenuity—and survival instinct— at its best

Artists from Maguindanao to Manila City Jail mount a first exhibit of its kind that's touring the country

Mobile market (Photo from R.C. Ladrido)

Works by Imelda Cajipe Endaya (Photo from R.C. Ladrido)

Once more, Filipino artists rise to the occasion, creating more than 1500 one-of-a-kind artworks, by reusing wooden shoe moulds or lasts in an exhibit, Hope Lasts until April 15 at the Estancia at Capitol Commons, Pasig. Intentionally, the exhibit opened on March 15, the third anniversary of the Covid-19 lockdown in the country.

Some 700 artists are participating in the exhibit, including 150 art groups, artists from Maguindanao, 20 Manila City jail inmates from Oplan Tokhang, and survivor groups from typhoons Sendong, Paeng, and Odette.

The First Step of Unlimited Journey by Darwin Guevarra (Photo from R.C. Ladrido)

Esoteric fancy

Vibrant, colorful, and whimsical, the shoe moulds turned artwork reflect a kaleidoscope of subjects and themes—protest (Kaliwa Dam and tokhang victims), fantasy (monsters and beasts), street life, love and romance, seascape, sharks and whales, insects, boats and bancas, armored tanks and vessels, gardens and terrariums, religious icons, crucifixion and suffering, bejewelled cars and motorcycles, and many more. Mostly decorative items, there are also functional pieces, such as table lamps and book cases.

Participants were free to paint, modify, add, carve, embellish, and decorate the wooden shoe moulds, according to their fancy. All sorts of materials, natural and synthetic, have been added to the moulds, from buttons, plastic and cloth flowers, crystals, coins, buttons, sequins, beads, found objects, and what nots. Mostly painted with primary colors, many have also been turned into installation art.

Lacquered Nature (Photo from R.C. Ladrido)

Community bayanihan

The impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic is still being felt three years on, in the closures of small businesses and the loss of jobs around the country.

Long before the pandemic, the Marikina shoe industry has already been struggling and the Covid-19 pandemic dealt an almost fatal blow, leading to more closures of shoe workshops that have been handed down from generations.

The sight of piles of discarded wooden shoes in sacks gathering dust and dirt, and shoe moulds being used as firewood in one community kitchen in Isla de Lata, a small community of junk pickers in Concepcion Uno, led to the birth of Project Hulmahan.

The idea was to reuse and repurpose the discarded shoe moulds into truly unique artworks. Initially, some 500 shoe moulds were bought by the project.

A call went nationwide to join the project, open to artists, aspiring ones, art students, and even to proud parents with a talented child who paints. Participants received the wooden moulds and given a month to submit their finished work.

Glitter and Glamour (Photo from R.C. Ladrido)

All Glammed Up (Photo from R.C. Ladrido)

A joint project of Bayanihan Marikenyo at Marikenya, UP Artists’ Circle Fraternity, and Ladies Who Launch, the price of an arty shoe mould starts at 8,000 pesos. Some selected pieces will be auctioned in late April.

Three organizations will be the recipients of this fundraising project: Bayanihan Marikenyo at Marikenya for its community kitchen, community garden, and community livelihood programs; The Community Kitchen Project for nationwide disaster response through Community Pantry and Bayanihan Marikenyo at Marikenya; and the UP Artists’ Circle for its community art school for children that is aligned with the Basic Human Rights Literacy Program.

A School of Big Fish (Photo from R.C. Ladrido)

Coral Life (Photo from R.C. Ladrido)

In addition, Hope Lasts will also be exhibited in Newport Mall (March 25-April 3), Lucky Chinatown (April 10-16), Eastwood City and Venice Grand Canal Mall (April 17-23), and Alabang West Parade (April 24-30).

Project Hulmahan plans to exhibit the artworks in key cities of the country from May through August 2023, and abroad, with the help of Filipino overseas communities.

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