There was a time folks from other parts of Panay Island perceived Antique as quaint and not necessarily a center for the arts and culture. But the province has the distinction of being the birthplace of J. Elizalde Navarro, who, by far, is the only one from Panay Island conferred with the title of National Artist for Visual Arts.

Antique may be a quaint province, but the arts and culture are very much alive and that is evident in a group exhibition at the gallery of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in Intramuros, Manila.

Rahmag artist wall

In “Iraya: Beyond Limits,” 11 Antiqueño artists collectively known as Rahmag explore the old and new Antique.

“The exhibition is the group’s attempt to present what the province has been and what it is now—the union of the traditional and contemporary Antique, and finding its cultural relevance amid the province’s urbanization and modernization programs,” explains curator Delan Lopez Robillos.

The works of Rey Aurelio, Ramon “Monet” De Los Santos Jr., Christine Marie Delgado, Raz Laude, Morris Alfred Lavega, Bryan Liao, Kwesi Pearl Faith Magdato, Cezar Gregorio “Saru” Ramales Jr., Ramuel Vego, Evan “Tibong” Veñegas, and Marienell Veñegas integrate the art and cultural evolution in the context of the province’s gradual development.

Delan emphasizes that, “it is the hope of the Rahmag artists that Iraya be seen as a statement of resilience through cultural evolution.”

‘Iraya showcases folktales and spiritual healing practices, traditions in pottery and ceramic creations, loom weaving, and woodcraft.’

But more than that, “Iraya” (the word for mountain in the local language Kiniray-a) is a visual documentation and a call on the preservation of Antique’s tangible and intangible heritage.

“Although Rahmag agrees that culture is not static, they also recognize the ability of culture to withstand or adapt to change through the community’s conservation initiatives,” says Delan. “Iraya showcases folktales and spiritual healing practices, traditions in pottery and ceramic creations, loom weaving, and woodcraft.”

Self-portrait, monoprint (kitchen lithography, graphite, watercolor, colored pencils and collage, Zambales, 2021
Self-portrait with Frida Kahlo and the Pundaquit mountains, monoprint (kitchen lithography, graphite, watercolor, colored pencils and collage on Strathmore mixed media paper), Zambales, 2021

As a group, Rahmag (from the word ramag in the local language Kiniray-a, which means light) is multi-disciplinary, dealing with mediums such as painting, sculpture, photography, engraving, and graphics arts.

“This is exactly the inspiration for the group’s vision: to serve as a ‘ray of guiding light’ in the community’s collaborative efforts to preserve their culture through art and artistry in Antique,” notes Delan.

Rosemarie, (walking down 100th Street and Broadway, NYC ), portrait series, 6“diameter, graphite, and watercolor, Zambales, 2021

As part of the 2019 NCCA grants, the Iraya exhibition was supposed to have happened last year. But it had to be rescheduled due to the lockdowns and other restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Iraya, Rahmag is also preparing as Antique will be the next host of the biennale Visayas Island Visual Arts Exhibition and Conference (VIVA ExCoN).

Photos by Jilson Tiu

Source: Manila Bulletin (