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GSIS giving artist a bad deal?

Tomorrow will be the saddest day in the life of an artist of Antipolo. A monument that has been standing in front of the GSIS building on Roxas Blvd., Pasay City, will be dismantled, with piece upon piece of it delivered to the home of Elsie "Inday" Cadapan, who had made the gigantic sculpture in 1997. Why GSIS is returning the sculpture is beyond Elsie.


Let’s start from the beginning.


In 1997, Inday held a one-person sculpture show at the GSIS in which the aforementioned sculpture was a marquette. The curator at the time, Dr. David Baradas, as well as other viewers, encouraged her to execute the sculpture in large scale and priced it at P1,500,000. Inday did as requested, gathered materials at her own expense, and investing it "with all the artistry I could muster, moved as I was by the work’s theme of unity and nationalism."

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Upon its execution Inday was told by the former president of GSIS, Cesar Sarino, that she could install the sculpture at the front lobby, with the understanding that "if the response of the viewing public was positive, he would acquire the work for the GSIS". At the unveiling ceremony Oct. 30, 1997, in which former President Corazon Aquino unveiled the piece, Inday’s name was not even mentioned in the program. Strange, isn’t it? She was the sculptor, but her name was not mentioned at all.


When Inday went to the GSIS to collect her fee, she was dismayed to learn that the GSIS Art Acquisition Committee had "unilaterally" set the fee for the piece at P500,000. The fee, Inday wrote Mr. Winston Garcia, the current president and general manager, in a letter dated Feb. 20, 2002, "caused me untold pain as an artist whose good faith and, perhaps, naivety (sic), has been taken advantage of. It also disturbs me as a citizen who feels very deeply about the principles which the sculpture represents: unity in love and cooperation for social, political, economic and ecological stability. To add to my discomfort, I was subsequently informed that the sculpture was on loan only, a decision which was arrived at without any consultation with me. At the time, I failed to foresee the consequences of this decision and was prevailed upon to sign a loan agreement which I immediately withdrew."

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In 1998, Inday was told that she could remove the sculpture from its present location — "something that I understandably could not do while the matter remained unsettled."


In an earlier letter to former President Aquino (Jan. 2, 1998), Inday said that Mr. Sarino had not responded to her letter of May 1997 requesting payment of P1,500,000. But since there was no response to her letter, she "presumed that it was acceptable to the officials there." She said she had arrived at the price "because of the high cost of the 54 pieces of antique wood used for the sculpture as chosen from truckloads of hardwood transported from the Ilocos to my studio in Antipolo, and the cost of labor of my assistants who helped in carrying and preparing the heavy wood for my sculpturing and designing with metal embellishments and symbols." In her desire to resolve the disagreement in price, Inday lowered it to P1,200,000 hoping that the amount would be acceptable to Mr. Sarino.

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In her letter to Mrs. Aquino, Inday said: "I have always entertained the hope that the GSIS would purchase (the sculpture) with the front lobby as its permanent site since Mr. Sarino said that his decision would be based on the appreciation of the public. I think that this has not been wanting because of the favorable response of the many visitors to the museum who liked being photographed in its site." Removing the piece, said Inday, would constitute a move "that would greatly bewilder those who by now have found it a familiar and inspiring sight."


Inday wrote Social Welfare Secretary Corazon J. Soliman for help, Ms. Soliman in turn wrote Atty. Winston Garcia to do something about Inday’s case.

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On Sept. 27, 2002, Inday received a letter from Eric Babar Zerrudo, director of GSIS Cultural Facilities Office, the following letter:


"Dear Ms. Cadapan:


"After a thorough deliberation by the GSIS Administration Group of Legal Services, we regret to inform you that we have to forward this final notice for you to dismantle your ‘People Power’ sculptural work in front of the GSIS Building on or before Friday, October 11, 2002. We have served similar notices on December 10, 1997, February 2, 1998, and February 19, 1999. Should you fail to heed this notice within the specified period, GSIS will cause to dismantle the sculpture and deliver the same to you, without liability on its part." (Signed) Eric Babar Zerrudo.

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You must feel the way I do — feel sorry for Inday. She has been waiting for her fee for five years, and has received nothing. She spent a great amount of money on the work, which now, she says, has been partially eaten up by termites. But our question is, why did she not respond to the letters sent her by GSIS? Or, did she withhold the letters from us?


Another question that perplexes us is, why did she not ask for a written contract from Mr. Sarino regarding the price of the sculpture, and still another, whether he really meant it when he said that acceptance of the pieces would depend on the reaction of the viewing public. As we know, contracts involving a sizeable amount of money should be in writing.

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It’s unfortunate that one of our good artists – Inday is really more known for her paintings than sculpted pieces – would go through so much pain and anxiety over the lack of appreciation of her dignity as an artist.

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My e-mail address: dominimt2000@hotmail.com.

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