Arts and Culture

Sketching the city

SUBLIMINAL - Carlomar Arcangel Daoana - The Philippine Star

Taking a picture may be the most convenient way of capturing a city — its characters and contours — but nothing comes close to the romance of drawing it in situ, of paying close attention, of inflecting the representation with the subjectivity of the hand. Details big and small come alive on paper, allowing the illustrator (and the eventual viewer) to see the city with fresh eyes and, hopefully, gain a renewed appreciation to what it has to offer.

In the case of Manila, what it offers is, in the words of Isabel Pérez Galvéz, “a lot of hidden jewels.” The managing consultant for Special Projects of Escuella Taller de Filipinas Foundation, she helped organize the routes of “Drawing Manila,” a project that brought illustrators and sketchers to these cultural gems scattered throughout the capital. It is part of the larger initiative called “Drawing the World” which began in Madrid, Spain, promptly moving to Guatemala, Morocco and Mexico; the Philippines is its last stop.

Organized by Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID), Museo ABC de Ilustración and Embassy of Spain in the Philippines, “Drawing Manila” saw the participants, mostly students from DLSU-College of St. Benilde and members of Urban Sketchers Philippines, jaunting from one heritage site to another for two consecutive Saturdays of November.





Master illustrators Luis Perez Ortiz from Spain and Mark Lawrence Andres from the Philippines led the group in their in-plain-air sketches, which drew the attention of passersby and residents who probably saw them as instant homage to structures and edifices that have long been part of their lives. “Through sketching,” said Iñigo Cerdán, cultural officer of the Embassy of Spain, “we have another look at the city.”

In the first day, the group went to Intramuros, visiting Baluarte de San Andres, one of the remaining original sections of the fortifications of the Walled City; San Agustin Church, a designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO; and Fort Santiago, the citadel first built by the Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi. By foot, the group proceeded to explore the bounties of Binondo, particularly El Hogar, a beautiful building in the tradition of Beaux-Art and Neo-Classical architecture that is in danger of demolition, and Escolta St., the once most fashionable business district with its selection of shops, emporia and trading centers.

The following week, the participants had their drawing instruments and sketch pads ready to render Bahay Nakpil-Bautista and Boix House in Quiapo, Paco Park, Bellevue Theater, Philam Life Building and Malate Church, whose façade, by the way, was recently revealed after five-year restoration process conducted by Escuela Taller. The Bahay Nakpil-Bautista was particularly memorable to Galvéz who, upon first visiting it, felt “really impressed. When I went there, someone was playing a composition by Julio Nakpil. I was listening to the music by one of the owners the house. I was in the house where the Katipunan had their meetings. I could see the mix of Filipino traditional architecture but with the influence from Austria (from the Secessionist Movement of Vienna). I was overwhelmed.”

Billy Malacura of Escuella Taller provided a brief historical background on each site, providing valuable context as to its significance. Prior to the tour and sketching sessions, a conference and a round-table discussion were held at College of St. Benilde, featuring Ortiz and Andres who shared their expertise and experience on the art of illustration. Cerdán remarked that “Drawing Manila,” aside from letting the participants showcase their skill, proved that “through culture, you can also have cooperation and development. This is a very good example of (raising) awareness, of how people can be empowered in their own city.”












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