Arts and Culture

Walong Filipina gives back ‘For Love of Norma’

Earl Rommel Digo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The decade of the Eighties continuing to the Nineties has witnessed the flourishing of a significant number of women and women artists in particular, who have dealt with social themes. Some, such as artist Imelda Cajipe-Endaya, have taken up the theme of protest against woman’s traditional and prevailing oppression, and as such, have been closely linked with social realists. There are others, such as sculptress Julie Lluch, an artist noted for being uncompromising with her art; many of her sculptures in the round depict human aspirations and emotions. Still others, such as historian and National Historical Commission of the Philippines commissioner Fe Mangahas, a prolific writer, have situated woman in historical narrative and her contemporary participation in the revolutionary process.

 They typify women who have broken through some of the man-forged shackles, pushing advocacies and causes, eventually achieving prominence in the eyes of posterity. Part of the reason lies in the nature of the causes that many of them push.  

Add to these names Jenny Juan Simunek, Alma Miclat, and Magel Cadapan-Vitug, in all, six artist-friends and members of Church Café, a Bible study group based at Liongoren Gallery. And they have come together to help Norma Liongoren in her fight against cancer. They felt that now is the time to return her generosity and kindness.   

Last year, 2015, Norma Liongoren, in cooperation with the Habi Philippine Textile Council, presented “Walong Filipina: Alay sa Manghahabi (Tribute to the Weaver)” a collaborative art project of four noted female visual artists and four indigenous weavers. The exhibit traveled from her eponymous Cubao gallery all the way to the Romulo Hall of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC.

Since 1986, Norma Liongoren, through her annual “Walong Filipina” exhibition has collectively shown the works of close to a hundred women artists from the Philippines.   Her well-known eponymously named gallery has birthed female artists as much as it has been the starting point for the careers of artists Manny Garibay and Dansoy Coquilla.

Suddenly it happened: The long journey and the attendant stress and pressure in mounting the Liongoren family exhibit in New York City “Walong Filipina: Alay sa Manghahabi (Tribute to the Weaver)” in America took its toll on Norma. She found herself battling what has been a protracted case of stomach cancer on her return to the Philippines.

As a gallerist, an artist, and an organizer, she has achieved so much, but nobody can put the legacy of Norma in a box and shift it to another location outside of her gallery, but her friends did the next best thing: a raffle and auction-exhibit of artworks.

The Walong Filipina Spirit Gives Back To Norma

Fe Mangahas, Jenny Juan Simunek, Imelda Cajipe Endaya, Julie Lluch, Alma Miclat, Magel Cadapan-Vitug, Fe Stephens and Barbara Mae Dacanay and honorary women Sonny Go, Simoun Balboa, Pablo Baens Santos may have had no experience in auctions but it didn’t matter.

Thus, it was time for the Walong Filipina spirit to give back to Norma.  And far from being immobilized by lack of time and experience in the task at hand, they transcended it, what with the events to follow that to everybody’s surprise even stretched beyond two weeks. Also with the group was Roger Mangahas, Mario Miclat and Johnny Endaya — the husbands of Fe, Alma and Meps respectively.

The raffle and auction proper was held last Feb. 27. A cultural program preceded the auction.  

The show was a dignified call for help as well as an assertion of Norma Liongoren’s cultural achievement, what with artists and the public at large rallying behind the siren call.

Norma lives and breathes her many advocacies, and the show “For the Love of Norma” reaffirmed the enduring legacy of artistic vitality personified by Norma Liongoren, even in this era when the action has moved to auction houses and warehouse galleries. 

The artists whose artworks were in the show were very close to Norma through the decades: Julie Lluch, Imelda Cajipe-Endaya, Yasmin Almonte, Renato Habulan, Antipas Delotavo, Pablo Baen Santos, Brenda Fajardo, Lito Carating, Gus Albor, Nestor Vinluan and Danny Dalena.  The other artists who were in the first 40 artworks included Gilda Cordero Fernando, Elmer Borlongan, Egai Talusan Fernandez, Raul Isidro, Fil de la Cruz, Lenore R.S. Lim (who also donated paintings by Manuel Rodriguez Sr. and Nik Ricio), Dayong Mendoza, Dansoy Coquilla, Clairelynn Uy, Jeho Bitancor, Jojo Lofranco, Roberto Acosta, Katti Santa Ana, Elizabeth Lolarga, Yasmine Almonte, Ambie Abaño, Noel El Farrol, Benjie Torrado Cabrera, June Dalisay, Lanelle Abueva, Virgilio Aviado, Arlene Villaver, Lia Torralba, and painter-gallery owner Addie Cukingnan, gift from the family of the legendary cartoonist Larry Alcala and National Artist Napoleon Abueva and the Petty Johns. 

Julie Lluch describes Norma: “Her vision is all-embracing: from art to politics, from environment, cultural conservation and dissemination, to health care, feminism and spirituality. She is an initiator, instigator, organizer, social activist, community worker, soul winner and culture-heroine.”

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