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Dolly de Leon, colleagues to stage 'Hulmahan' exhibit of Marikina shoe molds |

Arts and Culture

Dolly de Leon, colleagues to stage 'Hulmahan' exhibit of Marikina shoe molds

Kristofer Purnell -
Dolly de Leon, colleagues to stage 'Hulmahan' exhibit of Marikina shoe molds
The Ladies Who Launch — Zena Bernardo, Dolly de Leon, Judith Albano and Jasmine Ong — holding up several shoe molds of "Hulmahan." / Kristofer Purnell

MANILA, Philippines — Award-winning actress Dolly de Leon and her companions in Ladies Who Launch are gearing up for a roaming art exhibit featuring painted and designed shoe molds collected from closed-down factories in Marikina City.

Ladies Who Launch consists of De Leon, Zena Bernardo, Judith Albano and Jasmine Ong who often participate in benefit projects.

"We always think of things to do kahit wala kaming pera — ganda and tapang lang ang puhunan," joked Bernardo at a media event announcing the exhibit aptly named "Hulmahan."

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ladies Who Launch started the Bayanihan Marikenyo Marikenya, which focused on community kitchens. Bernardo is the mother of Patreng Non, known for initiating the Maginhawa Community Kitchen in April 2021.

Bernardo shared that putting up community kitchens would be more cost-efficient, and soon enough, eight kitchens grew to 35 and were able to start community kitchen networks in other areas like Cebu, Bohol and Pangasinan.

She recounted the origins of "Hulmahan" called Isla de Lata, which used shoe molds as firewood.

Related: 'Triangle of Sadness' nominated for Oscars Best Picture; Dolly de Leon not nominated

"I took a photo of that and said, 'Shet, bakit siya ganto, bakit sinusunog?' Para sa aming taga-Marikina, napaka-visual ng representation ng namamatay na industry ng Marikina, nagugutom mga tao, it's survival," said Bernardo.

She added that it happened on April 14, the same day her daughter Patreng started the Maginhawa Community Pantry.

The Ladies Who Launch initially thought the shoe molds would make for good decoration, so they began going around the Marikina shoe factories that closed down during the pandemic to purchase their used molds. 

"It's a dying industry, but they still take pride in Marikina-made shoes. So sabi namin, 'What if we can gather artists who can turn them into art?'" continued Bernardo.

The initial plan was to have 100 artists and 100 pieces for an exhibit; however, the number has surpassed 600, and the women are now expecting 1,200 artworks.

Bernardo and De Leon said the participating artists come from all over the Philippines, including 150 art groups, artists from Maguindanao, 20 Manila City Jail inmates of Oplan Tokhang, and survivor groups from Typhoons Sendong, Paeng and Odette.

Related: 'I'm not gonna lie and pretend': Dolly de Leon admits crying to missing out Oscars 2023 nomination

Since it is the first time Ladies Who Launch are doing an art exhibit, they sought outside help to price the artworks for interested buyers, although some artists offered to waive their fees and donate their shares.

"At the end of the day, tayo-tayo rin ang magtutulungan. Ang daming nawala sa'tin noong pandemya, so ito ang paraan namin na tumulong kasi konektado tayo lahat," said de Leon. "We just need to help each other and keep spreading the love."

All proceeds from "Hulmahan" — which will be going around several chains of a particular lifestyle mall — will go to Bayanihan Marikenyo Marikenya livelihood projects, the community kitchen response nationwide, and community-based art workshops.

One non-negotiable for the Ladies Who Launch is the unveiling and major launch of "Hulmahan," which will be on March 15, when the Philippines marks the third anniversary of the declaration of the national lockdown due to the pandemic. 

"It's a day na mabigat. Maraming nawalan ng trabaho. Many of us lost loved ones, pero also a day nagsama-sama lahat," explained Bernardo.

De Leon acknowledged the collective struggle brought about by the pandemic and even admitted she was not sure how her voice would make a difference. The award-winning actress quipped that in real life she is "maingay and madaldal."

"But now since we do have a voice, might as well use it for the good, and that's what I'm trying to do here. Kung may boses tayo, gamitin natin sa mabuti," de Leon ended.

RELATED: Dolly de Leon reveals how she injected Filipino quirks in Oscar-nominated 'Triangle of Sadness'

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