Man. Art. Nature. In the Pinto Art Museum at Antipolo, Rizal, Philippines, the three are merged into one in what one might see as some sort of paradise with their gardens and sculptures, present in every gallery intriguing the fickle mind.
We arrived around 8 AM, in enough time to catch the first guided tour for the day. Outside, the museum itself didn’t seem like much. It was simple, and I was caught unprepared once we had started the tour itself.
Inside, however, we were already greeted by a few sculptures and the garden. It was more impressive, with the garden sprawling in front of us, and the pieces of art by the wall. There’s the museum shop to our side, where people are to register, along with a few paintings.
After a short while, we and a few other visitors were led into the gardens towards the museum by Andy Orencio, who, at first sight, seemed like one of the regular staff in the museum. He talked about gardening, giving us the history of a few of the tall, thick trees surrounding us, and the history of Pinto Art Museum. He introduced us to the chapel, and the garden dedicated to Leonor Rivera and Jose Rizal – though he emphasizes that the museum isn’t related to them. It just so happens, he said, that they house the letters Leonor Rivera wrote for Jose Rizal back in the 18th century.
Before going into the museum itself, he points out various sculptures in the gardens – Gaea, or Mother Earth, the sign of fertility, and Narcissus, gazing into a pond.
The first gallery was what we may call the “essence” of the whole museum and its exhibits. Every painting he discussed in the later galleries reverts back to The Carnival, a large, colorful painting portraying a freak show, where various Philippine symbols are seen. One may look at it and see it as delightful at first, but then, as it’s meaning was further explained, it strikes you dumbfounded.
The Carnival portrays the state of Philippine society and culture nowadays. In one part of the painting, a man sits in a room with a drink in his hand, sipping it as a shelf filled with figurines of Filipinos dressed in the national costumes topple over. To the left is Darna, in her superhero stance, and to the right is Clark Kent, symbolizing the colonial mentality and our patriarchal society. It shows a spinning creature with four arms pointing at all directions. It shows illusions and distorted reality, as well as the levitation of a woman, pertaining once again to the degradation of culture and women in the Philippines – and yet, no one is responsible. We keep putting the blame on others and passing it on, and in the end, nothing’s done about the problem itself.
The other paintings depict the daily lives of Filipinos, a woman in a mask victimized by the friars, Jesus on the cross and pastors and priests crowding around him, posing, the latter showing that nowadays, our religion is for selfish gain.
In the next exhibit, most of the paintings show the slums and the homeless in the city. They depict survival more than suffering. There are the handicapped making a living, two brothers sharing a table as a bed, and a familiar painting of a boy in an over-sized shirt, looking out of the painting in a defensive manner.
The next gallery showed the sinking morals of the nation. There’s the painting Future Violence no.1, pertaining to the future of the youth. There’s a sculpture of a sinking church, paintings showing injustice and social gap, and depictions of the misery that haunts us. By the end of the gallery, there is a bench you could sit on, either facing Christ or the various paintings predicting the worst that is yet to come.
“You get to pick your perspective,” Andy Orencio said. “I say ‘sinking’ because it can still be saved, but it matters on where you turn your attention to – the failure or the Savior.”
There’s an erotica gallery, and yes, I have no idea why a fourteen-year-old was allowed in, but it is still art, after all, and Andy insists that the mindset nowadays from the word erotica is exploited – which was not the gallery’s concept.
The paintings were intriguing as well as disturbing. I have to admit the latter. It shows another side of human nature and a high level of passion; the dangerous side of love that crumbles morals. It was easy to get fascinated but at the same time, wanting to take a step back.
There was also a “Forest” room. It’s dark and cool inside, with simulated sounds of birds and crickets. There are tall bamboos stretching out to the ceiling – which didn’t look like it existed. I felt small, looking up to see where they ended and only finding the darkness in which they seemed to disappear into.
At the end of the guided tour, Andy Orencio introduced himself as one of the artists, but also a gardener. The owner is a doctor and an artist at the same time. They offer painting classes in the summer for ten sessions, usually lasting three hours for all ages.
There were a lot of gardens to stroll by, various beds here and there in them, cozy tables and a pool. Though I didn’t get to eat there (there was an eat-all-you-can close by), some of us did, and apparently, the food had small servings and too much of a price on them.
All in all, it was an enlightening experience, as well as an inspiring one. Their art forces you to open your eyes. You take one look at their paintings and you’re handed a brush to paint your way out in the world they made you see. It’s more than just artwork; more than just depiction. It’s a warning. A call. Their meanings linger, making you carry around a restless heart and leave with a changed perspective.