IT WAS late one evening when a young woman, along with two friends, was walking through the Paseo de Roxas underpass in Makati on her way home after a long day at work. Mural artist A.G. Saño was painting at the steps of the underpass when she recognized him. She happened to have been a participant at his art and environmental engagement talks at a university in Camarines Sur, Bicol some years before. He then asked the woman and her friends if they were interested in helping him paint the mural. Mr. Saño said that “it is innate among our group to have strangers engage if they want to paint.
“The next night, they came back to paint with us,” he said, joining Mr. Saño’s company of nine artists on the project.
The new marine biodiversity-themed mural is a project of the Security Bank Foundation Inc., the corporate social responsibility arm of Security Bank Corp. (SBC) which supports education, arts and culture through nationwide teaching programs and classroom building projects.
“The theme for the Makati underpasses was Philippine nature and since education is our corporate advocacy, we decided to take this opportunity [to] educate the public about issues that are affecting nature, specifically Philippine biodiversity, through art,” Alfonso L. Salcedo, Jr., SBC President & CEO, was quoted as saying in a press release. “We develop and support social responsibility initiatives all over the Philippines. This mural is one of the ways we hope to educate and inspire the Makati community.”
SBC invited “artivist” (artist-activist) A.G. Saño to redesign the Paseo De Roxas underpass mural, which formerly had a spaced-themed artwork, to a marine biodiversity-themed mural. Tilted Art in Defense of Mother Nature, the mural was launched on June 26, coinciding with the bank’s anniversary month.
Mr. Saño has painted more than 700 murals in 16 countries, and 600 murals around the Philippines which depict peace and environment. His advocacy extends to peace efforts in Mindanao as a founding member of the Board of Trustees of TPBPM (Teach Peace Build Peace Movement), an NGO focused on peace through education and the arts.
“There’s a lot of difficulty and there’s a lot of satisfaction as well,” Mr. Saño told members of the press, on being an artist-activist. “You are doing something for the betterment of society, hindi ’yung, gagawa ka lang for yourself (not just working for yourself), it’s an avenue for artists to do something more than personal expression.”
“If you are an artist-activist, you offer your work to the society without expecting anything in return,” he added.
THE MARINE LIFE MURAL
Done in blue, green, and white elastomeric paint, Art in Defense of Mother Nature depicts 47 different marine creatures clad in armor.
Mr. Saño explained that having the animals wear armor symbolizes that they are currently living beyond their natural defence mechanisms.
“My statement is that it is not enough, the natural defense mechanism of the species, that’s why they are decreasing and we are now in a big extinction crisis,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“Gusto kong ipakita na may ipinaglalaban [tayo]. May beauty ’yung gusto nating i-proliferate (I want to show that we are fighting for something. There is beauty in what we want to proliferate),” he said.
The Art in Defense of Mother Nature mural is expected to be on view for three years. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman