Imelda Bose’s Acceptance Speech for Santiago Bose’s ‘Alab ng Sining’ Award at the University of the Philippines

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Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat..Kagalang-galang na Dean Doi Rosete, mga minamahal nating miyembro ng UP Fine Arts Faculty, with special mention to our friends of 50 years..Noli Garalde, Bim Bacaltos, mga magulang at kaibigan ng ating mga nagsisipagtapos na artists. Mabuhay po kayo.

If I am greatly honored to be receiving this award, Alab ng Sining, for my late husband, Santiago Bose, I am pretty sure he would have been a hundred times more honored.

I was asked to share a few insights about Santy, as we all called him.

Santy, in his lifetime, has had his share of recognition in the art world:

    • Chosen as one of 12 Emerging Young Artists by the Guild of Galleries in 1975
    • A 13 Artists awardee by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1976
    • Critics’ Choice for Print-making by Mayi Associates in 1979
    • January 20, 1989 was declared“Santiago Bose Day” in San Francisco, by then-mayor Art Agnos
    • Traveled extensively abroad as the recipient of several grants for artist-in-residency programs and  exhibitions of visual art, performance and installation around the world in places like Australia, Russia, Cuba, China, USA, Canada, Japan, indonesia, Hongkong, Thailand, Vietnam, and others
    • Was given the Gawad Parangal ng Lungsod ng Maynila in 2002 and
    • Posthumously, Gawad  CCP Para sa Sining in 2004.
    • Named Outstanding Citizen of Baguio for his valuable contributions to art in 1999 and again, posthumously, in 2004.

A very prolific artist, Santiago Bose had 20 solo exhibitions and more than 80 group exhibitions from 1975 to 2002 in the Philippines and abroad.

Upon checking his inventory of works, ranging from prints, drawings, paintings, sculpture, and installations, we counted close to 5,000 works which he created in three and a half decades.

But first, let me tell you a few things about Santy, as a student. I met him, a Fine Arts student majoring in advertising, when I was 18 years old, he was 19, at the steps of Kamia Residence Hall. He was with his Nikon-lugging friends, some of whom are here, and whom I occasionally blame for why I ended up with Santy.

He caught my attention because he mischievously pretended to pee behind the No Parking sign across from us. It was, of course, an unusual pickup strategy, but my idea of funny borders mostly on irreverent. After that, we got to know each other better. Several months later, we were going steady (ang tawag noon, going steady. Ngayon, “kami na”) He was smart, funny, witty, sweet, jealous, entertaining, makulit, pikon, tampuhin. Our dates actually consisted of trips to bookstores like Erehwon and La Solidaridad, record stores in Avenida,  where he would buy records of unheard-of bands (or probably unheard of by me), movies.  He was a voracious reader — art books, novels, books on philosophy, the “Red Book” by Mao Tse Tung — and we would often discuss or exchange books.

He wrote quite well … give or take a few grammatical errors. He, at some point, became a contributor to the Collegian, the University of the Philippines’ college paper, and co-founded the photography club known as Available Light Movement (ALM). I think one of the things that distinguished him from other artists was that he wrote well. In fact, he wrote the most beautiful, creative, illustrated love letters. During the five years that we were together before we got married, we broke up about 44 times, most of which were due to his losing in our chess games. But the breakups were nothing that a beautiful love note couldn’t repair.

We were students of UP during those wonderful, exciting, dangerous times. 1967-1972 where everyone was a conforming nonconformist. I thought then, and I still think that, those were UP’s magical years. We attended many rallies and teach-ins; we joined boycotts.

Art-making took on a different form: Placards with satirical illustrations condemning the Marcos regime, effigies for burning, silk-screened protest shirts, even Molotov cocktails (although these were made in physics and chemistry labs). Some of Santy’s pieces in 1968 were paintings of an exploding Molotov cocktail or Pillbox, beside a lifeless, mangled body whose brains were splashed on the ground.His old friends have fond memories of Santy. Noli Garalde describes him as “always eager to learn new things, and participate in new events”. He recounts, “One day, we brought him home dead drunk. He told us to stay while he slept and to wake him up for Apollo 11’s landing on the moon. That was in 1969. He said, “I want to be able to tell my children about this in the future.”

His old friends have fond memories of Santy. Noli Garalde describes him as “always eager to learn new things, and participate in new events.” He recounts, “One day, we brought him home dead drunk. He told us to stay while he slept and to wake him up for Apollo 11’s landing on the moon. That was in 1969. He said, “I want to be able to tell my children about this in the future.”Another friend and classmate, Hector Lopez, recalls — “In 1969, ALM thought of an exhibition of found objects: graffiti-painted lockers, used canvases, sculpture wrapped in toilet-paper and called it “One Big Piece” and we credit Santy for most of these ideas.” Nowadays, such is known as “installation art”.

Another friend and classmate, Hector Lopez, recalls — “In 1969, ALM thought of an exhibition of found objects: graffiti-painted lockers, used canvases, sculpture wrapped in toilet-paper and called it “One Big Piece” and we credit Santy for most of these ideas.” Nowadays, such is known as installation art.In 1971, he won the Best Thesis Award. I brought this book that he wrote..which was entitled “Self-Portrait by Santy Bose”. This is an illustrated book of

In 1971, he won the Best Thesis Award. I brought this book that he wrote, which was entitled “Self-Portrait by Santy Bose.” This is an illustrated book of excerpts from a favorite book of his (“The Magus” by John Fowles) and verses that he wrote, as well as a short story about a young art student who so passionately loved his art as well as his girlfriend. One day, he felt he could not paint anymore because he wanted to spend all his time with his girlfriend. So, he decided to end that turmoil within him. He killed his girlfriend and incorporated her flesh into his canvas.

I must admit that it made me a little scared.

Santy’s first exhibit, a two-man show with Bim Bacaltos, opened on September 23, 1972. Everyone woke up to an eerie silence. No radio, no newspapers.  Later that morning, we heard Marcos’ proclamation of Martial Law two days after its actual signing, and after most of his political and other strong opponents — student leaders, activists, media practitioners, even some oligarchs were rounded up and jailed. All media were shut down.

The two-man show had a handful of guests, including the artists themselves. Santy did not let me attend the opening because the curfew was at 9 p.m. That day, most of us left the dorms and went back to our homes. We then lived in fearful obedience. I can’t remember how long the shutdown of UP was, but things were never the same again.Santy worked briefly (6 weeks) for an ad agency J. Walter Thompson, enough to

Santy worked briefly (for six weeks) for the ad agency J. Walter Thompson, enough to realize that advertising was not for him. Then at Aardvark Media Services where he met friends whom he kept and cherished in his lifetime — mostly writers like Krip Yuson, Sylvia Mayuga, Bimboy Penaranda, Conrad de Quiros, Alvin Capino. The poor artist had to have a job because we were getting married in 1974. For my engagement present, I asked for all the albums of the Beatles, which he brought.  At 25, he became a father to our Diwata. On the card that came with the bouquet of flowers, he wrote: “I will always hold your hand. I shall always hold her tiny hands.”Aardvark  closed and he moved to Development Academy of the Philippines. His boss, Boy Morales, made it possible for him to prepare for

Aardvark closed and he moved to Development Academy of the Philippines. His boss, Boy Morales, made it possible for him to prepare for his first one-man show. Chameleon Years, at Sining Kamalig in 1975, which for me, was interestingly different. He used old doors and windows as his canvas, painted on them and did photo-transfers.  His first sale from this show got us our first TV — 17 inches, black and white. P1,200. Buoyed by the success of this show, he convinced me to relocate to Baguio so he could concentrate on painting.While in Baguio, he did research on its history, traditions, indigenous art and the culture of the minorities in the North. He studied Alibata, he embarked on print-making with Pandy Aviado, who had just come home from Paris.  We immersed ourselves in art, music, literature, and history. He introduced me to Escher, Leonard Cohen

While in Baguio, he did research on its history, traditions, indigenous art and the culture of the minorities in the North. He studied Alibata, he embarked on print-making with Pandy Aviado, who had just come home from Paris. We immersed ourselves in art, music, literature, and history. He introduced me to Escher, Leonard Cohen and made me love Bob Dylan more. He organized friends, high school classmates, and encouraged them to paint, or do photography; and formed an informal group called Baguio Group of Artists in 1978.

From 1978 to 1984, he did assorted contractual jobs for our young family of five. We had three girls by then: Diwata, Lilledeshan, and Mutya. Santy worked as production designer for Celso Ad Castillo’s movie “Dalagang Pinagtaksilan ng Panahon.” He worked part time for Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and for Kidlat Tahimik’s  film ”Turumba,” and alternately worked on paintings. He used indigenous materials in his artwork and produced his own hand-made paper from leaves and pulp.

He went back to New York in late 1984 and came back to the Philippines in 1986, when his mother, then his father, passed away. Around 1987, he co-founded Baguio Arts Guild (BAG) with several other artists who moved to Baguio — Bencab, Kidlat Tahimik, Robert Villanueva among others. Mostly because of his efforts, Baguio was thrust into the limelight as a haven for artists. In the early ’90s, Baguio was the venue of successful BAG-hosted International Arts Festivals.

From 1990, after two successive minor strokes, the second of which affected his vision of his left eye, he continued his experimentation on different techniques and shared these with other artists. One was solar drawing, wherein he used sunlight and a magnifying glass to created his images by burning the outline of his figures onto paper. He created mixed-media work by photo-transferring old photographs, combining them with ashes from Mount Pinatubo’s eruption, bamboo twigs, rattan, shells, used films, banig, Ifugao icons. He used indigenous materials so he would be less dependent on imported and expensive art materials. He also started incorporating anting-anting symbolism in his works which were imbued with sociopolitical commentary on Philippine history and current events.

He was a very generous man. He shared his skills and his expertise, his time, his ideas, his studio and his meager resources with other artists from Baguio, particularly those who did not have formal art schooling. Of course, the artists that he mentored were not spared from his jabs. ”Art na ba yan?” he would tell the Baguio artists who apprenticed with him. Sometimes, he’d say, “Is that art? Or fart?”

It became evident, by the latter part of the ’90s that Santiago had influenced many younger artists. He was always interested in other artists’ works. What was the idea behind the work? How did you do this?  And with younger Filipino artists, he’d ask? “Sa tingin mo ba, naimpluwensya kita?

He lived his art on a daily basis. He even named his dogs “Found Object” and ” Pick-Aso”. He would yell, “Found Object!! Come here!

In1998 Santy collaborated with longtime art ally and friend, Denisa Reyes, the director of Ballet Philippines.Santy did the design of the production ”ASONG ULOL” which was choreographed and performed in by Denisa in Indonesia during the ASEAN Arts Festival. She has this story to tell. “I told Santy, ‘You behave ha. Don’t forget this is the Asean Arts Festival. Ipakita mo na mababait ang mga Pinoy. He said, ‘Sure!’ So, when he learned that “Selamat Pagi “ was the Indonesian term for “Good Morning,” he told their Indonesian host that it was pretty much the same in Filipino. “Except, I say, Salamat Pangit, and you answer..”Selamat Pogi. The next day, Denisa heard this exchange inside the elevator between Santy and their Indonesian host.

He kept journals and sketch pads throughout his adult artist life (there are more than 50 of them), where he wrote his many ideas — about his kind of art, his proposals for a residency or a show, his secrets, his frustrations about art in the Philippines.  He had a whole baul of photographs — letters and cards from friends all over the world. He had so many friends, as he had been a genuine friend to all of them.Throughout that final decade, he persistently promoted Filipino art, though not without the many frustrations that came with promoting his kind of art in a Third World country. In an email to a friend, Santy

Throughout that final decade, he persistently promoted Filipino art, though not without the many frustrations that came with promoting his kind of art in a Third World country. In an email to a friend, Santy said: ”The Museum Director here said that my works don’t fall within their priorities, which are water, urban renewal, and garbage”. And in his typical, self-deprecating kind of humour, he said: “I am sad that my works don’t even qualify as garbage!”But garbage, they definitely are not. His works are found in many museums in Australia, Canada, Japan, United States, Cuba, Singapore, and numerous corporate and private collections in Asia, America, Western Europe, and Australia. Today, June 24, Art Gallery of New South Wales will open the exhibition Passion and Procession: Art In The Philippines where some of Santy’s works from Queensland Art Gallery were borrowed.

But garbage, they definitely are not. His works are found in many museums in Australia, Canada, Japan, United States, Cuba, Singapore, and numerous corporate and private collections in Asia, America, Western Europe, and Australia. Today, June 24, Art Gallery of New South Wales will open the exhibition Passion and Procession: Art In The Philippines where some of Santy’s works from Queensland Art Gallery were borrowed.

His painting ”Drown My Soul At Chico River ” (the title of which was based on Dee Brown’s book “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee”) is currently on loan at the newly established National Gallery of Singapore.

Let me just share one last anecdote about Santy.

Two weeks before he died on December 3, 2002, he was in our house in Manila, enroute to Baguio. He had just come back from an art workshop he conducted in Bohol. I said ”Bakit uuwi ka na sa Baguio? May exhibit ang alumni ng UP Fine Arts sa EDSA Shang. I think it opens tonight.” “Talaga? Sino sino ang kasali?” I said, “Well, I know, si Bim, Nestor, Lito Carating, Araceli Dans, at si BenCab.” “TanGnang UP yan, hindi naman ako pinapansin nyan e.”

So, now, eto na, Santy. Pinansin ka na.

Maraming maraming salamat sa UP CFA para sa award na ito, in his behalf. More than this, Santy, I am sure, is thankful to UP for making him the artist that he wanted to be. For providing the spark that became a flame, after he left the university. For challenging him to veer away from existing norms, for giving his artistic soul a purpose, for making him ask questions and seek answers to what makes Filipino art, for making him interested, for taunting him to take the road less-traveled or the road untraveled.In addition to the thanks and gratitude, Santiago Bose’s family, through SANTIAGO BOSE CENTER FOR CREATIVE ARTS which we established in 2009, is

In addition to the thanks and gratitude, Santiago Bose’s family, through SANTIAGO BOSE CENTER FOR CREATIVE ARTS which we established in 2009, is extending help to UP Fine Arts students in need of financial as well as logistical assistance, of P50,000 annually. The student must share Santiago’s vision of creating, promoting, and bringing Filipino art to a wider Filipino audience, and to an even wider international audience, and later on, to pay it forward.

This is the family’s way of giving back to UP what it had so generously provided us.

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