Mother-daughter tandem depicts 'essence' of women in art exhibit

MOSAICS. Emma Bengua Prima creates a series of mother and child mosaics featured in her 'Essence' exhibit with her daughter Lea Abigail Prima Sarita in Dipolog City.

All photos by Maria Victoria Tenido Te/Rappler

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines – What is the essence of a woman?

Local artist Emma Bengua Prima and her daughter Lea Abigail Prima Sarita hope to interpret their answer to that question through their art exhibit, "Essence," at Casa Bernedo in Dipolog City.

Just in time for National Women's Month, the exhibit opened to the public on March 15 for a month-long showcase until April 15 to highlight women, their present situations, experiences, and the things and people around them. (READ: How the women of Marawi weave hope through textiles)

Defining the essence of a woman

The mother-daughter tandem shows the realities of womanhood in "Essence" – from the experiences of one who's on the cusp of starting a family to the everyday moments of motherhood.

Emma's works focus on motherhood, as evident in her painting "Warm Backpack," as well as her series of mother-and-child linoleum mosaics.

"A woman, just like a man, is created by the Supreme Being," explained Emma. "For me, a woman is there to complement man and not to compete with him."

Aside from the focus on women and everyday life in her works, Emma also enjoys promoting the concept of the tri-people of Mindanao – Muslims, Christians, and the Lumad. She included paintings of the tri-people in the hopes of encouraging others to appreciate the diversity of local culture.

Meanwhile, Lea's paintings of intertwined hands are expressions of her personal life. She had just gotten married last year, and is looking forward to starting a family.

Emma's cousin Dulce Maria Frasco is also featured as a guest artist in the exhibit. Frasco weaves paper in an intricate dance with her works that use paper quilling, a technique where paper is rolled into coils and pinched into shapes.

Uncommon tale of influence

While you might have heard of stories where parents influence their children to pursue the same passion, Emma and Lea had it the other way around.

Lea, who graduated cum laude with a degree in Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines Baguio, has always had a knack for the arts. She has received numerous awards since her elementary years, including the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Gold Medal as Outstanding Student in Culture and the Arts.

On the other hand, Emma only taught herself to paint in her late 40s. She used to just accompany Lea to workshops as a chaperone.

"Mas napukaw akong hilig sa arts [over time] (My love for the arts was awakened over time)," shared Emma.

Both of them have had paintings exhibited locally and internationally.

Reviving art in Dipolog

Casa Bernedo, ancestral house of the Filipino-Spanish Bernedo family, was developed to house the City Tourism Office (CTO) and the Dipolog Center for Culture and the Arts.

However, it wasn't until around September 2018 that the center began hosting art exhibits. This is part of an effort to better appreciate local artists and their works.

According to Cynthia Paghacian Climaco of the CTO, they have drawn interest from a number of artists not only from Dipolog City but also from other areas such as Iligan City.

Through "Essence," Emma hopes that people will be encouraged to pay more attention to the arts, and inspired to utilize art as a means of expression. –

Maria Victoria Tenido Te is a Rappler lead mover in Dipolog City. She recently graduated from Xavier University Senior High School and was editor-in-chief of The Squire.