Artists raise more than P1 million to produce free face masks for all in Iloilo City

Rhick Lars Vladimer Albay
Artists raise more than P1 million to produce free face masks for all in Iloilo City
Selling their art through an online auction, Ilonggo artists pitch in to help Iloilo City gear up for the 'new normal' ahead of them by raising funds for the production of free face masks for locals

ILOILO CITY, Philippines– With quarantine rules set to be relaxed in the region in the next few weeks, some 40 painters and sculptors in Iloilo City have pledged their artwork to an online auction that aims to provide free face masks to the Ilonggo public.

Led by “Ilonggo Artists against COVID-19,” the online auction hopes to help Iloilo City gear up for the “new normal” ahead of them by using the proceeds to buy materials and labor for the production of free face masks. (READ: Artivism gives face to Iloilo’s vulnerable markets)

The initiative aims to produce at least 200,000 cloth masks for fellow Iloilo City locals in need.

Spearheaded by veteran Ilonggo artist Rock Drilon, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and his daughter Raisa Treñas, the online art sale was launched on May 3. Back then, it had 37 artists and more than 70 artworks up for auction.

ART PLEDGE. Raisa Treñas and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas receive an art pledge from Ilonggo artist Sonny Tolentino at Iloilo City Hall. Photo from Iloilo City Government Facebook page

As of May 13, the endeavor has raised P1,323,800, already overshooting its original goal of P1 million.

The ongoing auction continues to add new artists and masterworks to its roster and catalog every day, with the growing support of the city’s tight-knit community of painters, sculptors, and other creators.

HOME. 'Land Lady' by Jzy Tilos. Photo from Ilonggo Artists against COVID-19

Ang ila talento ginagamit gid nila para makabulig (We are thankful that our Ilonggo artists are using their talents to help),” Treñas said on a post on his official Facebook page.

“Let us help one another by buying art! You get to help your fellow Ilonggos and you will get beautiful artworks in return. Magbinuligay lang kita kay malampasan ta ni! Batò Iloilo! Kaya ta ni! (Let’s cooperate so we can get through this together! Fight Iloilo! We can do this!)” the city official continued.

Ilonggo Artists against COVID-19 is working hand in hand with “Uswag Sewers,” a collective of underprivileged seamstresses hired by the Iloilo City government to help revive their livelihood during the pandemic.

With the increasing scarcity of face masks in the region, the city government has employed these women to produce the cloth masks it intends to distribute for free to vulnerable Iloilo barangays.

Treñas aims to furnish all Ilonggos with at least two face masks each for their personal use. 

Early in April, the mayor signed an ordinance requiring all Ilonggos to wear face masks in public to minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus. 

Between April 25 and May 9, the Uswag Sewers have already produced at least 18,621 cloth face masks.

Nakakatulong ito nang malaki sa local artists at nakakapagbigay ng trabaho sa mga Ilongga sewers (This is a big help to local artists and it can give a job to Ilongga sewers as well),” Drilon told Rappler.

“Because of the overwhelming success, padayon ang (we continue the) fundraising as more donations are coming from the artists. We are happy that the interest in collecting by generous Ilonggos everywhere remains unstoppable,” he added.

Most of the Ilonggo artists in the endeavor have chosen to submit art pieces reflective of our current times, including 2018 MADE (Metrobank Art and Design Excellence) awardee Roland Llanera who depicts dilapidated houses and the mundane in “Lack-down.” 

In his “Better days are coming” series, social realist and 2012 Philippine Art Awards (PhilArts) recipient Arel Zambarrano paints the malaise and isolation hidden behind face masks. 

Meanwhile, 2014 PhilArts awardee Jeanroll Ejar basks in a more hopeful scene, sculpting robust flowers and plants bursting from fervent hearts in “Sow.”

BLOOM. 'Sow' by 2014 PhilArts awardee Jeanroll Ejar. Photo from Ilonggo Artists against COVID-19 Facebook page

The artists that have joined the ongoing cause include Agos Payapa, Bal Cerbo, Cyra Cordova, Daryl Dalipe, El Dosado, Fernando Kabigting, and Vic Fario, among others.

You can check out this site for the full catalog of artworks available for sale.

As of May 13, Iloilo City has 16 confirmed coronavirus cases of novel coronavirus with 5 recoveries and 1 death, according to data from the Department of Health Western Visayas.

The city, along with Western Visayas, was classified by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases as a “low-risk” area, allowing it to ease into a modified general community quarantine by May 16. –

Rhick Lars Vladimer Albay is a Rappler Mover based in Iloilo. He reports mostly on the local cultural community and art scene.

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