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‘Art for a cause’ Connections, Experiences, Stories

Dr. Eric Lasala (center) surrounded by participating artists at the exhibit opening

WHAT do you see?” That was the question I asked my twins Nicholas and Antoinette as we went around the “Art for
a Cause: Art Exhibit by Cebuano Artists” at the lobby of Chong Hua Hospital Mandaue.

“I see a very happy Mommy with long hair,” said Nicholas.

“The Mommy (is) just like you Nanay with babies inside. Maybe twins!” replied Antoinette.

We went around to check out a plethora of paintings completed using different media and I repeated the question, “What do you see?” just as Dr. Eric Lasala, vice president of Medical Ancillary I of Chong Hua Hospital Mandaue,
arrived to answer my questions about the exhibit.

Lasala was brought up in a family of artists; a grandfather who can draw using chalk, a father who sketches, and a sister who paints. Lasala himself loves to draw and has gathered quite a collection of paintings, thus making him more than just an art enthusiast.

Our conversation turned into discussion on why an art exhibit as a fundraiser and he was generous to note that many doctors are enthusiasts and collectors. Some of them are artists, who had to forego their artistic side to practice their profession.

Addressing the artists during the opening ceremony of the exhibit, Lasala said: “You are very lucky because what you love is what you do for a living. Your passion is your profession.”

Lasala said this is the hospital’s second exhibit this year. With this exhibit, Chong Hua Hospital has now organized a total of seven exhibits in the last three years to raise funds for patients in need of financial help.

“The late (Chong Hua president) Mr. Lim Liu had in his heart the advocacy to help people in need. He organized fundraising activities to help charitable organizations. This is a legacy we remember and continue under the leadership of Dr. Helen Po,” said Lasala.

This painting exhibit, which opened on Sept. 5 and scheduled to run until Sept. 15 (with a possibility of extension depending on public reception), is a gathering of at least 60 artists with 150 paintings (and growing!).

Lasala said this exhibit is also a platform for established, budding and returning artists to showcase their works.

“This is an exhibit that is open for all artists. We do not limit it to just a group of artists because we realized there are artists who are not part of groups but have beautiful works so we opened the invitation to everybody,” he said.

Twenty percent of the painting sales goes to charity believing in the philosophy that the artists, whose works connect individuals through shared life experiences, are able to multiply their blessings and share them to those in need.

“(These paintings) are reminders of how we value life as they represent little facets
of life so you are not just buying a painting. You now have a connection to individuals and share their experiences,” said Lasala.

We were on painting heaven as we went around the exhibit space and met artists such as Loloy Castro, Cesar Castillo, Sonia Yrastorza and Lida Marie Aguilar. Rudy Alix, a mechanical engineer who just started painting with watercolor a year and a half ago, was also present with his artworks and obliged to my request of providing the photos for this story.

In short interviews with these artists, we met individuals whose stories are as
deep and meaningful as their masterpieces.

Cesar Castillo
Cesar Castillo considers farmers and fisherfolks as the community’s heroes for “feeding us with what we have.” He paints them in their natural habitat and his Golden Harvest series consisting of four paintings—two of which were sold at the time of this writing— pays tribute to the hardworking farmers.

Castillo, a mechanical engineer by profession, resigned from his job to focus on painting. He refuses to go by the common excuse of many artists for not producing any work. “I do not go by mood,” he said.

Instead, his goal is to finish at least one painting a day.
He starts painting as early as 7 a.m. and finishes at 4 p.m. just like his schedule when he was in the corporate world.

Castillo has participated in exhibits in Malaysia and Singapore. To give more meaning and depth to his pieces, he goes out on field to see his subjects
in their natural spaces. “Painting is not just about the picture;
itis also an experience. In my case, I paint better when I see
the actual scene because I feel it, I experience it,” he said.

Loloy Castro
Inspired by the masterpieces of artist Fred Galan, whose works he appreciated when he was only a high school kid, Loloy Castro’s paintings feature the back roads and behind-the-scenes of Cebu and its neighboring towns and provinces. These are images that people seldom see and Castro whisks his artist brush to immortalize them in watercolor paintings. Castro started painting when he was eight years old as he grew up in a family of artists. An architect by profession, Castro focused on fulfilling his day job and only returned to painting in 2012 when he met members of Cancer Warriors Foundation. Many of his artworks are about them. Three of his six paintings were already sold even before the exhibit opened.

Castro is one of the six founding members of Cebu Watercolor Society alongside Fred Galan, Kimsoy Yap, Maxcel Migallos, Dino Pajao and Ramon Vios Jr.
Rudy Alix, a student of Castro, describes him as the artist who is next-in-line to receive international recognition for his works.

Sonia Yrastorza
There are eight paintings in Sonia Yrastorza’s green series. “Green 5” is the lone artwork she displayed at the Art for a Cause exhibit and it was already sold as of Sept. 7. “I like the challenge of coming out with different shades (of green) and come out with something solid,” she shared.
She paints using different medium–oil, acrylic, watercolor–and organizes art events. “There are subjects which I do better using particular medium,” she said.
Yrastorza is a Fine Arts graduate of UP Cebu and is a member of Cebu Artists Inc.

Lida Marie Aguilar
For more than three decades, Lida Marie Aguilar was not doing any artworks as she focused on her work and motherhood, a calling which she embraced with passion and commitment. In 2013, when super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), hit her father’s hometown, Bogo City, several tugas trees fell down because of strong winds. She asked for cuts of the tree thinking she can do something with them. In 2016, the Fine Arts graduate of UP Cebu returned to painting after 33 years of staying away from the canvas. Her acrylic-on-tugas artworks at the Chong Hua exhibit feature birds, florals and butterflies.
“Yolanda was a devastating time so I want (what is left of the havoc it wrecked) to be full of life, beautiful. I try to integrate that with the material I have,” she said.

* * *
Art for a Cause: Art Exhibit by Cebuano Artists runs from Sept. 5 to 15 at the lobby of Chong Hua Hospital Mandaue on Mantawi International Drive, Subangdaku, Mandaue City.

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