Sugbu Kaniadto: Seeing the past in color

By: Jobers Reynes Bersales May 27,2019 - 06:50 AM


When architects dabble in painting the end result is a harmony of colors worthy of a great exhibition. 

That is exactly what happened when a group of fourteen architects called Architsketchers Cebu took upon themselves the task of using period photos of Cebu and rendering them in color using the paintbrush, not some digital software.  Led by Loloy Castro, the architects opened the results in an exhibition last Monday with a substantial crowd, some curious, others intent on buying some pieces. 

All told nearly 50 watercolor paintings based on black and white American-era photos kept at the USC Cebuano Studies Center were exhibited and will continue to be at SM Seaside until June 6. And, surprises of surprises, fellow architect Anthony Abelgas accented the paintings with period objects and artifacts on display cases adjacent to the paintings.

As explained by Loloy during the opening when he spoke on behalf of Archisketchers Cebu, tremendous research had to be carried out by each of them to be as historically accurate as possible. He cited the example of an early 1900s photo of the train station at Mandaue showing one of the trains of the Philippine Railway Company. To render the photo in color, research had to be carried out on the type of train in the photo and the color it would have sported when the photo was shot. 

Odette Jereza, one of the owners of the University of Southern Philippines Foundation (USPF), and herself no stranger to heritage, came over to purchase painting of the iconic Vision Theatre, built by the late USPF founder and Cebu’s foremost building contactor of the American Era, Agustin Jereza. 

If only I could afford any of these paintings, I too would have come home with one of the pieces. Make no mistake, all are beautiful outpourings of the imagination of architects, who are—by profession—trained to imagine and then render their musings in full color. 

Source: Ermitanyong Dahon Facebook page

I must confess I had my favorites from among the wonderfully surprising works. One is Loloy’s rendition of a photo shot in 1900 of a huge international steamship docked at the makeshift wooden pier that was once located behind Cebu City Hall (way before the Gotiaoco Building rose there).




The photo is made more interesting and artistic due to the foregrounding made by the unnamed American photographer through five boys, four wading by the shoreline and one seated on one of the many rocks piled on shore, looking intently at the camera.


Loloy does not disappoint once again in this latest work. I have seen his other works, not necessarily of Cebu scenery, in the Jimmy Sy collection at the Jesuit House of 1730. And I would not be surprised if Jimmy added this to his growing collection.



I was also moved by the earlier-mentioned train station scene at Mandaue and the one showing Shamrock Hotel (the Fernandez Brothers/Compañia Maritime Building) as seen from the photographer on board what I suspect was the S.S. Mayon which docked right across the hotel. I understand the original black and white image, which showed what looked like a sailor or stevedore with his face completely darkened. Kudos to the Archisketcher who rendered this in color complete with the imagined face of the sailor/stevedore.

Source: Ermitanyong Dahon Facebook page

My other favorites were the renditions of Magallanes, and Manalili streets, Jones Avenue and the Presbyterian (later Bradford) Church, and a scene at Muelle Osmeña in Opon. This latter one must have taxed the Archisketcher’s patience as he or she had to imagine how those passengers milling about the small pier looked like, complete with the color of their attire.

My congratulations to the Archisketchers Cebu in this latest round of exhibitions, this time closest to the heart of heritage advocates. As with previous exhibitions, the group will donate a portion of the proceeds to benefit Cancer Warriors Foundation and I urge you dear readers to find time to drop by the Upper Ground Bridgeway, Mountain Wing, of SM Seaside Cebu. The exhibition runs until June 6. 

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