Artist Pangilinan shares his journey to float-making success in Sinulog, other festivals

By: Rosalie O. Abatayo January 17,2020 - 05:10 PM

This Egyptian-themed float created by artist Pangie Pangilinan is the 2017 Sinulog Festival 1st place winner.

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Artists, like their arts, fade away with their eyes wide open — starving to death.

So was Ernesto Pangilinan told when he began painting Christmas cards back in sixth grade in the 1960s.

Pangie, as he is known to his friends, however,  lives to prove it wrong.

Through festival floats, celebration backdrops and paintings, Pangie has raised his family out of designs that he carves on styrofoam.

Blocks and blocks of styrofoam became Pangie’s best friend as his projects grew, from orders of pieces for the floats until he was making the float himself.

Styrofoam, Pangie said, was a medium that enabled realism in his arts.

“Ang styrofoam madaling paglaruan yan. Pwede ko siyang gawing bakal. Sabuyan mo lang ng konting gasolina, magmemelt siya tapos mukha na siyang bato,” Pangie said.

(It is easy to play with the styrofoam. I can make it appear like metal. Sprinkle some gasoline on it and it would melt and look like a rock.)

This is the Atlantis-themed float that placed second in 2012 Sinulog Festival.

The start, clients and floats

Pangie recalled his first client as a local gin company that has asked him to set up a clock tower and a replica of an angel slaying a demon — the company’s logo — at the Fuente Osmeña Circle for the Sinulog season 13 years ago.

Another company contracted him to make Santo Niño images for their float in Sinulog. Then, he was hired to make a grand float in just three days for the Tuna Festival in General Santos City.

Bandang 3 days to go na lang, sabi niya, ‘Pangie, may problema. Nibalibad yung gumagawa ng float. Kaya mo bang gumawa? Sabi ko, ‘subokan ko,'” Pangie recalled.

(With only just three days to go, the client told me that the contractor for the float backed out. He asked me if I can do it and I said I’d try.)

His first creation won third place, his first victory in his float making career. 

“Hindi ako nagchampion agad. Nagthird place, tapos nag-second, tapos nagchampion tuloy-tuloy na na nakaka-place,” Pangie said.

(I did not become champion right away. I got third place, then second place and then my float became the champion. From there, the floats I made continued to land in the top three.)

The name “Pangie Pangilinan” eventually made a ring on businesses that eye a place in the float making category in festivals like that of the Sinulog.

Aside from creating floats, Pangie Pangilinan also paints and creates masterpieces like this “Last Supper.” | Raul Constantine Tabanao

Designs from above

But for Pangie, his winning designs aren’t all his.

Yung mga design ko instant lang na dumadating yan. Halimbawa, tinatawagan ako ng isa ko kliyente: Pangie, may design ka na ba? Yes maam/sir. Kahit wala. Habang pumupunta ako sa kanila, bumubuo na ako. Pagdating ko sa kanila i-sketch ko na lang sa harapan nila.

“Parang ganoon kadali. Pasalamat ako sa itaas na finifeed niya sa ako. Tapos i-elaborate ko na lang,” he told CDN Digital.

(My designs come to me almost instantly. When a client calls me to present a design, I say that I already have it, but while on my way to them, that would just be the time that I would be thinking of a concept. When I would arrive at the meeting, I would sketch it in front of them. It was that easy, and I thank the One above because He feeds me with these ideas [on how to make my floats]. I will only need to elaborate them to my clients.)

In Sinulog 2019, one of Pangie’s floats won the second place, besting 50 other entries.

This flowers and birds-themed float places 2nd in Sinulog Festival and the champion float in the Dinagyang Festival.

Topping the last project

Now handling at least three floats at a time, side by side maintaining decorations for a number of hotels, malls, and the Mactan Cebu International Airport, Pangie said they had to start preparations for the Sinulog floats as early as July.

“Kung nakagawa ka, gusto mo imong labwan na. Mga kalaban ko di ko naman nakikita yung ginagawa nila. Sa akin na lang, sinisiguro ko na mas maganda yung next na gagawin ko,” he said.

(I always want to surpass the last record. I can’t look at my competitors’ designs so I make sure that whatever I do next is better than what I have shown before.)

Immersion and intensive research have been his secret in creating a realistic depiction of his concepts like wildlife and even the Egyptian pyramid.

The floats and Pangie’s other projects did not only sustain his family’s meals, but sent his children to school. Karen, 33, finished a degree in Fine Arts while Jiemer, 26, earned a degree in Computer Engineering.

Ako yung mga ginagawa ko, pa-upgrade. Yung una, pinagagalaw ko yan sa mga sprocket lang ng bisekleta. Ngayon medyo computerized na kasi yung anak kong lalaki graduate na ng computer engineering,” the 65-year-old father said. 

Pangie Panglinian recalls his humble beginnings and how he found his way to creating winning floats. | Raul Tabanao

Hit by natural, manmade calamities

But like the strokes on his paintings and the carvings that he makes, Pangie’s life has been on ups and downs. Some were colored, some were not. 

Pangie and his family hail from Clark City in Pampanga where he started as a painter. But all that he built from his painting gigs he lost to the devastation of Mount Pinatubo in 1991.

Yung mga naipundar ko sa Clark, tinangay lahat ng Pinatubo. Back to zero talaga. Walang wala na, nakikitira na lang kami sa mga bahay-bahay sa mga subdivision,” he said.

(What I had saved (from my painting gigs) and built in Clark, all of those things were destroyed by Pinatubo. I was back to zero. I had no money and my family and I were just living with relatives and friends in subdivisions.)

But the volcanic ashes from the lahar that took away his home, has given him hope for a new beginning.

Using the same concepts as resins and fiberglass, Pangie created tabletops and other furniture out of mixtures from Pinatubo’s ashes.

His products were exported and were praised for the designs and the quality of the materials. That was when he thought he would rise from the rubble.

But things did not do well again after his supposed partner allegedly deceived him into signing blank documents that later on said he had already collected his share of the project despite him only receiving a small portion of what should have been his share of the profits of the business.

Pangie once again lost his business, his people, and the chance to prove that his artistic ingenuity is his best tool in raising his family.

“Ako talagang galit ako kasi yung pangarap ko para sa pamilya ko, tinumba na naman. Yung una, tinumba ng lahar. Natural calamity yun. Pangalawa, manmade calamity. Siya yung gumawa,” Pangie said.

(I was angry at my partner because all my dreams for my family was again lost. The first time was with the lahar, which swept away literally his home and business. But it was a natural calamity. The second one was a manmade calamity for hand his family and it was him (his business partner) who did it.)

A dragon inspired float bags the top prize for float category in the Dinagyang Festival.

Challenges of moving to Cebu

To avoid making trouble due to his anger, Pangie and his wife, Merlita, decided to move to Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu to start anew in 1994.

“Pumunta kami dito talagang walang wala. Binenta ko lang mga gamit ko, yung mga (stereo) component. Dumanas kami ng gutom,” Pangie says.

(We had nothing when we came here. I just sold my stuff like the stereo component to get us by. We starved.)

Two days hindi kami kumakain ng misis ko. Nakiki-sip lang kami doon sa noodles ng mga anak namin,” he added

(At some point, my wife and I did not have anything to eat other than a few sips from our children’s bowl of noodles.)

With no one knowing his background as an artist, Pangie engaged in bowling to earn money for his family’s meals and to find people who can help him build his career again.

Hanggang sa nakilala ako, nagstart na akong gumawa ng mga backdrop at Christmas decor sa Ayala. Sa lapag lang ako gumagawa kasi walang shop. Ang dami kong dinaanan na di ko akalain na magkakaroon ng chance para sa float,” he said.

Pangie Pangilinan works on the elephant part of one of his floats, which placed 2nd in the 2019 Sinulog Festival.


(Until I became recognized as an artist. I started making backdrops and Christmas decor in Ayala. I worked on the floor of my rented house then because I did not have a shop. I have encountered several challenges and I did not expect to have a chance to build a float.)

Making it in Cebu

From squeezing in a workshop in barely 200-square meter lot, Pangie has taken his works in a 650-square meter shop in Cordova town.

More than just a means of earning a living, the arts, Pangie said, was a calling.

Lipay lang ka na halimbawa gumagalaw na sila. Habang nagkakape ka nakikita mo, parang bayad ka na. Let’s say, bukas na ang Sinulog. Ngayong gabi wala kaming gagawin kung di pagmasdan yung gawa namin,” Pangie said.

(I am just happy at seeing my creations moving. While I drink coffee in my shop, I see them move and that is like getting paid already. Let us say, Sinulog will be tomorrow, and the night prior to the event, the family would have nothing to do but gaze at the floats that we have made.)

“Sabi ng papa ko, huwag ka mag-artist kasi gutom ang artist. Pero passion talaga eh,” Pangie said.

(My father told me not to be an artist because you will starve, but it’s really my passion.)

This Game of Thrones-themed float wins 3rd place in the 2018 Sinulog Festival. | Contributed photo by Imaginative Concepts FB page

Fruits of his labor

Aside from providing for his family’s needs, Pangie’s artistic works are about to bring his family to a new house in a subdivision in Lapu-Lapu City.

“Nung minsan nagyayaya silang kumain sa buffet, pag-abot doon P800 pala. So P3,200. Medyo emotional ako eh. Sabi ko P3,200 naghapunan lang kami. Samantalang noon P50 malaki na sa akin kasi dalawa o tatlong araw na naming pambili ng pan yun.

(There was one time, my kids invited me and my wife to eat at a buffet. When we arrived there, it was P800 a person and since there were 4 of us we paid P3,200. I became emotional and I told myself P3,200 for just dinner when there was a time when P50 was a big sum of money for me because it was  cash to buy two to three days supply of bread for the family.)

Sabi ko Lord, salamat sa pinatilaw mo sa aking maganda. Apat na ang sakyanan, may bahay na sa Pueblo,” Pangie said.

(I told the Lord, thank you for letting me taste the good life. I have four vehicles now, and a house in Pueblo.)/dbs

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TAGS: Artist, Clark, Ernesto, float, Pangie, Pangilinan, Sinulog, Tuna Festival

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