At the Ayala Museum Plaza in Makati City sits a sculpture of 500 fish in a net, the product of a collaboration between Australian designers and Quezon-based sculptors who used to fish for a living.
But more than being a display of woodcarving skills, the installation symbolizes the sculptors’ successful foray into a new livelihood after disaster uprooted them from their primary source of living.
The sculptors are members of the Banglos community, a remote fishing barangay in Gen. Nakar, Quezon which was hit hard by four consecutive typhoons in 2004.
The typhoons, combined with illegal logging in the area, caused massive floods and landslides which forced residents to flee their homes. Embracing the spirit of Bayanihan, Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and Gawad Kalinga worked with the Banglos residents to build a new community on land donated by the municipal government.
But the residents also needed a sustainable means of livelihood as fishing was no longer feasible in their relocation site. Seeing an opportunity for the barangay to move up the value chain using driftwood and felled logs that littered the barangay following the typhoons, Smart tapped renowned sculptor Rey Paz Contreras and the Daambakal Sculptors of Tondo in 2005 to train the residents on sculpture.
Following a 10-day workshop, the Banglos community started to turn debris into works of art. A month after they started training, they had already sold more than P100,000 worth of sculpture.
Four months later, they mounted an exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines – a record of sorts in the Philippine art scene. More exhibits in Manila, Cebu, and Bacolod followed, which brought in nearly P1 million in proceeds.
In 2006, a Smart-produced audio visual presentation on the Banglos Sculptors titled “Carving a New Life from Tragedy” won the Bronze Anvil at the prestigious Anvil Awards, dubbed the Oscars of public relations.
And now, the Banglos sculptors have brought their artwork to the country’s premier business hub. The Banglos Project at the Ayala Museum Plaza is a creative outreach initiative of Rick Bennett, associate professor at the College of Fine Arts of the University of New South Wales in Australia, and Leo Alforte, founder of a local nongovernment organization.
The installation will be on public display until March 17. Banglos sculptors have also set up a market stall in the plaza where they sell their carved fish. “It gives us great pride to see these fine works of art from our friends from Banglos.
But more than being proud of their accomplishments, we are happy that they have successfully rebuilt their lives. They serve as an inspiration for all of us to persevere regardless of the challenges and difficulties that come our way,” said Smart Community Partnerships Head Darwin Flores.
To some, the Banglos sculpture may just be something aesthetic, a treat to the visual senses. But to the Banglos residents, their works of art are proof that good things can come from the worst circumstances.