Poets of the Southern Tagalog

Aside from his liturgical art, Pancho M. Piano is also a poet of Bicol Southern Tagalog Region. A faithful son Kabikulan, he has paid homage, in his numerous paintings in oil and acrylic, to the myths, legends and traditional of Bicol, its indigenous deities such as Haliya, the moon goddess of abundance and fertility with her multiple breast, and Daragang Magayon in the folktale of ill-starred lovers, as well as myths surroundings the origin of Albay province. He has also celebrated in many forms the region’s festivals, especially that of Our Lady of Peñafrancia water festival, the principal yearly evebt for the Bicolanos. This festival centers on the icon of Our Lady in real cape and gown, similar to the Virgin de la Naval, as she presides over the swarming multitudes of the faithful who come from all corners of Bicol to pay her homepage. The distinctive features of this holy day is the large procession of people riding in river boats accompanying the Virgin borne on the shoulders of the multitude buoyed up by the water to and from the church via the river route. Every year, thousand of Bicolanos, affirming their faith, travel to participate in the festival, sometimes even risking life and limb in the process, as when a bridge carrying crowds of the faithful collapsed into the water and caused numerous casualities.

In one of the artist’s interpretation of this festival, the artist also celebrates the comely women of his region which he portrays on both sides of the Virgin of Peñafrancia. Dressed in indigenous and local costumes, they in the theme of women’s courage and strength and their social role in the community. Below, in the foreground is the fleet of bancas with their swarthy muscular oarsmen, while in the background are the great cathedrals of Bicol flanking Mount Mayon of the perfect cone, symbol of the region.

The artist’s paean to his home province of Bicol found a culmination in his 2000 show at the Ayala Museum entitled Haliya after the Bicol Moon goddess of fertility. The show consisted of Bicol myths and legends executed in acrylic and oil. It is of note that the central painting, after which the show entitled, was executed in a combination of the figurative and abstract modes deviating from traditional figurative narratives. Aptly enough, his show was said “to have satisfied the artist’s dream of being able to interpret these legends on canvas.”

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