There is a Filipino saying, “Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan ay huwag magalit.”, which roughly translates as: Do not react to the criticisms I am throwing at you, because your reaction will give your guilt away.

With painting and sculpture, Alfredo Esquillo Jr. sets off a game of throw-and-catch, where criticism constantly bounces back and forth. In his latest show, called Bato Bato sa Langit, the players’ roles are undefined – ‘who throws’ and ‘who gets hit’ are questions that require some stepping back, humility in tow, to arrive at an answer. The point of his game is clear. Esquillo’s art is the prism through which he looks at the Philippines’ sense of nationhood and the obstacles in its way forward.

The first stone is cast by America whose impact on the life of the Filipino nation is without comparison. Esquillo’s paintings exhibit the bond between the two nations in all its varied relationships, from that of teacher and student, to that of scientist and specimen. As in B.I. Joe, where an American teaches some natives to smoke…later on to find the entire village has learned the habit— the finger points both ways.  And though blame is often mutual, the wound is extensive and deep.

With this, Esquillo throws back the stone more than fifty years later only to realize the biggest and powerful stone is one that Filipinos threw at themselves. Through his sculptures, where he puts together the jeepney and a wheelchair, he builds a symbol of the Filipino people. With the bright colors and lights of the jeepney leading the way but the driver’s seat bound by a metal wheelchair, he reveals that Philippine history, tainted may be by its colonial past, is also paralyzed by the Filipinos’ own doing. So often forgotten is the ‘man-in-the-mirror’ concept that a colorful and bright future is harder to achieve.

Politics and criticism aside, Esquillo looks back at the Philippines’ short history to wonder where it is heading and with his audience, decide if the road will be as bumpy as it has been. If Bato Bato sa Langit is about the Philippines, it is also for the Philippines. The game of throw-and-catch can end, and Filipinos have the power to get there.

The exhibit will open on June 9 until July 3 with an opening Reception: June 9, Wednesday, 6-9PM. Bato Bato sa Langit runs simultaneously with Being There 1946: The Legacy of Teodulo Protomartir at Silverlens, and Lover Lay Down by Christina Dy at 20Square at SLab. Artist Talk by Alfredo Esquillo Jr. is on June 26,Saturday 3-5pm at SLab, Silverlens Gallery. This event is free of charge.

For more details, please call 816-0044 and 0917-5874011, email manage@silverlensphoto.com. or log on to www.silverlensphoto.com. Silverlens Gallery is located at 2/F YMC Bldg. II, 2320 Pasong Tamo Ext., Makati. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday (10AM-7PM) and Saturdays (1–6PM).


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