Sunday, November 20, 2011

Identifying with the Supremo

“Ang Supremo,” a statue distinctively sculpted by Ben-Hur Villanueva as a tribute to Andres Bonifacio, constantly relives a poignant heroic act extremely significant to Philippine Independence.

‘Ang Supremo,’ a public art installation by Ben-Hur Villanueva at the Bonifacio Global City.
From afar, the 15-foot tall brass and bronze tableau situated at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) appears to be a typical representation of the revolutionary plebeian hero. However, a closer look would reveal a Bonifacio not with a raised bolo in hand, but a crumpled piece of paper regarded as the cedula.
This, according to Villanueva, is a reflection on the meaning of a true “Supremo.” For him, “Bonifacio became a leader, the Supremo of Katipuneros, not because he was capable of armed revolt but because he was intelligent.”

The former and long-time art educator in Ateneo and a past president of the Society of Philippine Sculptors, Villanueva also said the tearing of the cedula made during the “Cry at Pugadlawin” in August 1896 is a very important identification at that time.

“It represented a stronger blow to the dignity of the colonial rulers. A brave act of defiance that has clear meaning,” he said.

For Villanueva, it is a protest that is more effective and can be participated in by many unlike going to battle, which is reserved for those who are physically capable.

It immortalizes the plebeian hero’s struggle for the nation’s freedom. It was him and his Katipunan who asked for sovereignty when everyone else simply asked for equality.

The sculpture’s triangular formation is also an important feature. It includes two other elements: one is a fellow katipunero holding not a usual long-barreled gun but a long bamboo spear which symbolizes a genuine Filipino fight, and the other, a woman holding the movement’s flag — Gregoria de Jesus — the Lakambini of the Katipunan, founder of its women’s chapter, custodian of its documents and wife of Bonifacio.

“Ang Supremo” was installed at the Bonifacio Global City in 1998 after besting 21 invited entries depicting the historical figure after which the Bonifacio Global City was named.
However, for Villanueva, having his Supremo stood out was not the only important thing. As a teacher, he never stops sharing his art which he considers his life-long passion.

“I want my art to be for the masses. I am an artist for others. I want that they could have an access and identify with it. That’s why I really appreciate BGC’s public art program because it is free to be seen by all. It is a busy area yet everyone can stop for awhile and be comforted by art. It is rewarding that there are places like BGC that support artists like us,” he said.

Aside from “Ang Supremo,” the BGC also has other public art pieces like Juan Sajid Imao’s “Kasaysayan,” Ferdinand Cacnio’s “Pasasalamat,” and Gerardo Leonardo’s “Balanghai,” showcasing the rich cultural and historical heritage of the country.

Villanueva’s “Ang Supremo” is located at a pocket park along Rizal Drive and 32nd Street. To date, the BGC, through the Bonifacio Art Foundation Inc., maintains a total of 12 public art installations in the district.

June 12, 2011

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