SAN FRANCISCO — There is a huge painting that depicts the image of Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal, that recalls one of his famous quotes, “Whoever does not love the language of his birth is lower than a beast and a foul smelling ﬁsh.”
In another corner of the space, one is met head-on with the ubiquitous balikbayan box (repatriate box), a corrugated box containing items sent by overseas Filipinos. It also symbolizes the generosity of the overseas Filipino and their love for, and strong ties to, family back in the motherland. This image resonated with many gallery visitors as they claim that “This is the story of our lives.”
These are just some of the paintings on exhibit at KABILAAN (From Both Sides): Palomo + Carrion, a collaborative painting exhibition by Anthony Palomo and Mike Carrion, curated for Filipino American History Month. KABILAAN depicts the Philippine Diaspora: the life, aspirations, and dreams of Filipino immigrants in the U.S., including those still in the motherland who may be seeking greener pastures in America.
KABILAAN is also a thoughtful homage honoring the forefathers and those who came before, recognizing their great sacrifice to pave the way for those who arrived years later. The times may be different, changes may be in place, but for many kababayans (fellowmen), it is a continuing struggle to find and preserve oneself in today’s world.
At KABILAAN’s opening night, Philippine Consul General to San Francisco Henry Bensurto, Jr. expressed that “we are blessed to be given one month to celebrate Filipino American History Month and honor the legacies of our ancestors who have paved the way for us here in America.” Bensurto added that “the two words that best describe the underlying messages in the paintings of Anthony and Mike are meaningful and memorable. These two words are very relevant in the experiences of today’s Filipino diaspora, not just in the US, but the entire world.”
Palomo shared that preparing for the exhibit inspired them to “Gather our creative juices into telling our personal and individual stories and to translate them into paintings that embody our highest aspirations as Filipinos.”
Odette Keeley, board trustee at Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy remarked that “It is a visually stunning, inspiring exhibit of Filipino-American painters.” Sonia Delen, senior vice president at Bank of America Merrill Lynch shared how she loves art that represents our culture, and these paintings show that. ABS-CBN Managing Director for North and Latin America Jun del Rosario was struck at how one painting reflected how “You can live in today and still be proud of your heritage and identity.”
Carrion was overwhelmed at the public’s reception at opening night. “I never expected a lot of people to relate and find images that were very relevant to their experience as immigrants: from connecting with families back home through social media, to the simple joys of sending boxes filled with necessities to loved ones back home.”
KABILAAN was conceived from a simple conversation between friends. As Palomo and Carrion shared current experiences coming from both sides of the Pacific Ocean, this led to the desire to pass and preserve the Filipino heritage through their art.
President of the San Francisco League of Consular Corps Mariza Bensurto shared that she was moved with the art on display at the exhibit. “I feel that more people should come and see it. What a blessing for the community,” she added.