Heart rests in the art of Pedrong Masipag

Heart rests in the art of Pedrong Masipag

Courtesy by Drybrush Gallery Pedrong Masipag Series: Flower Harvest

A LEAP of faith has unexpected rewards. The sudden plunge may send you into depths unfathomable, you struggle for gasps of breath, and you find yourself in a sink-or-swim situation that you learn, fast, fast, to come to terms with.

Or it occurs as you fall headlong that you can learn to fly, ride on warm drafts of wind, and simply soar as you head skyward.

Artist Neptalie “Rico” Aunzo, after a string of dead-end jobs to eke out hardscrabble life for years, took his leap of faith after landing a job as training officer in a giant conglomerate. He never looked back in regret.

He gave himself a quaint moniker, “Pedrong Masipag”, which literally translates to “industrious or hard-working sturdy rock” that had also turned into a recurring figure in his paintings. He believes he deserves the name– he never had an easy-going life in his growing-up years.

He grew up without a father. He had to stand in as the breadwinner for his family. No work was beneath his capacity to endure, odds-and-ends work stints that include being a houseboy, an all-around errand boy, an ambulant peddler, whatever it takes to bring food to the table, earn extra cash to support his schooling.

Indeed, life doesn’t expect you to be tough but every difficulty thrown in your life path offers precious lessons on how to forge and steel one’s character, every step of the way.

There’s a soft side to him, though.

His heart yearns for art.

Gallery-hopping he turned to as an engaging pastime, introduced him to the works of masters– Ang Kiukok, Benedicto Cabrera, Mauro Malang Santos, Vicente Manansala, and Carlos “Botong” Francisco, among others.

Although largely unschooled in the ways of the brush, draughtsmanship, composition, and infusing a sense of harmony, rhythm, and order, Aunzo pored over the works of the artists he admired, studied in rapt attention to the details that the paintings proffered to every earnest viewer.

Night Mode series

The recurring Pedrong Masipag icon in Aunzo’s paintings takes leave of the crane necks of Mauro Malang-Santos’s figures. Instead, the icon of industry bears a neck more than equal to its face plus huge arms that suggests so much brawn, so much strength equal to the Biblical ‘praus’– the meek shall inherit the earth in reference to the reined-in power of war steeds.

Too, such physique, a throwback to Antheus born of Gaea or Mother Earth, also hints of St. Isidore, the well-loved patron saint of farmers and laborers who toiled and tilled as an act of love and devotion.

The closed eyelids of his figures convey an air of reverent prayer, likely an allusion to his life-changing “leap of faith,” aah, his art draws from his life, indeed.

However, Aunzo explains: “This is to honor my son who was born blind. For me, blind people may not view the world as we see it, but they have their other senses open; thus, in some ways, they can see the world notwithstanding the darkness that surrounds them.”

And this darkness pervades his current series of works, “Night Mode” in which Pedrong Masipag shines subtly as light at the end of a bleak tunnel, as a stygian backdrop to the canvases suggests.

As always, the icon of hard work is in “barong Tagalog,” cut and sewn from artisanal pineapple fiber that affirms transparency and delicacy of strength. It is Aunzo’s way of affirming that Pedrong Masipag is a true-brown Filipino.

Despite the bleakness of the backdrop to Pedrong Masipag, he is rapt at work, in productive activity that outshines in irony the gloomy atmosphere that currently pervades the nation, struck by a downward spiral stemming from an enforced halt in various spheres of economic activity.

“I suffered from anxiety and was very worried for my family’s safety and well-being. The first thought that came into my mind during the lockdown was, “How can I feed my family?” But as the head of the family, I need to be strong. So I used the pandemic as an inspiration; thus, the Night Mode Series was born,” he said.

Heaven in the Heartland

Aunzo is setting his sights on enshrining the Pedrong Masipag icon in a paradise of sorts, if only in his art, or in his heart.

The icon is an embodiment of the noble Filipino, he explains. “He is a decent person, with high morals, and earns an honest penny through his hard work. We Filipinos are hardworking people. And we do everything for the sake of our family.

“I want to work on this in the future.”


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