Arjen Abubakar and his artworks that depict the culture of the indigenous peoples of Palawan. | Images courtesy of DSWD MIMAROPA Field Office 

Arjen Abubakar, 16, of Barangay Tanglaw in Puerto Princesa City, is an emerging local artist whose visual art carries a heartwarming tribute to the indigenous Cuyunon culture.

At an early age of 13, Arjen already started painting artworks that feature his tribe’s culture, tradition, and arts. In fact, his tribe was his biggest inspiration when he completed his first painting.

Through the use of different colors, Arjen said he is able to express himself and the Cuyunon culture he is proud of.

“Doon (his paintings) pinakita ko ang mga kultura, tradisyon, at sining ng iba’t-ibang tribu sa Palawan. Inspirasyon [ko] ang iba’t-ibang [mga] tribu dahil malaki ang ambag nila sa [aming] sining at kultura,” Arjen said when asked about his artworks.


Showcasing the Cuyonon culture

In 2015, Arjen’s family became a member of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) under the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) program for IPs.

Through his attendance at different Youth Development Sessions (YDS), he was able to share his talent and made others learn more about his tribe. He was also able to go to a school where he developed his gift in expressing art through painting.

Arjen’s father is a Muslim from Mindanao and his mother is a Cuyunon. His parents decided to live in Palawan to build their family.

Being the second child, Arjen knows how hard life is. His father Adan, a fisherman, takes home roughly P5,000 a month, which is only for their basic needs and not enough to raise five children.

Just to have something to eat on their table, Arjen said he could not forget how his parents tried their best to borrow from a nearby sari-sari store. Life’s hard and he does not know how they’re even surviving.

Arjen recognizes his parents’ hard work so they can send him and his four other siblings to school.

Realizing their situation, the Cuyunon who is aspiring too to become an architect, said he is eager to reach his dreams by finishing his studies. And he promised this to his parents.

“Ipinapangako namin sa kanila na [kapag] umasenso na kami ay magkakasama pa rin kami,” Arjen swore.


In 2018, Arjen was invited to join an art contest and exhibit that allowed him to share the Cuyonon customs.

The event opened more doors for him to share his tribe’s culture through his paintings.

“Pagtapos ng exhibit, sinabi sa akin ng teacher ko na may gustong bumili ng artwork ko at dahil nga kailangan namin ng pera, pumayag ako. Binili ito sa halagang P1,500. Malaki tulong ‘yon sa amin,” he said.

“Doon ko naiisip na gumawa pa ng marami at magbenta,” Arjen added, saying the opportunity gave him the idea to use his talent to help his parents while sharing their culture and tradition through his artworks.

Arjen, who calls his favorite painting “Kultura mo, Bayan ko”, depicting the Cuyunon tribe became a head-turner when he recently presented it. All his paintings call for non-IPs to appreciate their customs and traditions as they are important in Palawan’s heritage


Keeping a dream

“Huwag [nating] susukuan ang ano mang pagsubok. Tuparin natin ang ating mga pangarap para hindi masayang ang pinaghirapan ng ating mga magulang. Lalo na ang tulong ng 4Ps,” Arjen reminded other beneficiaries of the program.

Arjen currently takes Arts and Design Strand (Grade 11) at Palawan National School (PNS). He has completed 35 paintings and has sold 13 pieces whose prices range from P500 to P1,000.

His painting “Kultura mo, Bayan ko” is on display and can be viewed at the Palawan Heritage Center in Puerto Princesa.

“Nais naming mga katutubo na mas makilala pa ang aming kultura at tradisyon sa pamamagitan ng media. Sa pamamagitan niyo, mas marami ang makakaunawa, tatangkilik at rerespeto. Kailangang respetuhin ang aming relihiyon at pananampalataya lalo na ang aming kulay at tradisyunal na kasuotan. Kailangan ng respeto, pag-unawa at paggalang para makamit ang kapayapaang aming ninanais,” Arjen said.

His quest in preserving his tribe’s cultural heritage does not end in selling his artworks. Through them, Arjen is able to share his talent and present a promising future for the Cuyonon tribe – a culture embraced by young Cuyunons and appreciated by many. (DSWD)


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