(Left) Jonathan Benitez; (middle) Leonard Ansiong; and (left) Manuel Joseph Tan. | Photos from the artists.

Three Palawan-based artists have qualified for the annual GSIS National Art Competition, with the theme “Alay na Ginhawa sa Gitna ng Pandemya.”

All three artists qualified in the “Representational” category and were notified individually at different times by the state-owned insurance company.

Palawan News reached out to Jonathan Benitez, Leonard Ansiong, and Manuel Joseph Tan to share their thoughts about their acceptance

“Pasalamat na rin dahil sa mahigit 5,000 entries, nakapasok ako sa shortlist, tatlo kami sa Palawan. Pero sa GSIS ngayon pa lang after three attempts,” said Benitez.

“Magaan sa pakiramdam, dahil libong mga artist din ang nag-submit ng entries. Pero ang mas importante sakin yung nabigyan ng tsansang makita at maka-interact ng personal sa mas maraming tao ‘yong sining, at kung ano ang nakapaloob dito,” said Tan.

“Isang malaking karangalan bilang isang Palawenyo artist ang ma-qualify sa ganitong patimpalak kung saan nakakatulong din kahit na limited ‘yong resources nakakapagpa-boost ng confidence as an artist,” said Ansiong.

Benitez is well-known for his multimedia works that are inspired by nature and the human form. He is also no stranger to art awards and international acclaim. He previously participated in the Philippine Art Awards, Don Papa Art Competition, and the Ateneo Art Acquisition Award. His work, “Takaslupa,” is about finding comfort in fleeing to nature when the world is overwhelmed with fear from catching COVID-19.

“Sa sitwasyon natin, nature ang pinaka-soothing relief, presko, tahimik at malayo sa tao. Reflection ito ng immediate environment ko as dito nakatira, madami mapuntahan na lugar malayo sa tao,” said Benitez.

Tan is a sought-after tattoo artist who also makes large-scale paintings. This is the first time in 20 years since he joined an art competition. His submitted work, “Ani,” pays tribute to farmers, who he described as one of the most neglected workers in the country but are also the most important workers, with or without a global pandemic.

“Nagkaroon na ako ng solo exhibit at naging parte ng ibang exhibit, pero usually ‘yong mga paintings at ibang artworks ko ay for personal collection ko lang. I am a tattoo artist by profession, meron akong ilang local and international tattoo competitions na sinalihan at maswerteng napanalunan in the past,” Tan said.

For Ansiong, this is the first time joining a national art competition. His submitted work, called “The Comforter of the Afflicted,” shows a Pieta-like image of a female figure holding up the limp body of a man. Around the two figures, there is imagery relating the the current COVID-19 crisis, such as figures wearing 17th-century plague masks.

“The painting portrays the pandemic and the plight of the Filipino family. The sacrifice of our frontliners to give comfort to our kababayan in all their afflictions,” said Ansiong.

The GSIS National Art Competition is a yearly call for original works of different categories of visual art and is hosted by the Government Service Insurance System. For 2021, there are three categories – representational, non-representational, and sculpture – where artists can submit works.

This year’s theme is “Alay na Ginhawa sa Panahon ng Pandemya.” According to the official GSIS website, winners of each category will take home cash prizes. Past winners of the competition also had their work exhibited in the GSIS Museo ng Sining.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.