In exhibit ‘Mukhang Pamilyar,’ artist honors lives of unsung heroes, ordinary folk

Photo by Aleli Madrigal/Bulatlat


MANILA – Artist Jesús Manuel Santiago, fondly called Koyang Jess, launched his first ever exhibit titled “Mukhang Pamilyar” at the Gallery One in the UP Fine Arts Gallery in Diliman, Quezon City.

“It is called ‘Mukhang Pamilyar’ because it features people in the life of Jess Santiago, including his family, relatives, children, grandchildren, his family in the world of arts and activism as well as familiar faces in the mass movement,” said Lisa Ito, the exhibit curator and secretary general of Concerned Artists of the Philippines.

Photo by Aleli Madrigal/Bulatlat

The exhibit features 73 watercolor paintings that feature the lives of unsung heroes, some dead and some still alive, and ordinary folk.

“The portraits displayed here are distinct from one another, different people, age, and place but all are family in a sense that all of them have personal connections and are part of a one big family through arts and activism,” said Ito.

Lisa Ito, the exhibit curator and secretary general of Concerned Artists of the Philippines.
(Photo by Aleli Madrigal/Bulatlat)

Santiago, a founding member of CAP, is a poet, writer, musician, and visual artist. His works have been acclaimed as these tackled resistance to the Marcos Sr. dictatorship and the aspirations of the ordinary folk.

According to Ito, Santiago has many portrait sketches but watercolor painting is the medium he chose to pursue and many of these artworks were made during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown when social gatherings were restricted and limited.

Photo by Janica Zamaro/Bulatlat

“Jess is a self-taught artist. That said trait inspires artists and aspiring ones alike. He simply shows that it’s never too late to start learning about the arts. It’s never too late to reach a mastery or to improve your art, and to make very relevant and moving artworks at any time. He simply shows that art is for everyone,” she stated.

Launched last month, Santiago’s “Mukhang Pamilyar” is open to the public until Nov. 18, Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The exhibit was launched in collaboration with CAP, the UP College of Fine Arts-Department of Visual Communication, Asian Music for People’s Peace and Progress, and the UP Diliman Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts.

Santiago’s literary works have been published by both national and international magazines and anthologies including the Caravan magazine of the global group Alliance for the Responsible and United World. His poem “There is a Village in the Making” was published by Caravan and has been translated from English into French, as well as recognized by Komisyon ng Wikang Pilipino’s Poet of the Year in 1978 and 1979.

He is also a musician and among his albums are Halina in 1990 and Obando in 1993.These albums include the songs Huling Balita, Martsa ng Bayan, the lullaby Meme Na and Pitong Libong Pulo which describes the life of marginalized Filipinos, depicting societal and political realities during the Martial Law era in the 1970s. (JJE, RTS, RVO) (

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