DISCLAIMER: The contents of the artwork and the accompanying narratives written by the artist solely reflect the views of the artist and do not reflect the official views or policies of the FCV Plaza Mural Committee or the Filipino Community of Seattle.

“Ibig Naming Matanghal sa Lupain ng America”

Eliseo Art Silva

Overview of the Mural Design

Eliseo Art Silva

Sarimanok, Polychromed Wood Ornament, National Museum of the Philippines

Sarimanok
Polychromed Wood Ornament
National Museum of the Philippines

image11.jpg

Naga
Maranao fabric design motif
National Museum of the Philippines

Our stories make us Filipino and Filipino American.

In the mural, symbolically binding “our stories” collectively as Filipinos and Filipino Americans is the mythical creature known as Sarimanok1 which balances the Earth with the universe.

Ruler of the harvest season, Sarimanok embodies light through the precise movements of the sun and moon. Visually integrated into the mural scenes, figures and events, while clearly visible from a distance, the Sarimanok (rendered in magenta colors) encompasses panels #3 and #4 with its broad wings in flight covering both panels, represents “The Filipino American Story”.

On the other hand, in reverence to the mythical water-serpent Naga, the Sarimanok Bird offers a Sarimanok Fish to symbolize their unending partnership.  The “Naga” in the design is the mural wall itself (representing the Greater Seattle community), circling half the entire plaza, welcoming residents, and visitors alike to the Filipino Community Village- symbolically reaching out with arms wide open in a virtual embrace. While the four panel, two-part mural is both our guiding light and our gift to the ‘Beloved Community’2 through the bird-and-fish creature known as Sarimanok.

While Sarimanok Bird in Panels #3 and #4 depart towards the heavens, Panels #1 and #2 transitions to the terrestrial domain as represented by the Sarimanok Fish (rendered in peach colors and nativized as an Alaskan King Salmon) which is visible from afar and large enough to bind both first two panels to represent “The Filipino Story”.

Reigning below ancient lakes, the serpent Naga is the rainbow reflection of the waterfall, deciding the planting season. Thus, the entire arch-shaped wall, with all its colors absorbed and radiated by the multiple-panel mural facing the plaza is reminiscent of rainbows. Reflecting the cheerful, happy, joyous, hospitable, fearless, loving, daring, and warm welcome extended to all peoples within the Greater Seattle area and beyond.  

1  -  Sarimanok Mythology: Potri Ranka Manis Queano Nur, Philippine Nationality Room Dedication Booklet, Page 23, 2019)

2 - Martin Luther King popularized the notion of the “Beloved Community.” King envisioned the Beloved Community as a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one's fellow human beings

Finding the Wide American Earth

Eliseo Art Silva

This film was produced by Roberto San Luis and Loren Roberts from HumanGood. Special thanks to our partners at HumanGood and Beacon Development Group for bringing this project to life.

 
Context and Description of Mural Design

Eliseo Art Silva

 

The earliest Filipinos arrived at Morro Bay, California in the 16th century, and Filipino Americans have long played an integral role in shaping the life of our country.

 

They have been the artists who challenge us, the educators who keep us informed, and the laborers of our growing economy.

-Pres. Barak H. Obama, October 1, 2016

 

I believe that in order to change the world, we must first change the story. Such is the power of stories and how we tell those stories shapes how we view the world, our place in it, and determines our own transformative impact in the world. 

The first time I questioned everything I learned in my Philippine History classes was when I came across British author, Austin Coates’ biography of Jose Rizal: “Rizal: Philippine Nationalist and Martyr” (Oxford University Press HK,1968). That book revealed to me a flesh and blood human being who did extraordinary things in such a short period of time. More than that, Rizal was Filipino. That little book by a biographer who personally knew and met Rizal’s counterparts in the region: India’s Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, and China’s Dr. Sun Yat Sen had a profound impact on me.  Coates’ book was my first introduction to a Filipino that shifted/moved countries, continents, and his contemporaries globally by lifting The Filipino Story as the protagonist and a major player of the global narrative to play a world-role.

My aspiration in creating sequential narrative art in the form of public art murals is to present an alternate history that for me challenges the perspective, context, and narrative of the colonizer’s intent of erasing the subjugated people’s patriarchal resources in order to objectify the natives and elevate the new colonizer as the main event and protagonist of their new subjects. 

My design for the mural was inspired by Jose Rizal’s national project for the Philippines embodied in this quote culled from El Filibusterismo: 

“Our liberty will not be secured at the sword's point. We must win our freedom by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual, loving what is just, what is good, what is great, to the point of dying for it. When a people reach that height, God will provide a weapon, the idols will be shattered, tyranny will crumble like a house of cards, and liberty will shine out like the first dawn.”

 

What Jose Rizal meant by this “call to arms” in his novel is: 1) Before we wage a war of independence we must first know what we are fighting and dying for so we can determine what we have to offer to deserve that “seat at the table” of power and influence (Panel #1); 2) For us to play a world-role (Panel #2), we must first lift our stories and art to such heights that they become a main event, a major player, even a protagonist of the global narrative (Panel #3); and 3) Finally, when every native of the country elevates the memories of their land and stories of their own side of the earth as the main event of their own identity, creating a bridge from their ancestors to the rest of the world, THE PEOPLE will collectively be provided by God with a weapon: reclaiming the “human face” of the original 1898 Philippine Flag (erased by the Americanization Movement of the Philippines)  to transform the global cultural landscape (Panel #4). 

On the left side of Rizal’s face on Panel #1 is painted a historical event that is reminiscent of the El Filibusterismo quote applied in real life. The event is the celebration (evening of June 25,1884) of the Filipino community at Restaurant Ingles in Madrid, Spain in honor of two Filipino artists awarded the gold and silver medals respectively for their entries for the National Visual Arts Exposition in Spain. This was a major triumph for this event placed Filipino art and artists on the world stage. It was 22-year-old Jose Rizal that was selected to give the “Brindis” or Toast Speech, the highlight of that evening. This was also the debut of Rizal in the public scene. Rizal had just started writing his first novel prior to this, and at some point, after this public proclamation and the end of that year, Rizal became a “separatist” or an advocate for Philippine Independence (Fr. John Schumacher, S.J.). 

Excerpts from Rizal’s Brindis:

“Such is, indeed, the reason for this gathering. In the history of mankind there are names which in themselves signify an achievement-which call up reverence and greatness…To such belong the names of Luna and Hidalgo: their splendor illuminates two extremes of the globe-the Orient and the Occident, Spain and the Philippines. As I utter them, I seem to see two luminous arches that rise from either region to blend there on high, impelled by the sympathy of a common origin, and from that height to unite two peoples with eternal bonds; two peoples whom the seas and space vainly separate; two peoples among whom do not germinate the seeds of disunion blindly sown by men and their despotism. Luna and Hidalgo are the pride of Spain as of the Philippines-though born in the Philippines, they might have been born in Spain, for genius has no country; genius bursts forth everywhere; genius is like light and air, the patrimony of all: cosmopolitan as space, as life and God. 

“The Philippines' patriarchal era is passing; the illustrious deeds of its sons are not circumscribed by the home; the eastern chrysalis from the orient is emerging from its cocoon…

“I drink, then, to our artists Luna and Hidalgo, genuine and pure glories of two peoples. I drink to the persons who have given them aid on the painful road of art! I drink that the Filipino youth-sacred hope of my fatherland

“The furrow is laid out and the land is not sterile!”

What is remarkable is that Rizal has endowed both artists the influence and power to: “…lay the ground fertile” for Philippine Art and civilization to take seed and flourish. More than that, Rizal declared that by virtue of the dual triumphs of both artists, they collectively had created two distinct states: Spain and the Philippines. What a bold statement by a young Filipino to deliver in a seminal event (covered by local and international media) in a public venue! Jose Rizal, at 22 years old and 14 years prior to June 12,1898 (signing of the Declaration of Philippine Independence) have proclaimed his own Declaration of Philippine Independence. 

What is being portrayed in Juan Luna’s award winning 13’ x 23’ canvas that compelled Rizal to identify it (along with Hidalgo’s painting) as the progenitor of the flourishing of a Philippine Golden Age? Although painted in the Italian School of painting, the massive spectacle titled: “Spoliarium” features two bloodied and grotesque fallen gladiators being dragged successively (like an assembly line) into a heap of dead bodies underneath the Roman Coliseum. After closer inspection, the viewer would notice that majority of the gaze of the audience in the painting are not directed at the “main event” of the Luna masterpiece: the violence, horror and pain inflicted upon the two dead bodies of Roman Gladiators. The public ‘s attention is directed towards the right side of the canvas, or “what comes next”, which is left to the viewer’s imagination to be brought alive. That “invisible” scene stirred by the imagination, with Luna’s artwork as a departure point, is the Philippine condition under Spain. That is why that painting had a major impact. Luna’s Spoliarium is widely honored and recognized as the “icon” of Philippine Painting itself. In fact, a visit at the National Gallery of Fine Arts (National Museum) of the Philippines is never complete without viewing and experiencing The Spoliarium by Juan Luna. 

What are in the 4-Panel-Mural

The mural’s theme and title were inspired by Carlos Bulosan’s poem “I Want the Wide American Earth” (ca. 1950) which was part of a fundraiser for the legal defense fund of Local 37 officers facing deportation. 

The entire four-panel mural is activated by art and artifacts, in short, an artwork about art itself. For example, the first two panels are visually integrated by an Alaskan King Salmon fish with its head being cut-off by an Alaskan “Ulu” knife. Coincidentally, the Filipino word for “head” is “ulo” and in the mural, this knife’s handle is held by a US Bald Eagle’s talon, with Mark Twain grabbing both legs, preventing the eagle from completely decapitating the fish head. This section symbolizes the tragedy of the “father figure” of Filipinos being replaced by Uncle Sam of the United States through an American style education that aims to rid the Philippines of Filipinos. 

Towards the bottom right corner is Paciano, Rizal’s older brother reading to the young Jose Rizal. I juxtaposed ancient Philippine gold Death masks with Mark Twain’s suggested new design for the US Flag as the new Imperial Power of the Philippines - with black stripes (instead of white) and cross bones instead of stars in the US Flag. Hovering above Rizal brother is a “Snow Globe” with a tableau of the American Dream. This entire scene posits the question: “How would Jose Rizal turn out to be if he was born and educated under US colonial rule, instead of under Spanish rule?” Would a generation that equals and surpasses theirs ever surface under the Americanization Movement of the Philippines? 

Adjacent to that scene is the Salmon head with an eye rendered with a Cordillera “Lingling-O”: a fertility and Tree of Life symbol. Although in this case, the “eye” is dead, with that same “eye” shape on top of a US Bomb dropped into Intramuros (the ancient Walled City where most of the Spanish residents of the Philippines lived), the showcase and centerpiece of the Philippines’ renown as the “Pearl of the Orient” reduced to dust by the United States during their war against Japan on Philippine soil. 

Inside the mouth of the fish are decapitated head artifacts from Philippine Art. These same “heads” on Panel #2 are recreated on Panel #4 within a Filipinized “Black Lives Matter” Fist (Filipino Pride Fist), placed on top of each other to recreate a Totem-like installation in honor of the celebrated folk arts traditions of the Pacific Northwest. This section symbolizes “revival, restoration, and rebirth” by undoing the trauma and pain of colonization and the Americanization of the Philippines through the lifting of our Filipino/Filipino American Stories by the surfacing of an Ethnic and Creative Economy (symbolized by the giant Babaylan lifting up Filipino legacies to the world, capped by a massive salakot) through the creation of Filipino Art. 

 

The prosperity of a country depends on the development of its own stories as THE MAIN EVENT, so it can amplify a Creative Economy and an Ethnic Economy, making The Filipino Story a major player and even a protagonist of the regional and global narrative. Otherwise, we will continue to be avoided and misunderstood, even ignored since we ourselves avoid our own stories as the main event and major player of nation-building. Instead, we choose Americanization, which is essentially Telling Other People's Stories in our own country ON THEIR BEHALF. What do we have to bring at the global table of power and influence, when we are simply mouthpieces of foreigners, even those who were invaders of our own land?

 

Look at Japan and Korea who globalize by nativizing foreign ideas, to make them their own. Thus, the Japanese and Korean stories continue to be The Main Event, supplanting the foreign one/the imported original. Unlike us, who habitually erase our own stories in favor of foreigners' ideas and stories, forever rendering all of us on "survival mode" by focusing on a service-oriented economy, and never a Creative Economy based on our own identity, art, and stories and even an Ethnic Economy- which is default and second nature to any Korean or Japanese, which humanizes them even further.

 

On the other hand, we objectify our nation and people and turning a paradise into a desert by our continued preference towards Americanization and avoiding the professionalization and amplification of BEING A FILIPINO in our own country. 

 

This mural depicts 500 years of history-ever since Ferdinand Magellan planted a wooden Cross in the Kingdom of Cebu to reveal to our ancestors the “western face” of the spiritual, the Divine and God. In answer to that, I included Filipino counterparts of three American iconic landmarks which defines the US cultural landscape: 1) the Statue of Liberty (Panel #4 has a Pinay Mother and Child with the mother holding up a sulo or Filipino bamboo torch); 2) Mt Rushmore National Memorial of US Presidents (Panel #4 has six monumental giant heads rising from the ground, with a Philippine Sun juxtaposed and hovering in front of them; and the 3) Space Needle (a Babaylan raises upwards a bilao containing Filipino products and unique contributions to the world, capped by a salakot.

 

When our ancestors first encountered Magellan’s crew, they saw their “arrival” as a homecoming, their Catholic Mass as the West’s counterpart to our ancestor’s own blood compact (thus, they were not aware they were baptized and converted to Christianity, instead they believed they just earned a new military alliance against Datu Lapulapu) and viewed the Santo Nino as the white man’s counterpart to their own anitos. In short, while our Filipino ancestors saw Magellan’s men as their equal, Magellan saw common ground with our forebear’s love for God. His extended stay was never part of his plan. In fact, his presence in the Philippines was a detour after they lost a lot of their supplies and resources when they landed in the Marianas Islands. 

 

I also included the popular “Moth and the Flame” story connecting the 1st Panel with the 2nd Panel. Across Rizal’s shoulder, and underneath the scene where Rizal proclaimed, “The Eastern Chrysallis from the Orient is emerging from its cocoon”, in 1884 is a chrysalis of a Magellan Birdwing butterfly. This same creature endemic to the Philippines re-appears as a full-grown butterfly drawn to the “Eternal Flame” honoring the Philippine Camelot: the 1st Republic of the Philippines along with its numerous martyrs and heroes. One ray of the Philippine Sun provides a bridge to the Philippines as a sanctuary and haven for foreigners - welcoming Ten Waves of refugees from all over the world: 800 White Russians Flee Socialist Russia (1923), 1,200 Jews escape Nazi Germany (1930s), Spanish people exiled after Civil War (1939), Chinese run from Communist Rule (1940), 2nd Wave of Russians arrive (1947), Vietnamese “boat people” sail for Philippines (1975-1992), Iranians flee revolution (1979),  Southeast Asians evade political crisis (1980-1994); East Timorese seek refuge in the Philippines; and Philippines extends arm to persecuted Rohingya.

 

In addition, Panel #3 re-creates a scene from America is in the Heart (1946) when the main character of the story returns to Seattle and was introduced to the labor movement after witnessing a Union Picket on top of the 12th Avenue South Bridge. This fictional scene was based on an actual event in Bulosan’s life shown in the mural with his left hand reaching out to embrace the labor movement. That same bridge, a 1912 steel bridge which connected two of the largest Asian neighborhoods of the city, was renamed Jose Rizal Bridge almost four decades later.

 

In the mural, Carlos Bulosan’s arm along with Larry Itliong’s are segmented. I identify with the segmentation of their bodies to my own experience as an immigrant in this country, evocative of our shared experience of having to navigate between two worlds daily. Hovering above the protest march is a Bakunawa (sea serpent-dragon that is the cause of eclipses, earthquakes, and typhoons) spitting out a moon, ending an eclipse. It is believed by our ancient ancestors that during an eclipse, the Bakunawa devours the sun or moon. For darkness to end and light to prevail, THE PEOPLE make a lot of noise in order to force the Bakunawa to spit out the moon or sun.

 

Similarly, a dragon-like bird mythological creature called Minokawa is spitting out a sun after Larry Itliong (top right on Panel #3) shouts: WELGA (strike)! Underneath Itliong’s right arm are Baybayin text which spells out: ISANG BAGSAK (One Down). This was the solidarity clap devised by Larry Itliong to strengthen solidarity among the workers. 

 

Finally, in the 2nd Panel, the flags on the top left corner have human faces on the Sun of the Philippine National Flag. This was the original design of the symbol of the Philippines until the Americanization Movement erased that significant part of the flag. That erasure of the human face is reminiscent on how the current educational system of the Philippines continue to lift the US as the main event and protagonist of Philippine history - discrediting the first Republic of the Philippines it violently dismantled via the character assassination of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who established it and defended it for three years against the supreme might of the United States ending US Manifest Destiny and sparing our neighbors in the region from subsequent American land wars of invasion. 

 

On the 4th and last panel is a giant Philippine Sun hovering above another Philippine Sun integrated into the Filipino Community Vilage Plaza. Taking their turn in restoring a human face to our cherished symbol of Filipino nationalism are Filipino Americans who put a human face to Filipino Americans at home and abroad, wherever Filipinos may be.

 

In conclusion, at the end of the day, all that we aspire for and what is needed to be done are contained within these verses from Jose Rizal’s last work of art. The same poem, which was read in US Congress on June 19, 1902, to convince American legislators that the Filipinization Movement launched on June 12,1898 should be recognized and restored as the main event and protagonist of the Filipino Story (US Recognition of Philippine Independence on July 4, 1946). 

 

124 years later since that most sacred day… have we faced and met that challenge as Filipinos and American Filipinos?Do we consider the 29-year-old Filipino selected by the Generation of 1898 to lead and establish that Republic of the Philippines which elevated The Filipino Story as a main event and protagonist of World History as Asia’s 1st Republic a hero or a villain?

 

Mithi ng aking buhay, adhikang nagniningas

Mabuhay! hiyaw ng diwang handa nang maglakbay

O kay timyas pumanaw, tamis ang kamatayan

Upang ika'y mabuhay, maitanghal ka lamang*

Sa iyong sinapupunan malaong hihimlay

-Dr. Jose Rizal, Mi Ultimo Adios (1896)

 

(*Translation: For YOU to LIVE TO LIVE and come to life!  So YOU can be “SEEN”, extolled, honored and recognized!)

Artist Statement

Eliseo Art Silva

 

I have a longstanding interest in art, painting, and community-based and participatory approaches to public art.

In my work as a muralist, I always find pedagogical ways for youth and community members to bring in their cultural perspectives, knowledge, and imagination into the creative process. For example, in designing a middle school mural, I used drama and theater arts with youth. The students decide how a scene is depicted in their school wall art by acting them out.

I have a lot to contribute including decades long experience creating murals alongside community members. I am naturally inclined to bring in a deep disciplinary sense of history, especially those kinds of history that are seldom represented. But I also would have so much to learn from other artists, students, teachers and colleagues in the process of making art.

I believe in the philosophy of building off from the cultural wealth in communities. I hope to gain the pedagogical knowledge to work in a genuinely democratic space and learn dialogical approaches to working with students and community members.

Most of all, to promote and professionalize the arts in this country's wonderfully diverse neighborhoods.
 

Eliseo Art Silva

Biography

image1.png

 

Eliseo Art Silva, born on 1972 in Manila, is a contemporary Filipino painter.

He began drawing at the age of 4, creating images on manila paper (used as bags for hot pandesal) while his mother managed their family-owned bakery. As a 3rd-5th Grade student at Benedictine Abbey School, Silva earned his first street art name: "ELESI " (Filipino word for airplane propeller, and short for Eliseo) for being his school's most in-demand chalkboard artist. At the age of 10, Eliseo created his first mural painted directly on a wall a 5' x 15' mural inside their bedroom depicting the characters of Batibot (Filipino Sesame Street) and its US counterpart converged into one scene.

Silva started taking formal painting lessons at the age of 11 under Roger San Miguel while a student at Letran College in Manila where he received his first mural commission years later at 15 years old. He majored in the Visual Arts at the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) in Los Banos, Laguna. He immigrated to the United States in 1989 and obtained his BFA at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.

In 2003, he earned an MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Hoffberger School of Painting in Baltimore, Maryland. He won the Nehru Gold Medal in India for his painting (representing the Philippines), a Gold Medal (most outstanding Visual Artist) while at the PHSA, and a Grandes Figuras Award from Letran College. He received the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant, Independence Foundation Artist's Travel Grant, the Award of Design Excellence from the City of LA Department of Cultural Affairs and the Purchase Award from Binney and Smith.

Silva has held numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad. His works have been featured by the Smithsonian Institution, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Honolulu Academy of Art Museum, the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, the Painted Bride Art Center, the Conner Contemporary, the Nehru Gallery (India), the Piramide Cultural Center (Mexico), Plug-In Gallery (Canada) and the Skirball Cultural Center.

Silva is the artist behind "Talang Gabay- Our Guiding Star", the 82' x 30' Eastern Gateway to Historic Filipinotown recognized as the nation's largest Filipino American monument and the “Gintong Kasaysayan” Filipinotown mural, described by the Smithsonian as "bold and daring", it’s the first artwork to honor Larry Itliong as the catalyst of the great 1965 Delano Grape Strike. It’s also honored as the "most significant Filipino mural in the country" by the LA Times, as one of the "20 iconic murals of Los Angeles" by LA Weekly, and as the "most famous Filipino American artwork". (Ling, Austin, 2010)

Filipino American Artist | Los Angeles| Eliseo Art Silva

Explore the Mural

Use the links below to learn more from the artist and the many details within the artwork itself.