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Category Archives: Highlighted Kultural Workers

The Red Traveler Speaks Her Mind: An Interview with Ms. Con Cabrera of Artists’ ARREST

Posted By Ronalyn V. Olea On March 28, 2009

Ms. Con Cabrera, a member of the Artists’ Response to the Call for Social Change and Transformation, or Artists’ ARRREST, in this interview shares with Bulatlat her views on arts, issues confronting Philippine society today and some personal things that she wanted to share with her audience.


Ms. Con Cabrera, a member of the Artists’ Response to the Call for Social Change and Transformation, or Artists’ ARRREST, in this interview shares with Bulatlat her views on arts, issues confronting Philippine society today and some personal things that she wanted to share with her audience.

This young artist had shown her prowess in an exhibit last year, MissBehaving, together with Ms. Bunch Garcia, another superb young artist and a member the Neo-Angono Arts Collective, which garnered a lot of applauses and commendations.

The young artist, who graduated from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), is now making waves in the art scene with her unique style of presenting the people’s struggles, particularly of women, in her immaculate white canvases.

Our first encounter was in October 2008 at the Lunduyan Art Gallery in Kamuning, Quezon City. She and Ms. Garcia had hung their paintings on the walls of the 30 x 30-meter gallery. These were pictures of women of different types, shapes, sizes; showing different moods, ideals, intellect. Ms. Cabrera’s series of pieces was titled “The Red Traveler”.

MissBehaving was indeed a success but between the exhibit and this interview I hardly heard from Maria Consuelo G. Cabrera, or Con.

Con Cabrera (left) with Bunch Garcia during the “Fact Sheet” exhibit. (Photo courtesy of Con Cabrera)

The 28-year old Pampangueña artist hails from a family of well-known artists. Ben Cabrera (BenCab) and the late Salvador Cabrera are her uncles (“They’re my father’s cousins,” she said in an email interview). And some of her other kin are also into arts.

Noel Sales Barcelona (NSB): After your two-woman show with Ms. Bunch Garcia, what has made Con Cabrera busy? Is there any new work?

Maria Consuelo Cabrera (MCC): After the October ‘08 show, I joined several group shows in Novermber, “boXed 3″ organized by J. Pacena II (Cubicle Art Gallery, Pasig), “TutoKKK: Anong K mo?” organized by the artists’ alliance Tutok Karapatan (Blanc Compound, Mandaluyong and Blanc Makati), and Artists’ ARREST’s “Fact Sheet” exhibit last December where I helped curate.

I’m currently employed as an art director in a publishing company. Aside from my day job, I’m busy helping ARREST in organizing for their events and campaigns. I’m also busy with my upcoming group shows, and another volunteer project where my friends and I paint on bare rooms and walls of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center. We started this last Christmas break, and do it on scheduled weekends of each month. So far, we were able to paint two rooms, including the Hema room where cancer kids have their chemo sessions, and the wall of the OPD waiting area. I also started a project, “Naku! I’m FIRED!” — which addresses the issue of mass layoffs. It’s a cross-disciplinary art project patterned after “Wrapped” by Mark Salvatus where the outputs are multimedia and participatory. I plan to collaborate with other artists in this project and try to bring them to pickets and rallies of workers to do their art and interact with the people.

NSB: What/who are your influences in art?

MCC: I am fan of women artists like Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian early baroque painter; Ofelia Gelvezon-Tequi, Filipina painter and printmaker who lives in France; Brenda Fajardo and Karen Flores. I admire their perseverance in being the artists that they are, especially with the art field being dominated by men. I am also inspired by works of the masters Juan Luna, Amorsolo and Botong Francisco, also by artists BenCab (of course), Manny Garibay, Jose Tence Ruiz, young artist Wire Tuazon, and red artist, Parts Bagani. I also draw inspiration from contemporary street artists like Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Bansky and painter Ian Francis.

Point of view in arts, being an artist, and the roles that an artist plays in the society

NSB: How do you view your art and how do you define art? Is it just confined to self-expression and/or gratification?

MCC: First, I would like to say that I am thankful that I am able to show my art at this particular time of my life when I have grown to be the activist that I am. Though I would not want to label my art as social realism because I am afraid of the expectations one is burdened with when labeled as such, I think I can say that I am resolved to create art that tackles the masses’ struggle against those who oppress them. I have nothing against artists who make art for self-expression. I think that phase is natural at some point in an artist’s life, and I am hopeful that there is also a point where an artist showcases content that is beyond it, that there would be a time in their lives where they would devote their art to an advocacy and/or the further advancement of art in the country.

NSB: How do you assess the art industry in the country?

MCC: I think art industry in the Philippines has a lot of potential. Even in the early times, we had proven that we are rich in talent. We have skills and talents that are recognized by the world. I just wish that there would be more advanced ways of preserving artworks, more art historians, more published local art books, more art and cultural education for the masses, and more recognition for our local artists, and art and culture exposure that reaches beyond the metro.

Kompo by Con Cabrera

Critique on issues affecting culture and the arts

NSB: What are your views about…

(a) Globalization and its effects on arts and the art industry as a whole?

MCC: Art is becoming a commercialized industry, it is affected by the crisis because it lowers the demand for art selling. But then again, it becomes rich in inspiration and I wish more artists look at it from this perspective to make them create more art that is socially relevant and that depicts the present situation of the country, more as painting history.

(b) Philippine social realities and its connection to propagation and development of arts and culture?

MCC: It is an unfortunate fact that culture and the arts are not a priority of the government that is why everything’s backward. “Spoliarium” is the only restored painting we have and it is unacceptable that our art will be lost in a matter of time if we do nothing about it. Art is an important part of our culture and it needs preservation.

(c) Role of an artist in developing national and social consciousness?

MCC: Art is part of making and writing of history and for that, it is our responsibility as artists to bring upfront more socially relevant contents in our works. Works that don’t only mirror social reality but also has a call for change.

(d) The “liberalization” and “Westernization” of arts?

MCC: Though westernization had opened us to exposure to more style and art forms, it also has set a benchmark for art to carry on what is “globally accepted”, leading us to forget to maximize and utilize what is our own culture and art.

Con Cabrera on the road

NSB: Any upcoming shows?

MCC: March group shows:

Mar. 6 – a mini art exhibit by Shangri-La Mall for the celebration of Women’s Month

Mar. 28 – “Resurrection” in My Little Art Space Gallery in Greenhills

May 26 – “PasyoNasyon” by KASIBULAN (Kababaihan sa Sining at Bagong Sibol na Kamalayan) at the CCP main gallery

NSB: Any message to your fellow artists?

MCC: To artists, may they realize the power of art as a tool to revolutionize and change the system that has long been a burden to the masses. That they may find the true purpose of art that is for the masses and to gear it towards them that it is not for an individual or an institution alone. Because as artists, we are also citizens as Brocka once said, and to elaborate on that, let me quote Sir Boni Ilagan on his speech during ARREST’s general assembly last July 2008:

“..The artist-as-citizen must learn more than the technique of his art, but the politics and ideology of his commitment.

“In this connection, may I say that as we artists-as-citizens create, our works only become relevant AND enduring only if and when they illuminate social reality beyond the parameters of the urgent and into the hopefulness of the militancy of the people’s movement.

We shan’t lose our vigor by Con Cabrera

“My third point is about the end-all and the be-all of our creations. What is the use of it all when the people for whom we create are not affected in a manner that inspires them to act? All our works amount to nothing if they remain on canvass, on paper, on the screen or video monitor, on stage, or in CDs and tapes. But they will amount to everything if they leap from their medium and into the hearts and minds of the people. And then, ultimately, the people themselves must transform our art into a material force in their collective struggle to create the greatest work of art there could be.”


NSB: Who are your favorite recording artists?

MCC: I listen to a lot of ‘80s and ‘90s rock, punk, classical and folk. I like Bob Dylan, The Clash, Janis Joplin, cellist Yoyo-Ma, The Section Quartet, Twelve Girls Band, Radiohead, Bjork and a lot of British Indie Bands.

NSB: Do you go for film? What genres?

MCC: I am a fan of Michel Gondry, Akira Kurosawa, Wong Kar Wai and Michael Moore, and of course my docu-filmmaker friends from STexposure Kiri Dalena, King Catoy and RJ Mabilin. I watch a lot of indie films more than hollywood mainstream.

NSB: Any funny experiences while working on art pieces?

MCC: I have a habit of cleaning my art space before I paint.

And I once got caught by a policeman while doing graffiti in Philcoa overpass. We were shooting a music video for Bobby Balingit and that was the time of peasants’ Lakbayan from Southern Tagalog to DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform). The policeman confiscated my spray paint and insisted we come with him to the station. In the end, our foreign filmmaker friend talked to the police and gave him a bribe.

NSB: Anything under the sun that Ms. Cabrera can share?

MCC: Everything is a decision: being happy or sad, having a meaningful life or letting oneself be carried away by the current. ( [1]

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These are public service advertisements have been brought to you by:

Southern Tagalog Exposure and the Free Jonas Burgos Movement

In these films there is tribute to a poet, people talking about their lost loved ones & info about abductions and political killings. There are some videos that have English translation, however, not all of the videos are translated.

Rights Background: RIGHTS is a pioneering compilation of independently produced and human rights themed short films/public service advertisements (PSAs). Initiated originally by artists involved with Southern Tagalog Exposure and the Free Jonas Burgos Movement, RIGHTS exposes the incessant human rights hostilities in the Philippines. It is an open and continuing call for filmmakers to participate in the growing movement to defend and uphold human rights. However, timely of its launching on September 21 last year, blatant state censorship rendered RIGHTS’ non-exhibition atIndie Sine following MTRCB’s X rating to some of the PSAs. Filmmakers decried MTRCB’s X-rating on RIGHTS as a form of violation of freedom of expression, validating their opinion on the human rights situation in the Philippines. Yet despite the censorship, organizers and filmmakers were determined to continue to reproduce and distribute copies for the benefit of the people’s right to know and reach out further to the broad mass of people. For almost a year following the systematic state intervention, the struggle of RIGHTS’ independent filmmakers for a free and relevant disposal of their craft continues. The repression of freedom of expression and worsening human rights situation only gives them more reason to produce more films and actively participate in the struggle for justice and peace. Thus, as an offshoot to last year’s unyielding and remarkable production, comes RIGHTS 2. Some 15 relatively new set of artists and artists collective from the independent film movement will display their artistic prowess and social relevance.

News Release
April 22, 2009

Reference: Peter Arvin Jabido, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, email:

Appointment of “The Butcher” to Philippine Congress Indicates Lack of Regard for Human Rights
NEW YORK– A local Philippine human rights advocacy group is outraged over the appointment of retired Philippine military officer Jovito Palparan to the Philippine House of Representatives this week, claiming the move “will surely result in more blood of Filipino civilians in the Philippine government’s hands.”

Palparan’s appointment under the Bantay Party-list group comes after a Philippine Supreme Court decision this week to expand the number of party-list representatives in the House of Representatives to 32.

“The only house Jovito Palparan deserves to be is a jailhouse,” states Lolan Sevilla of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines or NYCHRP.

Previously known as “the Butcher of Mindoro”, the former Philippine military general is credited for designing a counter-insurgency strategy to annihilate the Communist Party of the Philippines and it’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), by targeting unarmed, civilian activist groups it suspects to be ‘fronts’ of the CPP-NPA. Originally tested in the province of Oriental Mindoro, where Palparan served as commanding officer of the 204th Infantry Battalion, the counter-insurgency strategy was eventually adopted nationwide, resulting in the deaths over 1000 unarmed civilian activists and an additional 200 abductions since 2001.

Palparan was heavily implicated in the 2003 double-murder of human rights worker Eden Marcellana of KARAPATAN and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy of KASAMA-TK, which put him under investigation by the Philippine Justice Department and Philippine Congress. Despite these complaints of military abuses, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo promoted Palparan to brigadier general.

Before retiring in 2006, Palparan led the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division in Central Luzon, where he was accused of ordering his men to hit civilians who would fail to present community tax certificates to prove that they were not NPA members, as part of his infamous psychological warfare tactics. Palparan was also again heavily implicated in the abduction of two female college students from the University of the Philippines (UP)– Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno– after the two were accused by the military of being members of the NPA. Reports surfaced years later by a witness that the students were indeed being held captive and being heavily tortured and sexually molested by their military captors.

Even scathing accusations against Palparan hurled by UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston in 2007 did not faze Palparan’s ardent defense of his military record, who retorted against Alston’s report on the state of politically-motivated killings in the country as “lacking depth.”

With no proven effect on debilitating the CPP-NPA’s forces, the counter-insurgency strategy drew scrutiny from human rights groups, the United Nations, and even the US legislators in 2007.

“It is unconscionable,” Sevilla continued. “Palparan’s appointment to the Philippine Congress indicates that Arroyo responds to known human rights violators by giving them more power rather than criminalizing them, not to mention how this proves how the Arroyo administration shamefully chooses to remain complicit when it comes to human rights violations in general. We implore all international human rights bodies to condemn this appointment and demand the Philippine government revoke Palparan’s seat in the Philippine House of Representatives at once.”

Arroyo’s Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita has already expressed excitement over Palparan contributing to “the passage of key legislation that could help resolve the insurgency problem as well as other security issues in the country.” ###

150px-eman-lacaba2Emmanuel Lacaba, or more popularly known as Eman, is a young promising poet who lived halfway through the martial law years. He was raised in Pateros where he got honors and awards throughout his elementary and high school days. He acquired a scholarship from Ateneo de Manila and became a professor in the University of the Philippines. Amidst the social and political turmoil during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, he became an activist and later on decided to take up arms against the government and become a people’s warrior at the height of martial law. He wrote and published more than a hundred poems before he was murdered by Marcos’ military men on March 18, 1976 in Davao del Norte, Mindanao. Eman was 27.

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