In the Waray language, the word “bagas” refers to dehusking, a process of farming coconut also known as pagkokopra in Filipino, the primary livelihood of locals in Northern Samar. The word is also the title of artist Lorebert “Maralita” Comision’s solo exhibition, himself a native of the region.
The works in “Bagas” take inspiration from the experiences of Maralita’s grandfather and other local farmers there, aiming to “dehusk” their stories which are being silenced and embedded deep among the roots of the coconut trees.
Each piece depicts the daily lives of laborers and locals, utilizing Maralita’s signature hyperstylized approach to the human form, as they are bent and contorted to snugly fit the edges of the canvas. The dejected expressions on their faces and their hunched posture convey the systemic entrapment of these self-effacing figures by Philippine society.
Despite this, his compositions feature vibrant shades of oranges and browns against a muted palette, replete with Filipino iconography. This sprightly color choice is symbolic of Maralita’s hopeful spirit, and a symbolic choice to invoke dusk and dawn, times of the day that signal promise and hope.
He hopes that through his continued creative practice, he may be able to build an art community in his hometown and foster the spirit of unity among Samar artists. The works in the exhibit, and Maralita’s enduring optimism, speak to his belief that the disempowered may come to realize a hope for themselves.