PASKO NOON AT NGAYON
According to an article published by an international news network in 2012, the Philippines would definitely have an excellent shot at winning if there were some kind of an Olympics for having the most Christmas spirit. It then goes on to mention the country’s long festive season with celebrations that begin in late September and last until the commemoration of the Epiphany in January. Paying homage to this tradition, multi-awarded realist painter, Jun Impas, presents us with his latest one-man exhibition that features collection of his works as he merges the past and present-day depictions of this yuletide theme. These images are illustrated in a tropical setting, which is a mighty contrast with its orientation in popular culture vis-à-vis the white Christmas of the West.
In Impas’ interpretation, the past is somewhat represented by the different hues and shades of sepia — a color that usually relates to nostalgia due to its presence in early photographic printing; the present gleams in vivid colors. To him, the importance of showing the differences and similarities of Christmas between the two periods will allow us to reflect on the virtue and beauty of this celebration, taking the time to re-evaluate our position in a modern world where festivities and cultural traditions are often overshadowed by consumerism and inclination to materialistic necessities.
Like a story unfolding, the subject of “Noche Buena” includes a couple who are getting ready for what would be the most important part of the evening – the Christmas dinner. However, the viewer’s ecstatic sentiments shift to melodrama as the couple appears to have been abandoned by their children. While the setting of this piece may have been placed in the past, a tearful appeal may echo to modern-day Filipinos, as many are forced to leave their families behind so they could work in the city or overseas.
Looking through these paintings, the artist brings us familiar narratives that resonate well within our communities. In “Parol”, a father and his son are collaborating in making a well-known Filipino ornament symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem while a woman who somehow resembles the subject of Isabel Allende’s Retrato en Sepia watches over them. This may appear to the viewer as an image of an ancestor guiding her descendants while they immerse themselves in the celebration. Meanwhile, we see a group of present-day children gathered around the house carrying gifts and toys while a woman clad in traditional clothes raises a statue of the child Jesus in “Essence of Christmas I” and “Essence of Christmas II” to remind the children that amidst the holiday cheer, our focus should remain to commemorate the birth of the Son of God.
While there are many things that can be observed with the way how our country celebrates this season, to Impas, the most valuable tradition that is indispensable to most Filipinos, which he perseveres in completing each year, is to attend the Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi; this holds the one true reason of everything close to his heart: the Child born in a manger, one cold night; the One who is truly the King of Kings.