Arts & Culture: 5 Filipina Heroines Lauded in “Alas ng Bayan” Exhibit, Showcasing the Women Who Have Impacted History 

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QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES – A ‘herstory’ exhibit was opened at the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Asian Center today, featuring the paintings of five Filipinas who resisted national oppression, social injustice, and rank misogyny throughout the country’s history.

Dubbed ‘Alas ng Bayan’ the exhibit showcases the lives of Gregoria ‘Oriang’ de Jesus (Lakambini ng Katipunan), Apolonia Catra (lone recorded woman officer with Macario Sakay’s forces), Remedios Gomez-Paraiso (Hukbalahap’s Kumander Liwayway), Lorena Barros (Martial Law activist), and Gloria Capitan (Bataan anti-coal activist).

The exhibit is being organized by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), Constantino Foundation, and Pilipinas to raise awareness on the intersections between women, history, memory, climate change, and citizenship.

“We have been taught about the lives of Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio since grade school, while women heroes are rarely featured in history lessons. ‘Alas ng Bayan’ aims to correct this by putting the spotlight on them and promoting ‘herstory’. The line of Filipino heroism among women remains unbroken even today,” said ICSC special projects coordinator Arielle Celine Tabinga, 22.

The paintings were created by John Erhard Guarin, a 26-year-old Filipino artist, poet, and hip-hop recording artist from Tondo, Manila. He started accepting commissions to create art in 2017, and joined Pilipinas as a volunteer in the same year.

“I painted Oriang, Apolonia, Liwayway, Lorena, and Gloria in the style of sakla [a local version of tarot cards) to honor how these brave women gambled with their lives to defy colonizers, dictators, corporations, and sexists alike,” said Guarin.

The UP Asian Center will stage ‘Alas ng Bayan’ until November 27. The exhibit will then be hosted by different academic institutions next year, including the Museum of A History of Ideas of the University of the Philippines Manila in March 2020, Women’s Month. It was first staged last Saturday, November 23, at the Linangan Gallery of the Constantino Foundation with the families of Remedios Gomez-Paraiso and Gloria Capitan.

Gregoria de Jesus was deeply involved in the armed struggle that threw off the yoke of Spanish colonialism. Apolonia Catra is the only woman named as an officer under the command of Macario Sakay during the Philippine-American War. Kumander Liwayway was a feared commander of military divisions under the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Mga Hapon (Hukbalahap) and was known for wearing red lipstick before plunging into battle against Japanese fascists during World War II. Lorena Barros was a poet and anthropologist who fought to bring down the Marcos dictatorship. Gloria Capitan resisted the coal plant project in Limay, Bataan. She was gunned down on July 1, 2016, making her the first victim of extrajudicial killings during the Duterte administration.

Viewers of the “Alas ng Bayan” exhibit are encouraged to reflect on the lives of these five heroines and connect them with current issues such as violence against women, LGBTQ+ rights, extrajudicial killings, global warming, and national sovereignty.

The Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities is an international climate and energy policy group advancing climate resilience and low carbon development. It aims to spark conversations on climate change through the arts.

The Constantino Foundation aims to promote the concept of a usable past and was founded by historians Renato Constantino and Letizia Roxas Constantino. is building a global grassroots climate movement that can hold our leaders accountable to the realities of science and the principles of justice. Pilipinas is a local network of volunteers supporting the country’s climate movement.

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