If you have the skills to significantly change the world in a positive way, why keep it?
If you can write, draw, paint , and touch the soul with art , why not share it?
I want to make the best introduction to a great and amazing artist, I personally know. I called her “ATE GEMMA.”
I met Ms. Maria Gemma Suguitan back in 2003 when she was looking for a RESEARCH TEAM to complete the Museum Guidebook for our historical town, PILA, LAGUNA. To work with her and be part of her team is a great honour. She is one of the most brilliant, creative, hardworking and dedicated project leaders I’ve known. I loved how she dug deeper into the history of Pila and how strong her initiative to reopen the Pila Museum. The budget and the timeline for the research is not that much but she did her best and motivated us to complete the project within the budget and time frame. Sometimes, working where your passion lies, is more satisfying than working for money alone.
The Research Team, 2003. Ms.Gem (middle), Nonita (right end)
When I asked her, “What inspire you to dig deeper on the historical value of Pila?“ She answered, ”Our archipelago has a beautiful prehistoric past. Not all places in the Philippines can claim and take pride of having the artifacts which are evidence of our rich culture and tradition. Pila has that and it needs to be known. Pila’s history is important in Philippine history. More than the beautiful, colorful and charming houses and plaza complex that tourists admire, the crematorium, the burial grounds, the artifacts of pottery, ceramics, pamato, carnelian beads, jade, and gold; and everything that was excavated from Pinagbayanan and Linga are all important. With the tangible heritage are the intangibles like culinary traditions, language, the data stored in the 1613 Diccionario de Lengua Tagala by Fr. Pedro San Buenaventura printed in Pila by Tomas Pinpin and Domingo Loag; among other things. The richness of Pila’s history and heritage has to be shared to the rest of the country. Even the town’s history during the Spanish Period, American Occupation, and the Japanese time, are contributory to Philippine history. Why would we not highlight those? It will help inculcate nationalism and pride among Pilenos in particular, and Filipinos in general. But not until they know the significance of Pila’s glorious past.“
TAGAMALING/MANDAYA, Colorist:Gem Suguitanz An entry to HALAW exhibition
Her knowledge about the town is impressive. But aside from this, I found her art very unique and brilliant. This is how she creates her art: “First, I use salvaged wood. Second, I rarely use paint brush to apply paint. I create images and make strokes using anything that I think is usable: cardboards, toothpick, skewers, silver ware, rolling pin, mallet keychain, fine comb, anything! And lastly, its uniqueness come from the long, colorful life experience of the artist in relation to the self, the environment, the society.”
One of her notable work of art with historical significance looks like woven fabric and it was entitled “Woven Dreams” made with layers of colors like how indigenous women manually weave fabric from natural materials. It was a tribute to women weavers, especially to her Ilocano grandmother.
How she viewed art in the growing environmental issues?
“By creating awareness on the growing environmental problems in the world, art can be an effective eye opener of how serious the problem has to be dealt with as soon as possible. Using trash in artworks is compelling. It catches attention that evokes an impact not easily forgotten. When we put these works for the public to see, art becomes a vehicle for change. My latest exhibition was like that. It was entitled “ARIMUHAN” to depict salvaging, upcycling, reusing what can still be used to reduce trash. We always have to aim for zero waste as much as we can. Good practices on waste management has to be popularized. Art can do that. Public spaces and museums are good venues for such exhibitions.”
I asked her about her “Future Plans.”
Gemma: “.....to continue making art and share in any platform, the wisdom of an aging woman for all to learn from. We are born to live a life that will complete the story. I want to leave a beautiful memory that even if life is not perfect, it is always worth the journey.”
Lastly her advices to those with passion in art: “Being honest with your expression will lead you to your own spot, your identity in the wide world of art. You will not find it if you stop. CREATE, CREATE and CREATE!”
The Artist, Ms.Gem Suguitan