John Gabriel Pabico-Lalu | Editor-in-Chief
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Local artists and journalists commemorated the 32 lives that were lost in the Ampatuan massacre by raising funds from the sales of an art exhibit, which would support the education of the slain journalists’ children.
PintaSayAwit para sa K-32, an exhibition of visual and performing arts, is a consorted effort between Artasia Gallery, Kunst Gallery and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). Thirty-one artists from different parts of the country, including Olympic art medalist Joe Datuin, donated their artworks. During the launch last Thursday at the Artasia Gallery in SM Megamall, performing arts groups Douglas Nierras Powerdance, A Capella Manila and Nightingales also dedicated their pieces and performances for the bereaved families.
The move seeks to help the ‘true’ victims of the massacre, the children of the journalists.
ART FOR A CAUSE | The artists who donated their artworks for the fund-raising exhibit that would help the children of the slain journalists pose with NUJP member Virgilio Cuizon, who initiated the cause. (Photo by John Lalu)
The Ampatuan massacre is considered to be the single-deadliest attack on journalists. Fifty-eight individuals, including 32 journalists, were killed on the way to file the certificate of candidacy of Esmael Mangudadatu, who was challenging Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., for the mayoralty. Ampatuan is the son of then Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.
NUJP member Virgilio Cuizon, an art critic who is also the founder of Kunst Gallery, felt that there is a need for artists to help not only the relatives of the journalists, but the public as well, so that the people may not forget what happened.
“We all know that seven years after the Ampatuan massacre, nothing much has changed,” Cuizon said. “They (slain journalists) have relatives who needs our help. Since one of the quickest ways to raise funds is to sell art, we decided to put this up.”
“We hope and pray that the families attain justice, and that impunity and extra-judicial killings as a whole may end,” Cuizon said.
Datuin, on the other hand, commented on the bond between journalism and the arts, saying that events like these should happen more often, considering the hardships and the dangers that journalists face.
“Let us not do these (fund-raising exhibits) just because there is a massacre,” Datuin said. “Let us do it because they (journalists) are the constantly facing risky situations.”
Art and healing
NUJP said that some of the contributing artists will also conduct art workshops, which would help the children to recover from the tragic events they faced. They also noted that while a program memorializing the victims happens every year, it will be the first time for most of the children to go to the site.
“Some of the artists here would go to General Santos to help the kids of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre,” Dabet Panelo, secretary-general of the NUJP, said. “They (children) will be guided in creating an artwork and a mural, which will be about how they fared after seven years.”
“On November 20, they will go to the massacre site where their artworks and the mural will be exhibited.”
ARTS AND JOURNALISM | Some of the artworks donated for the PintaSayAwit fund-raising exhibit. (Photo by John Lalu)
NUJP said that these activities are not merely mourning the dead, but also a call that press freedom must be upheld even in the midst of attacks against journalists and against journalism as a profession.
“The lack of justice is the reason to why we are here,” Panelo said. “We do not want the people to forget these things, and we are still pushing for
It is also a reminder, according to NUJP, that impunity still exists and that justice is yet to be served.
“This is not just an assault to the 58 individuals,” Panelo said. “We must remember that it is an assault to press freedom, an assault to our country, and to our sensibilities as human beings.”