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Arts, cultural advocates explore Gubat historic past thru murals

By Jam Escandor 

Young artists and cultural advocates in Gubat, Sorsogon explore their rich history and culture through a mural painting unveiled to the public in line with the culminating activity of the National Arts Month in February this year.

The Gubat local government unit (LGU) commissioned the young artists to paint the Ginubat mural at the patio of Gubat Heritage Center, a century-old Spanish era house donated to the local government, which was gradually improved by the LGU.  The two-story heritage house serves as a multi-purpose center composed of a museum, tourism office, and arts and cultural activity center.

Inspired by the Legend of Ginubat, the young artists reimagined and reinterpreted an old tale that has long resided in the memories of the old, passed on as bedtime stories for children and ancient songs, and now being brought to a visual art form. 

The legend revolves around the tale of a pre-colonial settlement that was constantly raided by Tagulipnan, an invisible half-bird, half-human monster. Causing the settlers’ constant distress, the monster would visit every full moon to feed on infants and children.

The community’s horror persisted until a stranger from faraway land called Mardawan, a divine being, appeared and rallied three local chieftains, Aramag, Maragadaw, and Mararag, to fight alongside.

The monster was eventually defeated when Mardawan summoned local fishes such as Bugiw (swordfish), Malasugi (blue marlin tuna), and Manabang (barracuda), that pierced Tagulipnan to death. Overjoyed, the villagers shouted, “Gubat! Gubat!”, which meant raided. So in the legend, that was how the name of the town came to be.

The mural, serving as a reminder of the town’s historic past, is designed and executed by four young and budding Gubatnon painters, namely: Joshua Fajardo, Jhaz Enguerra, Daniel Hubilla, and Hanna Lingayo through the mentorship of visual artist Gilbert Gorospe. 

According to Carl Jude Del Prado Duka, curator of the Gubat Heritage Center, the four artists were pre-selected from among the artists who worked on their previous arts and photo exhibition activities. 

“Aside from nurturing history and cultivating in their young minds the culture of Gubat, we wanted them to experience being artists – being commissioned, sell their ideas, conceptualize, brainstorm with clients, work with mentors and team mates, and also meet the deadlines. We want them to be exposed in the process,” Duka said.

For Lingayo, 18, an active youth member of the Gubat Arts Association and the only female among the four artists, working on the mural has made her appreciate her hometown and culture even more. She shared that she was not as enthusiastic as she is right now in terms of studying the town’s culture. Now she plans to include cultural concepts in her succeeding artworks.

She also shared how she is amused by the connection of arts and culture in many ways imaginable, and that arts is a useful tool in instilling culture in the minds of the youth.

LEGEND OF GINUBAT This is the product of the works of four young artists in Gubat, Sorsogon who were commissioned by the municipal government to paint the mural as part of the celebration of the National Arts Month in February this year. (Photo by Gubat LGU)

Reimagining pre-colonial Gubat

Gubat’s Tourism Officer Patrick Erestain shared in an interview that even before the global Covid-19 pandemic, the local government has already worked on the development and enrichment of arts and cultural tourism in the municipality, which also gave birth to the establishment of Gubat Heritage Center.

Erestain detailed that the concept of creating a mural rooted not only from the desire of relishing the town’s rich culture and history, but also, those involved particularly the young artists, wanted to reinterpret and reimagine the legend of Ginubat in a more progressive way.

In the story, the woman always appeared to be a victim of Tagulipnan, the monster, as it is attacking newborn, small children, and pregnant women.

So, instead of being the helpless mothers, the artists reinterpreted them as among the warriors who fought the villain. The Supreme Being is also reimagined as a woman who is taking care of the land.  The mural wanted to show that the pastoral care of a woman is never detached from the community.

In reimagining and reinterpreting the Supreme Being, the people behind the artwork thought that a woman could play the most pivotal role in the legend like becoming the higher being that looks after the community.

“Like all mothers, her connection, the fluidity, the continuity of a mother’s care are never lost as shown in the mural with the flow of the Supreme Being’s hair being connected to all life, great and small, trees and people, even in the swirl of the clouds”, Erestain added.

Gubat, 800 kilometers south of Manila, has been discovered in the recent decade as an old settlement dating from the Stone Age, long before the Spaniards set foot on the Philippine islands. It is verified by ancient burial jars unearthed from the villages of Bulacao, Togawe, and Ariman as published in the paper titled “Footnotes to the history of Gubat, Sorsogon” by historian and De La Salle University professor Luis Camara Dery.

The heritage center, previously known as Casa Escurel, was donated to the LGU by the Escurel-Sabater heiresses, descendants of the first gobernadorcillo of Gubat during the Spanish occupation. It is located in the corner of two streets (Quezon and Diaz Streets) adjacent to the public market. 

Functioning as a museum and center for arts and cultural activities of the town, the heritage center has recently attracted an average of 200-300 visitors daily mostly coming from multitude of students and employees, and also local tourists from across Sorsogon province. The center is open Mondays to Fridays from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

The house is also located a few meters away from what the locals call “Almacenes”, where bulks of abaca fibers were weekly docked from Samar and Leyte along its old port during the 1800s as an alternative port during the Manila galleon trade.

Gubat became the center of abaca trade during this period when the town’s economy flourished.

“Now, with all the energy and drive from the youth and the very active welcome and participation from the whole community, the LGU is envisioning Gubat to become the arts and culture capital of Sorsogon in the years to come”, Erestain said.


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