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Anti-marcos activist in Bulacan trades protests for paint brushes

An amazing opportunity came to me to travel Marawi. I was sent to share my experience in art with the children there, after a battle took place in the region. In their eyes, I saw the fear of war. With a little bit of knowledge, I came in and swept away that fear.

Interview Subject
Rolly Alcantara served as an activist who protested against the Marcos Dictatorship during the 1970’s until early 1980’s. He fought for the freedom of the ordinary Filipino people. He walked away from it during President Cory Aquino’s administration to focus on his family. At the same time, he fell in love with art, particularly with painting. He is a self-taught artist and continued his work today, sharing his talent with other people and mostly children.
Background Information
Activism became more prominent in the Philippines during the administration of Ferdinand E. Marcos from 1965 to 1986. On September 27, 1972, he declared martial law on a false basis. The Martial Law era brought tens of thousands of human rights violations and the collapse of Philippine economy. Nation-wide protests ultimately led to the overthrow of the Marcos administration.

Art is part everyday life and also an important aspect of Philippine culture. Filipinos are known for their diverse talents and creativity, which gives them a unique identity. There are two main categories of art in the Philippines: traditional and contemporary. Traditional art in the Philippines has roots in Spanish colonization and Malayan culture. Traditional art remains inherent to the Philippine identity. Contemporary art is a more expressive form of creativity without boundaries.

OBANDO, Bulacan ꟷ I became an activist during the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos. Participating in Anti-Marcos protests, I fought for the laborers, farmers, and poor people of the capitol. During the martial law era between the 1970’s and 80’s, many of my colleagues were captured, imprisoned, or disappeared from the face of the earth. I survived and after four decades of watching and admiring painters, I transitioned from an activist to an artist.

A newcomer to art, he founds the Obando Visual Artist Group and teaches children

During my years as an activist, I experienced my fair share of abuse by the military. Many of our protests turned violent and bloody until the old administration was overthrown, and Cory Aquino became President. I fought for the Filipino people against authorities with too much power, but one day I decided to retire from it all and focus on my family.

I took on a public servant role as a Safety Officer in my community of Barangay. For four terms, the people supported me. Then, I began to paint. Having watched and admired painters for years, I experienced a deep interest in the colors and the artwork. I joined a group called Sining Obando in a small municipality in the Bulacan region.

As a newcomer with no formal education, I lacked confidence. I worked hard and slept late to learn every style I could until one day, I founded the Obando Visual Artist Group. This presented the opportunity to teach the children to draw and create art, not only in Obando but throughout the country.

Helping children who survived war

An amazing opportunity came to me to travel Marawi. I was sent to share my experience in art with the children there, after a battle took place in the region. In their eyes, I saw the fear of war. With a little bit of knowledge, I came in and swept away that fear.

Today, my paintings have been exhibited in art galleries in my country and other parts of Asia, gaining recognitions in the Philippines and elsewhere. So much can be done through online contests and events.

I continue my advocacy work by teaching children to paint. I teach children in their preteens and younger. In this way, I can shape their talents and share my experiences with them.

Now, they are true artists. Those who have grown into adults, have jobs, and are married, continue to paint. From activist to artist, I am uniquely positioned to help them.

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George Buid is an independent photographer and journalist based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His work has been published in Stern Crime, Transcontinental Times, InterAksyon, and Deutsche Welle news. He also contributes to the news wire Zuma Press. In addition to writing journalism, George is a self-taught photographer who started his photojournalism career and visual documentary storytelling in 2014. He focuses on capturing stories of everyday individuals, communities, and culture. Occassionally, he also covers science, history, sports, politics, art, and human interest.