Negros Museum, Bacolod, Negros Occ., Philippines
Feb. 2-28, 2016

Artist’s Statement by Wayne Lacson Forte

My point of view is that of an ex-patriot returned to his birthplace after 4 decades of exile to find a country that is both familiar and exotic, welcoming and defiant. For this reason I am using “May Reklamo Ka?” as the title and theme of this, my second painting exhibition at the Negros Museum in Bacolod, Negros Occidental. “May Reklamo Ka?”, Tagalog for “Have You Any Complaints?”, is a textual image plastered on the rear of every commercial vehicle here in the Philippines. Listed below this question is a government agency’s number to call, which no one ever calls, assuming that nothing can be done, and that this is just another irony of living in the Philippines.

Sitting in excruciating traffic can induce one to a more philosophic state of mind. Is “May Reklamo ka?” only a question? Or more of a sarcastic challenge? Or more like a prompt for an essay on survival? I prefer to take it as the latter because this is the positive way, the creative way that is almost second nature to the Filipino, so accustomed to living with challenges, both natural and man-made.

Irony is everywhere in this island paradise caught between a nostalgia for its Colonial past (the achingly beautiful society portraits) and the crippling scars that era left behind; between the beauty of its verdant topography and the indifferent wretchedness of its slums; between the resilience of its gifted citizens and the failure of its bureaucratic institutions; between the optimism of faith and the cynicism of doubt.

Yet irony is an endless source of fascination for the artist who sees that there is a terrible beauty in suffering and sacrifice, a usable tension in frustrated promises and hope deferred.  To a people richly blessed with faith the writer of Hebrews says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” This country’s roiling caldron of clashing realities is a fertile ground for artistic expression, for calling forth visually the power and beauty that lie hidden.

People often ask me why I find my heart and my home here in the Philippines, specifically Bacolod City. The obvious answer is that my mother’s Lacson clan comes from Silay, a small beautiful Colonial town just north of here, once known as the Cultural Capital of the Philippines. I have my roots there and lots of family history. I have also grown to love this stretch of Negrense coastline, the sea always on one side of the main road and the mountains on the other, making navigation easy, with towns dotting the landscape from South to North, like the islands of the Philippine archipelago.

Bacolod is large and cosmopolitan enough to furnish anything an artist might need in terms of community or resources and richly supports the arts with galleries, universities and museums. Yet it is small enough to avoid the urban squalor and congestion of larger cities like Manila. It’s proud history stretches back from pre-colonial Sri-Visayan culture to its  more recent legacy as the sugar capital of the Philippines, providing one’s artistic narratives an interesting context of time and place.

Carlos Bulosan (1913-1956), wrote eloquently of his dream for a better world arising from the chaos:

“The old world is dying but a new world is being born. It generates inspiration from the chaos that bears upon us all. The false grandeur and insecurity, the unfulfilled promises and illusory power, the number of the dead and those about to die, will charge the forces of our courage and determination. The old world will die so that the new world will be born with less sacrifice and agony for the living…”