BENJIE MALLARI’S artistic sensibilities go back several decades. A former art director of Meralco, he would also moonlight as a cartoonist of the daily opposition paper Ang Pahayagang Malaya during the Marcos dictatorship. Mallari, now based in Baguio, also designed the centennial calendar of National Artist Fernando Amorsolo, and jacket covers of albums of works by National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro.
Over the years, Mallari made a name for himself as he captures the elegance of old cities juxtaposed with modern abstract sensibilities. He successfully created his enchanting menagerie of characters and scenes within a historical and contemporary cross-section of the ideal and idyllic life as he zooms in and out of various periods of our colorful and glorious past; from the 1900s to the Spanish colonial period, from the American colonial period to post-war Manila. The exhibit, “The Time Traveler: Glimpses of Yesterday” presents the artist as a time traveler in Manila and the Philippines, a place he is so proud to be a part of.
Dubbed the “Pearl of the Orient” because of the country’s collection of islands that resembled precious stones, Manila was the envy of neighboring Asian countries because of its European and American colonial inspired structures. In its prime, Manila boasted of its Art Deco buildings and palatial government offices.
It was also the time when people imbibed and adhered to the principles of respect and dignity with people displaying high moral standards. Back when there was a manageable population and economy, people lived simply but inexpensively and a peso could buy many things. It was a Manila with no high rises saves for intricate and ornately adorned facades.
Mallari’s works continue to enthrall because it explores so sincerely the timeless Filipino identity and its people’s interpersonal relations. He urges, now more than ever during these troubled times, that now is time to rediscover our identity, values, and faith in ourselves; a time to revisit our beliefs and the virtues we believe in such as hard work, thrift, industry.
This time of the COVID-19 pandemic is a time of great doubt– a time of our people questioning themselves, doubting our future or our destiny. These are moments of great confusion with many people feeling down. But even though challenged with an unprecedented crisis, Filipinos remain unfailingly warm, their spirit is unswervingly tenacious, and Manila — then and now – as it has always, get back on its feet.
“The Time Traveler | Glimpses of Yesterday” is an online exhibit that will run from June 10 to 24, 2020. An online Artist Reception will be held on Monday, June 15, 2020, 5:00 PM via Zoom webinar. For more details, please contact Galerie Joaquin at firstname.lastname@example.org.