Actually, I have written about Pancho M. Piano for several times now. Most of the time, it was his request for me to write about him because he will be having a show, that he needs something for his portfolio. Of course, I always heed to his request for one apparent reason—I personally admire his works and I personally admire him as an artist.
It is not difficult to love Piano’s work. It was so easy, as easy as those swirling and waving strokes on his canvas, accompanied by the stories that he knew by heart—the poignant and tragic love story of Daragang Magayon and her man, Panganoron; the devotion of the Bicolanos to the Lady of Peñafrancia; and about the places that he has been—Eurasia, Asia, and the United States of America, including its territories in Polynesia and Micronesia.
Last July 1, 2017, Piano launched his solo exhibition at the Galería Alvero in Quezon City. Aptly titled Isang Paglalakbay sa Sining, this man from Bicol chronicled through his colorful paintings his travels in the past years.
In his travels, Piano is not only bringing himself (and his family, if he can) but the “entire Philippines” with him—the values of his people, their beliefs and customs, and of course, that warmness that the foreigners loved—and continue to love—whenever they visit the Philippines either for vacation or for business, or both. As one foreigner who visited the Philippines for short eight days—it’s more love in the Philippines. And when he comes back, he brings back with him wonderful memories he gathered from the countries he has visited and enjoyed—the beauty of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range and the skies of Georgia or its 2,000 mineral springs, or its 12,000 cultural and historical monuments; the mountains and springs and rivers and tulip fields of Holland; the beautiful beaches of Hawaii, where some portions of its, literally fire and water meet (in the Hawaiian legend, they were the sisters Pele and Namakaokahai); and the fishing villages and the burgeoning commerce and national parks of Hokkaido in the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan. He has seen lots and lots of places and he paints and paints a lot of sceneries, but his first love is still the sceneries and the peoples and the customs and traditions of his beloved Bicol.
The heavy rains in the late morning and early afternoon didn’t dampen the spirit of those who love art, particularly the creations of this prolific and multitalented man from Lagonoy, Camarines Sur, where he grew up dreaming of becoming a composer before while he also paints fishing boats of his neighbors who get their living by fishing in Lagonoy Gulf.
But he did not jump into painting right away. Instead, he took up an Economics degree at the University of Nueva Caceres and graduated in 1978. Six years later, he enrolled at the Fine Arts Program as a Dean Jose Joya scholar in University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.
For more than three decades, Piano has wowed the world with his liturgical and mythical art, done in abstract expressionist and realistic styles. The former was popularized by the late Joya himself, who would become National Artist for Visual Arts in 1991.
But what makes Piano’s works more interesting is the philosophy behind his work.
Among us, the Tagalogs, there is a popular saying which goes: “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa kaniyang paroroonan.” This is the philosophy that Piano incorporates to his works. His works are not mere paintings of myths and saints and places. They were actually tribute to his Bicol roots, to the people who helped him to reach the status that he has now.
In 2011, he founded Salingoy—one of the popular and the biggest art groups in his beloved Bicol. In Bikolnon, salingoy means to look back.
As a senior artist, he always tell the new generation of artists to always look back to their roots and always to be grateful to the people and institutions that helped them to find their path in art and in life.
This is the secret of Piano’s success—he has always been grateful and continuously being grateful to the people and institutions that helped him to become Pancho M. Piano. (For more photos about the show, you can visit my photo album here.)