Photos by Rene Sevilla

About the Philippine Artists Group of Canada

They were all visual artists, they were all Filipino migrants in Canada, and their bonding began in June, 1986, though they did not know it at the time, in a sideshow celebrating their Old Country’s artistic gifts in their New Home setting. As a special feature of the annual Philippine Independence Day festivities in Toronto, Canada, the organizers put together an art exhibition and invited several resident Pinoy artists to contribute to a gala night’s presentation of the best of Pinoy visual art. Among the participants on that memorable night were Ed Araquel, Art Cunanan, Tony Doctor, Rol Lampitoc, Papu Leynes, Isabel Castellvi-Grosvenor and a newly arrived artist from the Philippines, Romi C. MananQuil. They became the core group of what, in time, was to develop into an important and distinguished visual art community in Canada.

Encouraged by the warm reception from the Filipino community, the artists who first got together on that gala night in 1986, began to meet informally and thus arrived at a concensus that by continuing to present as a group, they could better develop their artistic gifts, have more impact on their target audience, do more exhibitions to a higher standard and conduct related artistic activities in a more adequate and professional manner.

At that time there was already an existing group of artists of Filipino origin and affiliation – the Pilipino Artists in North America. Seeing no need to establish a separate group, the fledgling group of decided to join the PANA since two in the group were already members, anyway. Not long after a couple of exhibitions, however, PANA started to show growing pains and internal disruptions which eventually led to a need to reorganize.

The artists decided to carry on as a more solid group with common interests, higher goals and a clearer vision. They called themselves the PHILIPPINE ARTISTS GROUP or the P.A.G. – the same acronym as the Philippine Art Gallery, the first legitimate art gallery in the Philippines. A founding set of officers was elected with Romi MananQuil as President. Unable to pinpoint the exact date when the organizational process had formally started, the new group decided to adopt June 12, 1988 – the 90th anniversary of the Philippine independence, as their official foundation day. Since then, the Philippine Artists Group has become a traditional feature of the annual Philippine Independence Day celebration, usually held under the auspices of the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto.

Currently, the Philippine Artists Group holds periodic exhibitions to showcase Philippine art and has participated in worthwhile community projects and fund-raising activities. In 1996, in a joint project with the Knights of Rizal, the PAG donated to the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto a framed portrait of the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal in barong tagalog, on the centenary of his martyrdom.

In September, 2004, the PAG got together with other Filipino artists from the U.S., France and the Philippines, to hold its first and, to date, its biggest art exhibition on Philippine soil called “Convergence Internationale“. In April, 2008, the group will be putting up a bigger international show, again in the mother country. Two months later, they will be doing it again in Toronto on the occasion of their grand 20th Anniversary Presentation.

The PAG is now known as the Philippine Artists Group of Canada. Its membership now includes some of the more important names among contemporary Filipino artists active in Ontario. Although selective in the acceptance of new members, the PAG continues to grow not only in membership but also in stature and idealism. No longer just a group of Filipino artists struggling to promote their handiwork, the group has now assumed an important role in the overall Filipino community effort of promoting Philippine arts and culture. To great numbers of Filipino migrants in Canada, daily embroiled in the task of building new lives in their New Country, the PAG represents that link with our cultural past, the communicator and custodian of the values and richness of Philippine visual arts.

To the members, presently consisting of Rolly Abarilla, Antonio ‘Jun’ A. Afable, Jr., Teody Asuncion,Joyce Bondoc, Frank Cruzet, Jhun Ciolo Diamante, Marissa Buyco-Corpus Gaa, Gene Lopos, Catalina Jeffers, Romi C. MananQuil, Omel Masalunga, Mila Ureta Navaleza, Koni Marcoux, Maridi Nivera, Toots Quiachon, Michelle Chermaine Ramos, Marissa Sweet, Frank Tonido, Nelia Tonido, Mark Edison Salinas, the Philippine Artists Group of Canada is the lifeblood that inspires them to higher levels of creativity and pride in their own craft. To young and aspiring Filipino artists in Canada it is the umbrella that provides shelter in which to develop identity and mateship with senior role models and mentors.