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Laguna and the Arts

San Pablo in Laguna, the City of Seven Lakes, is known for its scenic beauty and timeless history.  Nesting in the foothills of Mount San Cristobal and Mount Banahaw, it is an urban-agricultural community rich in plantations and aqua culture.

With its breathtaking beauty and rich culture, San Pablo, as well as the rest of the Laguna province, has been a great source of inspiration for many artists. Each town has its own unique story to tell, each nurturing a creative community in its rich artisanal tradition.

Laguna has become a premium art destination of the south we discovered that during the launch of  My City, My SM, My Art in SM City San Pablo.

Paete and the Baldemor Family

Paete is a lakeside town located at the Northeastern part of Laguna, along the shores of picturesque Laguna de Bay.  Founded by Spanish friars of the Franciscan order, its early inhabitants were of Malay lineage who came from Borneo in swift and sturdy boats known as balangay, made famous by skilled craftsmen . Everything about the town of Paete has something to do with the chisel. Today, Paete is known as the Carving Capital of the Philippines, and a new generation of artists have continued this tradition in carving and painting.


Master Artist Manuel Baldemor belongs to a family of artists in Paete, a town known for woodcarving. A Filipino painter, sculptor, printmaker, writer and book illustrator, he is best known for his painting on various media that depict scenes from his hometown in simplified geometric forms with a folk art character.


He first attracted attention in the early 1970s with pen and ink drawings, capturing in meticulous detail the folk spirit of Paete. An avid traveler, he has held numerous one man shows in museums and galleries in the Philippines and overseas.


Baldemor has received several awards in the Philippines, and numerous invitations and grants abroad.  He was chosen artist in residence in Chile, Estonia, France, Israel, Japan, Switzerland, , Singapore, Portugal, and most recently, in Mexico.


In October 2007, his painting titled, Karo ng Sorbetes, was instrumental in capturing a Unesco seat for the Philippines during the 34th general conference in Paris. For years, his works have been in reproduction in UNICEF greeting cards which are distributed worldwide.




Monnar Baldemor represents a new generation of Paeteno artists, forging his own artistic path with works that call to mind the distorted figures of Spanish legend Salvador Dali, the meticulous linear strokes of German artist Ernst Degasperi, and the anatomical manipulations of the Netherland’s Hieronymous Bosch.


The son of master artist Manuel Baldemor, Monnar’s works look inward and probe the darker recesses of the soul, exploring and giving emotions that lie just beyond the realm of acceptance. Exploitation, hope, and dreams are recurring images in his forays into the mind coupled with his own metaphorical images.




Like his older brother Manuel, Angelo Baldemor was raised among the woodcarvers of Paete. Today, he continues to uphold his family’s – and his hometown’s – artistic tradition as a sculptor widely appreciated for his own art form, “paintures”, a brilliant  three dimensional rendition  and rare combination of painting and sculpture.


Angelo has added many innovations to his craft, shifting to a softer wood, batikuling, so he could sculpt fruits, vegetables and flowers in baskets and straw hats, and rice painstakingly chiseled grain by grain and then painted in their brilliant natural colors. He introduced wall sculpture to hang side by side with paintings.

Angelo’s work has brought much honor to our country – he was a Philippine representative to the Southeast Asian Tribal and Folk Arts Festival in Bhopal, India and the 2003 Inami International Wooden Sculpture Camp in Toyama, Japan.

We will get to know more about the amazing artistry of Baldemor Family featuring Manuel Baldemor, his son Monnar Baldemor and his brother Angelo Baldemor in an exhibit from March 29 to April 2, 2016 at the Atrium of SM City San Pablo.  The event will also highlight the paintings and sculptures of Paete, which is the woodcarving Capital of the Philippines.

At the same time, the exhibit gathers the works of modernists and contemporary artists of Laguna. These are the exquisite brass sculpture of Carlito Ortega, the folksy story teller dolls of An Alcantara, the vibrant life like water color painting of Lito Ballaran, the dreamy contemporary works of a millennial Rodney De Guzman, that unique Filipino twist in Cubism by Pakil Artist Bernard Vista,,the Pinoy pop socio realism wood sculpture of Otep Banez, the  master in the art of Philippine embellishment Patis Tesoro and the unencumbered art and immersive photography of J. Orosa Paraiso.

A celebration of Philippine visual arts- painting, sculpture, printing, photography and film making.  “My City , My SM, My Art” is a joint project of SM , the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, the Shell Companies of the Philippines, and the Philippine Star with support from the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts and the Center stage Productions.

The “My City, My SM, My Art” series brings art and people together by showcasing the works of masters, modernists ad millenials around the SM Supermalls. Advocating art for all. The team works with communities to mount exhibits and key cities around the Philippines.



Joseph “Otep “ Bañez

,Joseph Bañez’s brand of  Pinoy Pop Social-Realism has taken the market by storm. , making him one of the top sellers in contemporary artGrowing up in Paete, Laguna, Otep, as he is known was a “barriotic jologs”, a “teacher’s enemy number one”, and a “hari ng sablay”. He tried his luck in several fields before experimenting with painting, which he turned out to have a natural talent for.

Greatly influenced by American artist Norman Rockwell and cartoonist Larry Alcala, Otep’s works depict the daily episodes of provincial life.  Folksy as his works may seem, Otep is able to find humor in these “barriotic beauties” that appeal even to human dwellers. .  We will get to know more about ,Joseph “ Otep”Bañez   and his realistic yet playful wooden wall sculpture as he joines the My City , My SM, My arts exhibit.


Bernard Vista

Pakil is a pilgrimage town in the province of Laguna best known for the Turumba Festival which has a seven day novena honor of the seven sorrows of the Blessed Mother. A Turumba procession, which is considered one of the longest and largest in the country,  follows right after each novena.

It is in this milieu that Bernard Vista one of Pakil’s most exciting figurative artists was born, grew up, and gained recognition for his larger than life depictions of the Filipino way of life. Inspired by the rural scenes in his hometown, he puts on canvas the humble countenance of his people, humanizing the fisher folk and farmers while highlighting their passion for life, and their oneness with the bounties of nature.

Vista’s canvasses are living tableaus being acted before the viewer’s eyes – a seminal story of bountifulness, prosperity, and being Filipino.  His portrayals of men and women possess that strong glimmer of indescribable peace, contentment, and strength of inner spirit.

A scholar of the Saturday Group of Artists, he is one of the founding members of the Guevarra Group of Artists He was a resident artist in the Artesan Gallery in Singapore and his works have been included in major international auctions such as the Larasati House in Singapore.





  1. Orosa Paraiso
  2. Orosa Paraiso grew up in San Pablo City, Laguna. A medical doctor by profession, he was based in the US for many years, but would still go back to his hometown at least twice a year, doing free neurological consultations.


  1. O. Paraiso is also a self-taught visual artist who expresses himself through different mediums like painting and sculpture, and already has had solo exhibitions of his paintings  in New York and Manila.Thought provoking, breath taking and full of life are just some of the few words to describe J. O. Paraiso’s art. It’s all about what we can see through his eyes.


More recently, he has taken an interest in photography. As he travels the world and in pursue of passion., he is in constant pursuit of inspiration. His series of photographs, which were shot while doing volunteer work in Bhutan were exhibited in Florence, Italy. Closer to home, he helped initiate a photography for the deaf in San Pablo City.




Lito Ballaran

Although proficient in many other media – mural, trompe – l’oeil, portraits, and animation, Lito Ballaran seems to have been born to paint watercolors.

His watercolor paintings are full of emotions and reveal a very sensitive nature.  Lito has been invited to join watercolor festivals and exhibitions, and after two decades of pouring his creative energies out of the canvas of his mind, his art today reflects his emotions and feelings as he goes through life’s experiences.

With his impressive body of work, Lito Ballaran has been appointed official co representative by the International Watercolor Society for their Philippine branch.  He has been actively promoting the group with the rest of the IWS Philippines team and has represented the group well in the 2015 Tam-Awan International Arts and Music Festival.


Rodney James De Guzman

At the age of ten, Rodney James de Guzman was already drawing with remarkable skill. He would later join art competitions and win prizes.  There was a brief hiatus from painting when he attended college and started working.  But the pull of art was strong, and it was not long when he went back to pursuing his dreams.

Rodney, who is also from San Pablo, then explored various media until he became fascinated with watercolors.  He learned the required skills and techniques through practice and with the help of his mentor, Lito Ballaran, hopes to take it to the next level.

Today, Rodney’s landscapes evoke calm and tranquility. His works are like free flow of thought that represents the subtle beauty and controlled randomness. A man of few words, Rodney lets his art speak for him.  What he could not say or express in words, is stated strongly in his paintings.  Through his paintings, he gives us a rare glimpse of his world.

An Alcantara

An Alcantara is a sculptor who works with clay to create terracotta figures. Her clay storyteller dolls are inspired by the culture of the people of San Pablo, her husband’s hometown, a place “she has fallen in love with”. And yes, each doll has its own story to tell.



An innkeeper, writer, clay artisan, culinary history enthusiast, and zen practitioner, An, whose initial love is writing and storytelling, is delighted that through her dolls, she can write a narrative without using the words she was used to during her days in publishing.


Today, An works with some out of school youth, single mothers, and members of the community to make her storyteller dolls with a unique Filipino spin on hand-pinched, hand painted clay.

Carlito Ortega

Carlito Ortega is a sculptor who works with welded steel and brass, creating figurative works inspired by Philippine folk art in  both intimate and monumental scales. Most of his sculptural pieces are heavily influenced by his experiences growing up in rural Bukidnon. His figures are characterized by exaggerated body positions to amplify the sense of movement.

For Carlito, the process of creating bronze figures is an emotional, intuitive process. It begins with the heart as he rarely plans the figures he creates. It is about molding the metal sheet into what it calls to be. This is also why Carlito does not create replicas of his statues. They are all one of a kind. Each one sharing a story of Carlito’s soul at that  moment.


Patis Tesoro

Patis Tesoro is an artist and fashion designer, social activist and heritage conservationist, entrepreneur and lifestyle icon. Bursting with creative energy, she has used her artistry to protect and assert what it means to be Filipino.

In the 1950s, she learned from her mother Nena Fabella Pamintuan, a stylish woman of means, who was a kustorera (or a dressmaker) in post-war Iloilo. After her high school classes at the convent school Assumption in Iloilo, Patis learned to embroider, thus opening her eyes to the intricacies of the craft and the art of embellishment.

Ms Patis Tesoro’s interpretation and adaptation of the Filipiniana to current fashion trends has earned for her various recognitions and awards. She is an advocate of bringing out the best in Filipino artistry- from her embroidery, fiber, woodworks, sketches and drawings- showcasing the artistic Filipino heritage that the rest of the world came to admire..

Today, she has pushed toward more artistic frontiers by creating what she calls Bohemian Filipiniana, this time using more flamboyant colors and designs all of which can also be seen in her drawings. Her drawings masterfully exemplify her profound passion for detail. And her trademark baroque patterns.






















mycitymysmmyart group shot


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