Friday, July 10, 2009

The Abueva and the New Sisa Murals at the National Center for Mental Health

Napoleon Abueva, National Artist for Sculpture

Published in Manila Bulletin

“We want a few mad people now. See where the sane ones have landed us!”
~ George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

Even at the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong City, art has found its place not only to uplift the souls of the mentally challenged patients, but also to signify as a historical symbol of those who served and those being served by the institution for almost a century now, or eighty years of its existence to be exact.

In this vein, two murals were recently re-dedicated and unveiled respectively known as the Abueva Mural, a 35-year old mural done by the National Artist Napoleon Abueva, and “The New Sisa Mural”, recently created by three Filipino artists known as the PST Muralists.

The re-dedication of Abueva Mural and the unveiling of a new one highlight the 80th year anniversary of National Center for Mental Health, one of the leading mental institutions in the country.

Condescendingly standing at the right side entrance of National Center for Mental Health compound is a 35-year old mural by National Artist Napoleon Abueva. Carved on marbles and embedded on the concrete, the mural is composed of geometric mass of blocks, engraved figures and portraits of NCMH founders.

Intriguingly, at the extreme right of the mural, are three womblike shapes and inside in each section is a figure of awkward body posture; a naked boy holding onto a metal bar, a man crossing his arms above his head, and a naked figure in a fetal position. Another arresting element is the pictorial narrative of two mentally challenged patients; two hospital’s male aides are holding a madman while the other, a woman, is sitting in a classic position of a “mentally ill” patient.

After cleaning and restoring to its former grandeur, which was initiated by one of the staff of NCMH and an artist himself Jonathan “Jonski” Olarte, the mural was re-dedicated with the presence of its creator, National Artist Napoleon Abueva.

Sitting on a wheelchair with his ever-loving wife, the former director of NCMH, Mr. Abueva could only quip and smile over his earlier opus, which seemed to be swallowing up his presence. The mural was created in 1974 at the height of the artist’s career as a sculptor.

Present at the event were Bernardino A Vicente, MD, MHA, CESO IV, Medical Canter Chief II, who gave an inspirational message and a welcome address by Dr. Venus Serra-Arain, MD, FPPA, MHA, Chief, Medical & Professional Staff Community Service and Chair of NCMH 80th Anniversary Souvenir Program Committee.

At the lobby of NCMH administration building is the “New Sisa Mural” with Sisa at the center, donning a sanely wide smile flanked by two children. (Sisa is one of Jose Rizal’s notable characters in his novel “Noli Me Tangere”.) The mural depicts the 80 years of NCMH service of treating and maintaining the mental health of Filipinos in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

The mural is a collaborative endeavor of three artists Bing Siochi, Ernie Patricio, and Harry Torres, the PST Muralists; they are all members of Las Piñas Tuesday Group. Jonathan Olarte, member of NCMH 80th Anniversary Souvenir Program Committee, proudly presented the mural and its creators during the unveiling headed by Dr. Bernardino A Vicente, Medical Canter Chief II, and Dr. Venus Serra-Arain, Chief, Medical & Professional Staff Community Service.

The mural is made possible by the effort of Dr. Venus Serra-Arain and Jonathan Olarte, who conceived and raised the fund for the project. “The New Sisa Mural” is envisioned toward a sound mind and mentally healthy Filipinos, in honor of the 80th anniversary of NCMH.

The blessing and unveiling of two murals, the Pavilion 2, and the NCMH Museum & Souvenir Shop were done by Fr. Apolinario Matilos, NCMH chaplain last May 13, 2009.

© Danny Castillones Sillada

*Above artwophotos: (1) National Artist Napoleon Abueva, (2) 35-year old NCMH Mural by National Artist Napoleon Abueva, (3) Re-dedication of Abueva Mural at NCMH, (4) The New Sisa Mural at the National Center for Mental Health, (5) The new mural with NCMH officers and staff


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