Iloilo artists bag regional tilt with ‘personal’ artwork

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

An artist’s work is considered a window to their soul, giving the audience a preview to their lives, and for Ilonggo artists, Jason Delgado, Noel Elicana, and Melvin Guirhem, their “personal” artwork helped them bag three out of the five winning spots from the Visayas phase of the 2020 Philippine Art Awards.

Delgado, Elicana, and Guirhem were announced as winners by the Awards’ official Facebook page on March 5, but there had been no awarding ceremony because of the surge of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country shortly after.

They are also part of the 20 national finalists for the competition.

They were formally awarded in a simple ceremony during the launching of the “Breath of Life: Art Works in the time of COVID-19” exhibit, held at the Museo Iloilo last June 10, 2020.

The artworks are currently displayed at the Yuchengco Museum in Makati City.

The awarding for the national winners of the 2020 Philippine Art Awards are yet to be announced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.




Jason Delgado’s artwork, titled “Baptism”, speaks about him as an artist and his personal contemplations in life.

The painting shows a cross and a knife on the side of a bed in what seems to be a bedroom.

Delgado said that his work showed more of how he reflected on his own life through his experiences and struggles.

Baptism by Jason Delgado

“It speaks about my contemplations about as a person and as an artist. It is a personal reflection, like I’m talking to myself, looking at my experiences and my personal struggles, and how I handle life,” Delgado said.


He said that the message of the painting was very simple and that many may relate to it, linking it to how people contemplate about the day they’ve had as they go to sleep.


“At first glance, you can’t see it because it’s a bit conceptual, but when you look at it further, you can relate to it, because it speaks about midnight contemplations, how you sum up your day, and how you’re thinking about tomorrow,” he said.




Noel Elicana’s “Engrave Yesterday’s Silence” contains symbols such as a knife, a filipiñana dress, and 3 eggs in a knife’s holder.

Elicana said that this oil-on-canvas painting was based on his personal childhood memories.

Engrave Yesterday_s Silence by Noel Elicana

“The work is a personal experience. It narrates the artist’s past family struggles. The inspiration of my entry is my personal childhood memories. Those memories developed who I am now today. Although it’s part of my childhood trauma, I converted it as my motivations to continue in life,” Elicana said.


He also shared the meanings of the items symbolized in the painting and how he wants the audience to view his work.


“I want the audience to feel my emotions behind the work. In the first glance, it is like a murder scene, but the very message is the white dress represents hope, and the 3 eggs represent me being vulnerable yet valuable,” he said.


He also said that in the future, he hopes to inspire the next generation of artists.

He is currently stranded in Cavite province due to travel restriction brought about by the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he was represented by his sister Doreen during the awarding.

Doreen said that she and her brother were very excited about his win, and that they felt very happy to have won at least in the regional level.




“Failed Reconciliation”, a fabric college and thread-on-canvas piece by Melvin Guirhem, took inspiration from the artist’s family, which had been broken since he was young.


The artwork shows a portrait of a family during Christmas at home, who seem to be unhappy and estranged from each other despite being together.


Guirhem said that the artwork unveils his family’s situation to the audience, and how it has inspired his life today.


“I can say this is personal art because the concept of the artwork is focused on the family. This is about how natural it is for families to have issues among them. My artwork somewhat unveils to the people that this is the side of my family, this is my life right now, and that is why I decided for this to be my entry,” Guirhem said.


He further described the intricacies of the artwork and how it showed their estrangement while being together.


“In our family, we have reunions during Christmas. The artwork shows midnight, which symbolizes the Christmas season, and we can see that there is a Christmas tree in the back. But there isn’t any glow, any lights, and it’s not lively. The scaffolding shows that the structure of the home is not solid and goes sideways with a tendency to collapse. In the back is my self-portrait as an artist, carrying a cross, which symbolizes my burden but at the same time, supporting the home despite the tendency to be destroyed,” he said.


He said that he was a bit hesitant to show his personal life to his audiences and that it is also depicted in the artwork.


“There is a curtain at the back which symbolizes me showing our life. Although I was initially hesitant to show our life as a family, I feel light, in a way that at least my burdens have been lifted,” he said.


He said that his inclusion in the roster of regional winners also gave justice to the artwork.


“Personally, I felt happy because I felt like my personal art was given justice. I learned that I was included in the finalists at around the same time my father died, and he was the main inspiration for the artwork because the problems that we experienced came from him, so I could let it go now, and I can move forward,” he said.


(Photos of artworks from Philippine Art Awards official Facebook page)

(From left to right: Jason Delgado, Doreen Leonoras, (representing her brother Noel Elicano), and Melvin Guirhem, regional winners of the 2020 Philippine Art Awards, were formally awarded at the launching of the “Breath of Life” exhibit at the Museo Iloilo on June 10. Photo by Joseph B.A. Marzan.)