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Heroes & Legends – Portraits and Murals of Cordillera Athletes

The Heroes Project started in 2014 when after more than one year of being jobless this writer asked a photographer friend if he is interested in photographing national athletes.

I took on his offer some years back, when I used to edit a local weekly.

It turned out that three of the intended athletes to be photographed are children of a friend of the photographer.

Mukha ng Baguio through Pogz Manansala, a childhood friend and neighbor, may well started the Heroes Project with a photo exhibit at the SM City Baguio and later at the University of the Cordilleras where many of the athletes are enrolled.

He did the photos with Ric Maniquis and cousin Anton Dizon with most of the athletes photographed at Mount Santo Tomas on a promontory that has a 100 meter drop at the back.

Daniel Parantac led the athletes in the photo exhibit and a magazine featuring the athletes.

The athletes beside Parantac were members of the Philippine wushu team that include Natasha Laxamana, Kariza Chan and her twin brothers Dustin and Justin, John Keithley Chan (no relation) and Thornton Lou Sayan; the national junior wushu team of Faith Liana Andaya, John Keithley’s sister Vanessa Jo, Joel Casem, Ken Omengan, Christian Nicholas Lapitan, Hazel Angela Dalisay and the siblings Zareena and Aleca Breana Dumseng; wushu sanda’s Jean Claude Saclag and the chess trio of now International Master Haridas Pascua and young talents Brylle Gever Vinluan and Bea Mendoza.

The magazine came out on March 2015 as culmination of the Heroes Program that also included a showcase of talent at the SM City on November 20, 2014.

A Heroes & Legends Program was supposed to be launched on 2016 but after photoshoots with sanda’s Divine Wally and 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medalist for wushu sanda Benjie Rivera, the project, however, was shelved.

It took another year for it to be realized but rebooted as the Heroes: Portrait of the Cordillera Athlete, an acrylic on canvas portraits with Gladys Anne Labsan and Joseph Domirez as artists.

Labsan was asked to make two by two feet portraits of Wally, Omengan, Kariza and Laxamana, Team Lakay’s Joshua Pacio and Danny Kingad, Erlinda Lavandia, Christabel Martes, Mariane Mariano, Majoy Baron, Sandi Menchi Abahan, JT Gonzales, Mars Pucay, Luigi Paolo Wong, Christabel Martes, Alice Kate Aparri, Kareel Meer Hongitan and Katherine Torres.

Domirez was responsible in making the same number of portraits of which Team Lakay’s Mark Sangiao, Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, Geje Eustaquio, Pascua, car racers and father and son Carlos and Inigo Anton and Doug Kramer were finished before hang time at the Podium.

But legends like Hector Begeo, Jerry Dino and Rey Tam, former Ateneo point guard Gerry Verzosa, Rivera, Parantac, Saclag and Edward Kelly were not completed. Thus only 24 were exhibited.

With the staging at the Baguio Museum on June 2019, Jeordan Dominguez was included in Labsan’s 17 works. The same works were put on display at the Porta Vaga Mall on November 2019, right before the Southeast Asian Games were many of them are veterans and several competing.

That brings us to the third Heroes projects, the Murals and SEAG Heroes photo exhibit.

As early as July of 2019, when Dominguez won the bronze medal in the World Taekwondo Poomsae Championship in Italy, a project was hatched with photographer Eliza Consul.

A meeting with the Muay Thai Waikru teams on November 2019 resulted to the second batch of photo sessions with Jearome Calica and Rusha Bayacsan as subjects along with their partners – Joemar Gallaza and Iredin Lipatan.

The rest of the photoshoots were done on February and March in the hope of coming out with a photo exhibit during the Cordillera Administrative Region Athletic Association meet slated that month.

At the same time, this writer arranged to have mural works at the Baguio athletic bowl featuring faces of the sports legends like Begeo, Dino, Tam, Lavandia, Wally, Sangiao, Folayang, Pacio, among others.

I asked that the walls just below the sports office must be used but was told by sports coordinator Gaudencio Gonzales to make use instead of the wall just below the tourism office.

“Or better the walls of the dugouts of the long stage, so it will look like the walls are canvas,” I suggested.

“Make the letter now addressed to mayor Benjamin Magalong thru city administrator Bonifacio dela Pena,” he added.

Chancing on Mark Sangiao at the athletic bowl also that month made hi suggest that instead a wall for the Team Lakay must be made separate from the Legends. Thus, another letter amending my first request was made and approved by the city administrator.

But the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) situation worsened, the CARAA and Panagbenga were cancelled and an enhanced community quarantine was declared Luzon-wide.

The projects were suspended.

By September as Baguio has been under modified general community quarantine, the projects could be revived.

Sangiao tapped Harold Banario to do the Lakay mural while I asked Labsan to do the Legends Mural. It would be best if she does her work at the shaded area, of course being a woman and a mother of four girls, the youngest is barely one.

The project was relaunched on October 2, but Banario was only able to start on October 27, right after Sangiao, Folayang, Eustaquio and Lito Adiwang flew to Singapore for the ONE Inside the Matrix series.

Labsan asked to start painting “when the situation is better” and only commenced middle of November.

The Team Lakay mural is almost over, while Labsan’s Legends have three completed murals – Begeo, Dino and Lavandia. Labsan promised to finish the Tam mural before Christmas.

On October 12, Concul’s SEAGames Heroes were finally unveiled at the Baguio City Hall Lobby which run until the end of the month. Renamed Bodies in Motion, the same body of work are now on display at the Porta Vaga Mall walls. It will run until January 31 next year.

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