Arts & Culture

Art Exhibit Tackles Drug War, Extrajudicial Killings, Human Rights

The exhibition "Hudyat" gathers works by National Artist BenCab, Jose Tence Ruiz, Julie Lluch, Jose F. Lacaba, among others to address issues regarding human rights and dignity in the Philippines.

Numerous celebrated artists are part of Hudyat, an exhibit at Far Eastern University bold enough to tackle the delicate subject of extrajudicial killings—or "EJK" as the acronym is loosely thrown around. When asked what moved him and the others to participate, curator Ricky Francisco says that it was to lend a voice to the voiceless. “We believe that it is an important issue, particularly now that so many of the powerless and the voiceless are being killed. It is important to let people, regardless of political leanings, make a stand on what they believe is right.”

Their mission, a tough one to put it lightly, gathers painters, photographers, video and installation artists, poets, essayists, and even musicians, who want to address issues regarding human rights and dignity in the Philippines at a time when they are being contested.

Prometheus Unbound by Jose F. Lacaba

Hudyat focuses on the war on drugs which has already claimed the lives of more than 7,000 Filipinos. The main subjects of the show are those whose lives have been denied justice. The final takeaway of the exhibit would be a gained awareness that “to be a functional nation, we have to uphold human dignity by working out solutions to our social problems with that core value in mind,” says Francisco, who believes that the relationship between art and current events lies in the expression of humanity. These “current events in our country threaten the very nature of humanity in us. I think it is but natural that artists who see these issues who respond this way.”

A piece by Mark Valenzuela

The exhibit invited FEU artists—students, teachers, and alumni— as well as outsiders, to showcase their work, which resulted in a reactionary exhibition based on the concept and the artworks. “It was really important for us to bring art to school,” says Francisco. “We believe that to understand art, we must have empathy. By bringing these works to a school campus, which shares the same core values regarding humanity, we were hoping to expose students to become more empathetic human beings capable of caring for their fellow human beings.”


After the run at FEU, the works will be exhibited at other campuses. Several schools, two in Manila and one in Baguio, have already approached FEU. Each exhibit will be different from the other, says Francisco. The highlights for the FEU exhibit are Jose Tence Ruiz’s Langue Lounge, which was previously installed at Art Fair Philippines 2017, Toym Imao’s Desaparecidos: Memorializing Absence, and Antipas Delotavo’s Bakas ng Salarin, all for their sheer scale and clarity of thought. “It was also a real treat to see National Artist BenCab's Cry For Justice, made in 1986,” says Francisco. Julie Lluch’s Beauty for Brutality 1, Nikki Luna’s War, and Mark Valenzuela’s Violently piqued the interests of the students, perhaps because of their three-dimensional aspects.

Desaparecidos: Memorializing Absence by Toym Imao

Langue Lounge by Jose Tence Ruiz

BenCab's Cry For Justice

The works of Luna and Lluch focus on issues that affect women and children, Xyza Bacani and William Elvin portray the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers, while poets Jose F. Lacaba, Marne Kilates, and artists BenCab, Imao, and Melvyn Calderon focus on political repression. Photographer Rick Rocamora documents the lives of Filipinos in jail. Raffy Lerma and Carlo Gabuco present disturbing documentary photos and have since been working the night beat to capture the violence of extrajudicial killings.

A piece by Julie Lluch

One of Melvyn Calderon's works

On opening day, visitors listened to stories of the families of the victims of the killings. Proceeds from the exhibits as well as sales of the artworks will go to these victims, their families, and IDefend, a movement that vows to defend human rights and has been providing legal aid to the families affected by these killings. One of the organizers, Edna Aquino, says “this exhibit must have the victims and their families at the core. Help must not be in the theoretical but must be real.”


Raffy Lerma sharing his experience with visitors

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Hannah Lazatin
Senior Staff Writer
Hannah is a communications graduate from Ateneo de Manila University. She’s originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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