On our Baguio art-centric sojourn, we met Mr. Ben-Hur Villanueva at his studio/gallery, Arko ni Apo right across from the Tam-Awan Village. We were quite unsure of what to expect. We had to take off our shoes to go up the studio where the artist was busy with his latest piece, a black natural rock with gold thin wires bursting from it.
Maestro Ben-Hur looked the part of an aging artist to the tee. His long white hair was in an unkempt pony tail at the nape of his neck. Music was blaring loudly and he barely noticed the four awkward strangers staring at him. His gallery featured his works that did not include price tags. I did not bother to ask how much it would cost to own one of his precious metal sculptures. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford any of it.
His wife or companion (I’m not sure) welcomed us warmly (was it because I bought a T-shirt?) and she introduced us to the sculptor. Ben Hur is most famous for his sculpture, Among Supremo, which is located at the Global City in Taguig. Talking to him was a surreal experience. When he found out that we were writers (well, technically, we were) he proceeded to announce that he had something to say that’s incredibly important.
On Nov. 30 at 7:00-8:00 am, he would stage some form of performance art at the foot of his most famous work in Taguig. As to the purpose, I did not really ask. He wanted audiences to meet him there. And he made us promise to put it up on the internet. We said we would come by but mentally, we were twisting our fingers. As much as I would love to get our picture with him autographed, we had work.
This post is a partial fulfillment of a promise to an artist who embodies passion and commitment to the Filipino art and culture. If you have nowhere to go tomorrow, you could participate and bear witness to a man and his vision for the country.