IMELDA CAJIPE ENDAYA

Pasyong Bayan

Mixed media

182 x 536 cm

(triptych)

1983

Metropolitan Museum of Manila Collection

About the Artwork

People peer out from behind black windows. The woven bamboo of their houses, normally a dry brown, has been painted black. Dirty curtains and jagged splinters frame their faces, their expressions at once transparent yet indiscernible – as though they know what to feel but can’t fully express it either. What meets the viewer instead are blank stares, or the contortions of grief. The faces of these women and children where this anguish is engraved invites the question, what could they be grieving?

Then the stained curtains rustle. The inky blackness breaks for a moment. And the bodies reveal themselves from out of the folds of fabric. And faces float out from the dark. And so it is in this black house, with its windows framed in splinters and grime, where no light breaks through from the darkness deep inside it, that one sees eventually: here live ghosts and their attendant mourners.

It’s in this painting by Imelda Cajipe-Endaya, titled “Pasyong Bayan”, that one could see this house as synecdoche for the country. The artist herself explains that this painting, made in 1983 in the depths of then-president Ferdinand Marcos Sr’s dictatorship, “expresses the people’s rage against the human-rights violations perpetrated by a dictatorial regime that resulted in the loss of our democratic freedoms.(1)” The house, then, stands for the Philippines, its inhabitants the dictator’s victims, as well as the ones they have left behind.

In the years since Marcos Sr’s fall after the 1986 People Power Revolution, “Pasyong Bayan” has since gone on to become one of the representative artworks of this period. It has likewise been noted by many for its focus on women and their struggle against the dictatorship, likely influenced by Cajipe-Endaya’s own political commitments during the period as an organizer and advocate for women’s rights.

In the wake as well of the end of Martial Law came a change in the cultural institutions of the Philippines. The Metropolitan Museum of Manila, which was established by the Marcoses in 1976 as a space for international contemporary art, underwent a change in directorship in 1986, prompting a change in the museum’s strategies and direction. It became a museum just as dedicated to Filipino contemporary art as it was to international art, and pieces such as “Pasyong Bayan'' entered into its collection. Guided in its commitment to promoting “Art for All,” the relevance of “Pasyong Bayan” in Philippine art history renders it relevant to the collection of the museum, becoming a mainstay in many an exhibit there, on top of being a key image used many times to commemorate Martial Law.

In its own time, “Pasyong Bayan” was a powerful piece meant to draw attention to the state of human rights under the Marcos dictatorship. 36 years since its end, “Pasyong Bayan” has taken on a new meaning – it is a reminder of the dark and bloody period that it was made in, a testament to the experiences specifically of women under the dictatorship, and, perhaps most importantly, an exhortation to never forget.

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The artwork was last exhibited during the 2019 exhibition of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila Collection entitled "In Full View" at its previous Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex premises.

About the Artist

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