The First Negros Gamefowl Art Exhibition
The Art of Cockfighting
Cockfighting is both an art and a science for the seasoned breeders of the province Negros Occidental, Philippines—home to the legendary breeders and breeds in the country. The experiment in bloodlines, nutrition, training and the like are all very systematic to come up with the perfect fighting machine that can make its breeder proud. Everything else—the game bird’s handsome physique, the fighting style, etc.—are all forms of art.
But this time, cockfighting has been elevated to become the subject of visual arts, as the Negros Gamefowl Breeders Association (NGBA) has presented the First Negros Gamefowl Art Exhibition. The display was formally opened to the public in a fellowship of artists and breeders last August 20, 2009 at the Grand Ballroom of Sugarland Hotel in Bacolod City. The pieces of art were then transferred to the Museo Negrense de La Salle of the University of St. La Salle and were on display until September 5, 2009. The event was sponsored by VNJ Distributors Inc. and Belamyl by Novartis.
Edbon Sevilleno, a Bacoleño artist and one of the lead artists of the event, said that it was champion breeder Eduardo “Eddie Boy” Ledesma, who is also an art collector, was the prime mover of this project. Eddie Boy has always been a patron of the works of artist Rodney Martinez and the latter was responsible for introducing Sevilleno to Eddie Boy. The breeder then encouraged the artists to make cockfighting as the subject in their works, after all, Negros has always been known as the lair of champion breeders in the country.
Sevilleno, who is a magazine illustrator and cartoonist himself, then invited other local artists to put their creativity at work and to join in the endeavor of interpreting different aspects of cockfighting. After about 15 days, the result was a collection of 53 artworks of different media of which the individual artist is most proficient—pen and ink, pencil on paper, pastel on paper, oil on canvas, mixed media, and terracotta.
Among the artists who contributed their works, aside from Sevilleno and Martinez, are Jecky Alano, Perry Argel, Nune Alvarado, Dennis Ascalon, Bert Berondo, Nilda Claveraz, Rommel Clavecillas, Charlie Co, Jovito Hecita, Raymond Legaspi, Rafael Paderna, Leah Samson, Roger Salvarita, Lor Sumagaysay, Fred Juson, and Orville Visitacion. Manila breeder and artist Edward Tan also made a contribution to the exhibit—an 18” x 20” watercolor on paper artwork that exemplifies the concept of “Partida”, or “giving one an advantage as shown by the lack of gloves by the flying rooster,” the artist wrote.
Each artist relied on his or her own concept of or exposure to the world of cockfighting for inspiration. Thus, the artworks had different subjects, ranging from sparring roosters, men handling their fighters on the rueda, breeders stroking their roosters, to handsome game fowls simply standing majestically on top of their teepees. Some artists also depicted the lifestyles of common breeders, such as sharing thoughts on breeding while stroking their favored birds, a man waiting at a port for his trip to Manila while closely watching his boxes of fighting cocks, or an excited young boy who just had his first exposure to a game bird. Such scenes were either presented realistically or as abstract. Whatever the expression, Sevilleno said that more importantly, they wanted to divert the idea of cockfighting as a gambling activity and rather present it as a way of life for many Filipino men.
Part of the proceeds of the exhibit will be allocated in the setting up of a foundation that will support charitable causes, Sevilleno said. The artist also added that this is not going to be the last time that they will hold an exhibit but will be the first of many projects that they intend to do in the future as a collaborative effort. They wanted the exhibits and other projects to become a sustainable venue for local artists to exhibit their creativity and also earn from it.