Alee Garibay and Jodie Jose
In Kamutangan (Waray word for condition or situation), Maralita ruminates on the state and limitations the simple man is facing during the pandemic, as well as the current disposition of his own practice as an artist. Through the 15 works he produced during his apprenticeship at the Linangan program, he relates the feeling of uncertainty and hopelessness—a universal sentiment at the time—to being trapped in a box. “The simple man” is the farmers, the manang, the manggagawa, those who earn their wages by going out to the streets daily—an activity prohibited due to the global pandemic.
For them, life becomes harder and darker than it already is. It is this condition that Maralita encapsulates in his series. Hurot na an Bail (“hurot” being the Waray word for ubos or used up, 48 x 48 in.) depicts a construction worker on his final grains of rice, reflecting the suddenness of the epidemic that caught the people unawares and unprepared. Upon seeing his works, viewers vicariously experience being constricted and trapped as the walls of the boxes extend to the corners of the canvas. Maralita depicts gaunt and tired looking figures, some seemingly content and asleep, some desperately trying to free themselves; their bodies twisting distortedly as they wriggle their way out of the cramped space of the box. “It is in the state of constriction and darkness that one yearns most and values one’s freedom and light.” says Maralita.
When the crisis struck, Maralita, like many were separated from their families and were prohibited from travelling back to their hometowns. Magsayuan (Alone) is Maralita’s rendition of this separation and yearning for home. In Hulat sa Paglaum (48 x 36 in.) he tries to push the limits of the canvas/painting as form and practice through the holes he cuts through his canvases. Instead of being an act of violence, his is a meditative, surgical act, where he retains the fibers from the cut canvas. His careful incisions meticulously puts emphasis on the threads (the individuals) holding the fabric, diffusing the act of violation of piercing the canvas. The title of the work also translates to “waiting for hope”. The figure, asleep and curled up in his box, echoes an identical sense of entrapment and hopelessness seen in the other works. This particular one, however, rests his back against a book, which the artist reveals to be a Bible; revealing the artist’s belief that the Divine watches over everyone, especially in times we feel the most isolated.
Kamutangan is Maralita’s reflection of his inner and outer graplings of the proof of the Divine’s faithfulness; where isolation does not equate to desertion, but rather becomes a nesting ground for transformation and rebirth; like a cocoon or a womb. The simple man in his modest way of life is more discerning and trusting of the Divine; his eyes look out beyond the walls of his current conditions founded in steadfast faith birthing certainty.