53rd Shell NSAC Awards: hope during this pandemic year

Through Filipino art students from all over the country

As audiences reckon with art’s essential place in providing comfort and positivity during difficult times, an environment of support is essential for young struggling artists to thrive—so that they may continue to spread messages of hope and shine a light on the future.

Founded on its mission of empowering the young artists of tomorrow, Pilipinas Shell’s National Student Art Competition (NSAC) held its 53rd run this year, with the timely theme of “HOPE IN OUR ART.” For the first time in history, the longest-running Philippine student art competition was held completely online, its platform reaching out to more young artists around the country.

The 53rd NSAC concluded with an awarding ceremony held last November 27 via Zoom, with entries totaling 1,500—a testament to the art sector’s rapid growth and potential and the vibrant enthusiasm of young Filipinos towards art. 

“For young Filipino artists, NSAC has been a platform to learn and grow by harnessing personal experiences and transforming them into works of art,” said Cesar Romero, President and CEO of Pilipinas Shell. “May we work together to reinforce art’s place in a post-pandemic society — one that deserves to be cultivated for many years to come.”

“The importance of art has never been clearer during the months we spent in isolation when art was used to express feelings—from fear and gratitude, to trying to make sense of what the world is going through,” stressed Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat, who was a guest speaker at the event.”

“Our young artists will tell the story of how our people overcame this crisis—drawing on our spirit of bayanihan, talent for innovation, and desire for a just society,” she added.

Of the 1,500 entries submitted from all over the country, three winners were chosen for four categories : Digital Fine Arts, Sculpture, Watercolor, and Oil and Acrylic.

The following are the winners and their respective schools:

Digital Fine Arts Category

3rd Place: “One by One, Whole Body” by Victor Nadera from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. The piece references the quintessential 1×1 ID photos taken for school admission, but it also reflects how the education system has had to change because of the pandemic—which has robbed many students of the chance to enjoy this period of their youth alongside their friends, classmates, and teachers. Despite this, many students around the country continue to persist through their studies in the hope of fulfilling their education and one day improving the nation .

2nd Place: “MHM (Mental Health) Matters” by Bea Therese Musni from the University of Rizal System, Angono Campus. The artwork depicts a cry to recognize the rise of mental health amid this turbulent year. With catastrophes and crises going on everywhere, mental health often gets put on the backburner, but the young artist Musni reminds us that taking care of one’s health is integral before becoming a beacon of hope for other people.

1st Place: “Wala Akong Choice Kundi Magdasal” by Rianne Abucejo from the University of San Carlos. The winning entry is a powerful expression of the power of prayer as a source of strength as the world attempts to make sense of the uncertainties surrounding them. Although there are often more questions than answers, faith and a spiritual connection in the grand scheme of the universe can be a lifeline of hope.

Sculpture Category

3rd Place: “Ako Ay May Lobo” by John Lirio from the University of the East, Caloocan. The artwork utilizes elements of youth, particularly toys, to portray a picture of beginnings that can signal hope for humanity. At first look, Lirio’s artwork may appear like random objects attached together, but the rising balloon signifies that we, as humans, can go beyond our suffering and emerge stronger and wiser.

2nd Place: “Pag-Asa Bldg. Room 50/50” by Jao Pelaez from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Manila. The sculpture speaks of the tragedy that occurs when lack of education paralyzes the youth. Composed of one-half of a school chair and another half of a wheelchair, Pelaez puts together two unlikely objects to assert the message that the youth are indeed our hope for the future—but they must first be supported and empowered to thrive.

1st Place: “Ayuda” by Bea Cortez from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. The piece, the title of which translates to “help” in English, depicts camaraderie and the Filipino spirit of community which sustain our countrymen during the hardships. Cortez makes use of cans, which alludes to canned food products—the standard type of relief goods received by Filipinos in need. To some people, canned food products may not be a big deal, but it is a significant symbol of hope—and a literal lifesaver—for others.

Watercolor Category

3rd Place: “I Am Genuinely Optimistic” by John Magbuhos from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Manila. It is inspired by the adage “just be positive.” From mere catchwords, these words have taken on new meaning amid the pandemic. While tribulations threaten to bring people down, staying positive becomes an energizing act of hope.

2nd Place: “Pag-usbong ng Binhi” by Mark Lagrana from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Manila. The piece symbolizes the inevitable challenges of life, and how they can be used as fuel for resilience and rising together once more. In the context of COVID, the pandemic revealed numerous cracks in the system, but on the other side of the coin is a chance to repair these cracks and start anew.

1st Place: “Rep-Leksyon” by Wendel Candawan from Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology. The artwork explores how people can lift each other up in this time of the pandemic. Through solidarity and trusting each other, communities may unite and find collective strength.

Oil and Acrylic Category

3rd Place: “Plantito/Plantita” by Gyles Abac from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. It is an ode to nature and its importance to humanity. The piece references the activity of gardening, which has become a source of respite for many over the lockdown period. But more than a hobby, plants depict growth, hope, and new beginnings. 

2nd Place: “Back n Front” by Ranier Bolivar from GK College. The piece talks about the balance of life—how every moment of difficulty comes with another side of hope. This hope is depicted through an image of a medical frontliner holding the earth in her hands, as their dedication to their work has become a source of hope amid all the darkness.

1st Place: “Foresight” by John Santos from Bulacan State University. The artwork expresses the role of the youth as harbingers of hope for the future. In this piece, a student wearing a mask is seen holding an astronaut helmet. It shows that despite how bleak the future may look, it is still important to hold on to hopes and dreams.

Similar to previous competitions, Pilipinas Shell also tapped various veteran artists and esteemed community members to serve as judges for the 53rd NSAC, namely: Lex Kabigting, Jose Tence Ruiz, and Ross Capili for Digital Fine Arts; Edgar Fernandez, Renato Habulan, and Nemi Miranda for Watercolor; Jan Leeroy New, Toym Leon Imao, and Ram Mallari, Jr. for Sculpture; and Nestor Olarte Vinluan, Kenneth Esguerra, and Mark Justiniani for Oil and Acrylic.

For over half a century, the NSAC has nurtured and cultivated many legends in the field, including National Artists Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, and Ben Cabrera. Ayala Museum Director Mariles Gustilo concluded, “Shell NSAC has a colorful history. We’re proud of the talent that Shell has discovered and nurtured throughout the years. This competition is an opportunity to be active advocates of arts and culture and a way to create social change through art. Our nation needs artists now more than ever.”

For updates on the virtual gallery, please follow Shell Philippines’ social media pages and website.


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