Gary C. Devilles
Philippine Daily Inquirer
we are always fascinated by the manunggul jar displayed in our national museum not only because it is almost 800 years old but because this jar evokes an old form of spirituality. after all, the jar is a burial jar and as such it speaks of our way of life then as it continues to tell our story now.
the notable lid of the manunggul jar suggests a story of someone about to embark on a journey by boat. although, we will never know where that journey ends, the jar somehow reminds us that death can never be contained nor the will or the artistry of the people who made this jar. such spirituality and philosophy reverberates today and is depicted in the works of fr. nunilon arnold bancaso jr. of the holy rosary minor seminary at naga city, who, together with the artists group "burikbutikan (buribod kana buway tinuboan ka baao)" (group name re-written for correction), had just recently launched their works at café des artes in baao, camarines sur.
fr. bancaso believes his ministry and art practice are one and the same. this is the reason why he painted the “dulay” (bikol word for stone water jar) since the the local jar, useful yet fragile, represents “who and what we are, our frailty and indomitable spirit.”
according to him, the new testament says the gospel or good news of salvation is a treasure that has been placed in an “earthen vessel.” people can be extremely vulnerable and may succumb to bleakness and desperation. but filipinos have shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity and that’s why the dulay for him is an apt representation.
anthropologist prospero covar also believes the dulay can be used as a trope to describe our identity and since a jar has three dimensions—outer, inner and depth. our identity can also be explained by way of interrelations of these dimensions. the semantic richness of our words or emotions is quite difficult to translate without considering these dimensions. for instance, our anger can vary from sama ng loob, which literally means “pain from within” to an outburst like galit or to even something even deep that is poot. it is not unexpected, therefore, for fr. bancaso to use dulay to convey a gamut of emotions and forms of consciousness like forgiveness, care, destiny or providence.
fr. bancaso admits he has no formal training in paintings and yet his dulay depicted by thick visible brush strokes of ochre smoothen by a fit of pea green and purplish backdrop creates an effect of introspective stillness as though the dulay is both real and unreal at the same time, being created and only about to be molded.
his dulay is far from the “still life with two jars” by vincent van gogh or even from the impressionistic depiction of jars by artists like seamus berkeley or lennox coke and yet, through this series, he was able to show his appropriation of erudite techniques.
after all, this is exactly what the dulay is also about, being a receptacle or a vessel. the dulay can also contain dualities held in paradoxical tensions, whether this is our flawed identity or our becoming, or the ephemerality of the seasons we experience as burabod (spring) or the universality of kamurawayan (bliss) and gayon (beauty).
in his work, the dulay is created from a depth of artistic praxis where spirituality is experienced directly and not cogitated. the poet wallace stevens once wrote of a jar that made the wilderness surround a hill, sprawled and became no longer wild. Perhaps it is also this power that fr. bancaso intimates about dulay that may be bare and yet offers a reverential presence.