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DEX N MUT: BEST BULALO IN TOWN
Bulalo with rice all you can
Posted by Dexter Matilla - - 0 comments


By Dexter R. Matilla
Inquirer
First Posted 01:23am (Mla time) 03/26/2007

MANILA, Philippines – On a frenzied January afternoon in 1969, Jan Palach was walking around Wenceslas Square in Prague with a single-minded task. Upon reaching the ramp of the National Museum, at around 4 p.m., he poured gasoline all over his body and set himself on fire.

Somewhere, Tomas Concepcion learned of the brave 20-year-old philosophy student’s dreadful call for action to his fellow Czechs whose country had been invaded a year earlier by the Soviets.

It made such an impact on Concepcion that he held a protest exhibit at Galleria Baesa Nuoi in Rome dedicated to Palach.

“That was my first encounter with art and protest… and social and political problems,” said Concepcion. “And it never left me. I don’t know why, but this is like an obsession. I’m against the violence of man against man. God did not make the world that way.”

Roughly three years later, Concepcion became part of the Movement for Free Philippines, in which he was chair for Southern Europe.

“It was a very visible movement in Europe,” Concepcion said. “Nobody organized marches and protests like I did.”

At the same time, Concepcion started the Filipino Democratic Workers’ Union as the number of Filipinos working in Italy had risen. He financed the movement as well as his political activities by doing art shows in the US, one of which was graced by Jackie Onassis.

As a 17-year-old, Concepcion, whose mother was of Muslim royalty, went to the US where he studied at San Francisco State College, majoring in Painting and Theater Design.

He moved to New England and worked as a set designer for Warwick Theaters. From there, he set off for Canada, studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

He traveled to Europe to visit museums, spending some time in Paris where he tried to look for a studio but was unsuccessful. He would eventually find his place in Rome.

His first studio was at Palacio Savelli, where the Inquisition used to hold office, and a walking distance from Piazza Navona of the Four Rivers fountains by Gianlorenzo Bernini.

It was at the Eternal City where, as a portrait painter, he got commissions to paint Prince Steno Borghese, Duchess Nicoletta de Serracapriola, soprano Leontyne Price, conductor Thomas Shippers, banker Baron Leon Lambert, and film actors Silvano Mangano and Marcello Mastroianni.

He has completed paintings and sculptures famous the world over. Concepcion enjoys the distinction of being the only Filipino to have done the sculptures of two Popes: Paul VI, which is found at the Vatican University; and John Paul II, commissioned by the Vatican as a gift to Guam.

Concepcion is also proud of the Ninoy Aquino statue he made for the People’s Park at Edsa.

“I had it sent to Manila in time for the first anniversary of Ninoy,” Concepcion said. “I love Ninoy—but who doesn’t?”

Mean representative

Concepcion’s firm resolve to uphold human rights led him to politics, in which he was a very resolute and straight-talking member of the House of Representatives in the 9th Congress. He was a representative of overseas Filipino workers.

“I was a mean representative,” recalled Concepcion.

With his days in politics behind him, Concepcion remains outspoken in discussing his views about the current Philippine situation. The same can be said about the pieces for his “Homage to Michaelangelo” exhibit that opens at Galleria Duemila on March 31.

The large-scale paintings, lithographs and sculptures are sure to evoke emotion, in the tradition of the protean body of work of the great Renaissance artist.

“Art is not about putting people to sleep,” Concepcion said. “It should make them think, make them feel, excite them, disgust them, move them. Art should be provocative.”

Concepcion feels very honored to be sponsored by the Italian Embassy, a first for a non-Italian. Concepcion explains that he intends to reintroduce the Renaissance to Filipino art lovers.

“Michaelangelo was so modern,” he said. “Before Michaelangelo, all the figures were stiff. With his passion for humanity, glorifying God’s creation, he twisted the bodies, made the sculptures look alive. So I have fallen in love with Michaelangelo. He’s a fascinating and tormented artist.”

His lithographs, “Love Signs,” are something to look forward to as they interpret the zodiac signs in a sexual manner.

While the 70something Concepcion continues to make up for lost time with his art, he is also working on his biography, which, according to him, will start with his first sexual experience and end with his stint in politics.

“I’m enjoying writing,” Concepcion said. “It will be two books. The other one will focus on my life in Rome because that part is so rich.”

E-mail the author at dxmatilla@yahoo.com

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