December 28, 2016 12:38 AM

Leoniel ‘Sabrec’ Cerbas: Precious Memories

By: Maricyn A. De los Santos

Photos by: Ricky D. Alejo

LIKE a lotus flower that radiates its beauty in the mud, the unassuming Leoniel ‘Sabrec’ Cerbas prevailed over life’s unfavorable circumstances with happiness and remembrance; and his life journey he eternalized in an exhibit dubbed “Precious Memories” on show at Casa Real Gallery, Iloilo City.


In an interview during the opening of his exhibit Dec. 9, 2016, Sabrec recalled how he grew up (and is still living) in Barangay Ortiz in Iloilo City - where a wharf going to Guimaras is located, and where many men of his age make a living as porters, as aguador, as yosi and mineral water vendor.

He grew up poor that he himself once had to drive trisikad to help his seamstress mom and soldier dad bring food to their family’s table. But although economically poor, Sabrec’s life is not wholly miserable for the Divine so loved him he was gifted with a talent for visual arts.

At an early age, he knew he love colors, forms, figures, and images when he joined and won in poster-making contests in elementary and high school. Later on, he came to terms that his hands sharpened and hardened by doing hard labor during boyhood are the same hands that can create beautiful artworks.

After seven years of taking part in group exhibits and joining and winning in visual arts contests in Iloilo and the country, Sabrec finally staged his first solo exhibit - showcasing seven paintings and one art installation depicting his experiences in the past. Common in the seven paintings are dogs, which the dog-lover Sabrec considers his most loyal companions.

The centerpiece of his exhibit “Courageous Tree in Chaotic Playground” sums up Sabrec’s life experiences - both as an artist and a person. It shows how a person, if he chose to, can rise above life’s circumstances. Sabrec creatively represented life adversaries in the forms of serpent, crocodile, hounds, tombs, rabbit, skulls, vultures, cherubims, backhoe, bull, crows, and bed of roses, etc., which helped defined his consciousness and outlook in life, with himself in the middle, rising and looking upward in thanksgiving.

But his life is incomplete without his mom. She loves him so much that he made “Maternal Machine” a tribute painting to his mother. Through the painting, the artist recognizes and honors his mother and her hard work, sleepless and crouched nights just to bring food for her brood.

“Breadwinner” is a self-portrait of Sabrec. Surrounded by lots of dogs, he is seen in deep thoughts while covered by a blanket made of patches of clothes, lying in bamboo bed or floor made of bamboo slats.

Sabrec said dogs are sources of comfort; “Dogs never abandon their master, in richer or in poorer, in sickness and in health.” The self-portrait gives the viewer an impression of how the artist looks at his life in his lowest - poor but comforted by his loyal dogs.

“The Sunday Servant”, on the other hand, is a painting of a petite dog sitting in a velvet/golden chair while human hands and feet are underneath the chair and dog. It depicts the ironies of life - posh dogs enjoying the comforts of life while humans are in servitude, and pet owners becoming the servants of posh dogs.

Another interesting artwork is Dog Eater; “In a slum where food is scarce, even dogs are food,” said Sabrec.

The piece is violent but the artist tried to contain this violence by wrapping the tools like butcher knife, chopping board, baseball bat, etc. used in the killing of dogs.

For one who is not aware that it depicts how dogs are killed, it may look like an ordinary painting; but if you know how dogs are killed, the painting is moving, with the man's best friend seems to be pleading for help, crying for mercy, begging the dog eater to spare his life while tied inside a sack.

Wrapping is a technique popularized by Bulgarian artist, Christo (Christo Vladimirov Javacheff), which is described by critics as Christo's way of "revelation through concealment."

Sabrec fully used the “wrapping technique” in his art installation “Childhood Memory “to reveal and conceal” his past.

Sabrec wrapped a trisikad filled with water containers, revealing and concealing his trisikad driver/aguador past, with toys wrapped as if indicating how poverty, which forced him to work, robbed him of his childhood.

Sabrec has been exhibiting his works since 2009 - among the prominent ones are the Shell NSAC Winners Exhibit at Ayala Museum (2009), MADE 2009 Winners Exhibit (2009 & 2012) at Le Pavilion, Metropolitan Park in Pasay City; Gahum Kabataan (2012) at UPV Art Gallery, among others. See Sabrec's "Prescious Moments" for free until Jan. 12, 2017.



Megaworld opens first phase of Festive Walk Parade

MEGAWORLD, the country’s largest developer of integrated urban townships, is launching the first phase of the Festive Walk Parade in the 72-hectare Iloilo Business Park township in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

At 1.1-kilometer long and divided into four phases, the Festive Walk Parade is considered as Western Visayas’ longest retail and dining strip. It will showcase local and legendary Ilonggo restaurants as well as international brands.

“With the opening of the first phase of the Festive Walk Parade this Christmas season, Ilonggos will get a taste of the experience that a Megaworld Lifestyle Mall offers. The line of retail shops and restaurants fronting wide arcades, surrounded by beautifully landscaped walkways, makes a stroll along the entire stretch of the Iloilo Festive Walk a truly captivating experience,” says Kevin L. Tan, senior vice president and head, Megaworld Lifestyle Malls.

The exterior design of the Festive Walk Parade is reminiscent of the Santana Row development in California, with touches of art nouveau and art deco as homage to Iloilo’s own architectural heritage.

At the edge of the development will be the Casa Emperador, which will house the Casa Emperador Museum at its 2nd and 3rd floors. The museum will showcase the rich history and vast collection of one of the world’s biggest brandy producer, Emperador Distillers Inc. Casa Emperador’s facade echoes Iloilo's very own Provincial Capitol with impressive neoclassical design and proportions, evoking the aesthetics of old European palaces.

Meanwhile, alfresco dining on the development’s second floor will have a spectacular view of the beautifully landscaped Park Square, where a monument of Ilonggo revolutionary hero General Martin Delgado will stand.

“The Festive Walk Parade will serve as a cultural and historical manifesto for Iloilo, a celebration of its heritage and future, establishing a place of economic and civic vibrancy, life and activity,” says Tan.


Early this year, Megaworld announced the completion of around 11 malls and commercial centers in McKinley Hill, Uptown Bonifacio, McKinley West, The Mactan Newtown, Iloilo Business Park, ArcoVia City, Southwoods City and Makati by year-end, totalling to around 371,000 square meters of gross floor area. Just last month, it announced the construction of Northill Town Center in its 53-hectare Northill Gateway township in Bacolod.