Best of both worlds: Into the De La Salle Brothers’ artistic hobbies

For Br. Dodo, Br. Mario, and Br. Manny, art allows them to channel inner peace and their passion for positive social change.

Before the pandemic, the familiar sight of our beloved De La Salle Brothers—clad in their black or white habits and crisp white rabats—roaming about the campus was part of everyday life at the University. But while many of us are accustomed to the Brothers, few are actually aware of their artistic hobbies, and the significance that art plays in their lives. Three Brothers from De La Salle Philippines have allowed their artistic hobbies to thrive, letting others to see the importance of art not just for themselves, but also for social development.

Artistic prowess

Quite a number of De La Salle Brothers indulge in creating art as a hobby. This includes Br. Edmundo “Dodo” Fernandez FSC, president of De La Salle–College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB). For Br. Dodo, one of his favorite types of art are large-scale drawings, a passion he discovered while participating in an artist residency program in Vermont. “I did 12 large-scale drawings—about three by four feet [in size]. I loved it and I realized that I’ve always liked drawing,” he shares. When it comes to the content of his art, some of Br. Dodo’s drawings are akin to still-life art pieces. “I like [to draw] mundane things [and] blow them up [to a larger scale],” he furthers.

Meanwhile, Chinese brush painting, Japanese calligraphy, and abstract acrylic paintings are the kinds of art that former Special Assistant for Sports of De La Salle Lipa Br. Mario Dacanay FSC engages in. He developed his skills in these art forms through formal education and individual practice. YouTube tutorials were also a big help for learning the tips and tricks he still uses in abstract acrylic paintings. When translating his ideas into art, he shares that “it is a flow of inspiration from [my] head, to the heart and to the hand.”

Br. Emmanuel “Manny” Hilado FSC of the De La Salle Brothers Bacolod Community, also paints as a hobby, noting that he does not necessarily do it for any political or philosophical statements, but simply “for the joy of painting.” He goes on to share that his paintings started as watercolor landscapes with florals, but he has since been expanding his works to involve other mediums. “In the last two years, I had been experimenting with intuitive abstracts using acrylics and mixed media,” he furthers.

The artist within

Before venturing into different artistic specializations, Br. Dodo and Br. Manny share that they’ve always been fascinated with browsing through artworks. In fact, the former reveals that his initial undergraduate course at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD)—Architecture—didn’t suit him well. After some time, he began to be more attracted to UPD’s Fine Arts course, “I enjoyed the freedom of Fine Arts, especially coming from a Catholic school…I was intoxicated by the freedom.”

As for the latter, he explored other fields as he enjoyed musing over photography, painting, sculpture, and pottery. However, he found himself more attracted to the serenity obtained through watercolors as “making [ideas] on some surface and coming up with something pleasing to the eye” gave him joy. Though it took him a while to master his techniques, he practiced frequently by doing brush miles, which means “[to put] in a good amount of time to just brush and paint [whatever on the] paper or canvas.”

For Br. Mario, his retirement was a way for him to enrich his interest in the arts. Given the various mediums he’s practicing, he says, “I challenged myself in considering the enormous possibilities [art has in store for me].” Thus, he made it his mission to take up such hobbies that allowed him to delve into different styles and materials.

Embodying two personas

All three Brothers share the same sentiments on finding a sense of wholeness and peace in creating their works. While being a Brother means upholding a firm commitment to their duties, they believe that embodying their artistic selves becomes a way to fulfill their purpose as servants of God. This entails having to aid in the promotion of the arts in hopes of fostering appreciation within and beyond the Lasallian community. “We share this innate creative energy from God and become his [reflection] in each unique [and] personal artistic expression we do,” Br. Mario reminds.

Moreover, Br. Manny imparts that his art is a way to help those in need. ”Developing the gifts we have been given is a way of thanking God…but I found another deeper way of using my art,” he proudly declares. As such, his first painting exhibit was launched as an art-for-a-cause project to support the Bahay Pag-Asa Youth Center, the University of St. La Salle’s facility for children-in-conflict with the law.

Unfortunately, the art scene in the Philippines isn’t as exposed to many given the lack of accessibility to museums, exhibits, and inclusive arts education. While there are many existing art institutions, Br. Dodo suggests that further fostering art appreciation in schools is the first step to expand knowledge of our local arts scene. He demonstrates this idea by sharing how DLS-CSB constantly strengthens its art education curriculum by “[reinforcing] learning [art] that takes place in schools.”

On a larger scale, he also notes that supporting various art institutions in the Philippines can help empower those who engage in the craft. To further promote art, Br. Dodo clamors for the government to play a more active role in encouraging art appreciation and improving art accessibility. Lamenting how the Philippines lags far behind in these areas compared to other countries, he shares, “I think it’s important…that we have [art institutions] to help support artists who, in turn, will help enrich [our] culture.”

Enriching the future of art

Through their works, these three De La Salle Brothers demonstrate that art is more than just the physical aspect, or the sensory experience it delivers. It is a powerful medium that can evoke emotions, inspire change, and enrich cultures. Furthermore, for Br. Manny, art is also a tool for making a positive social change. In his Artist’s Statement for Brother Manny’s Playground—his first ever painting exhibit which happened last April 2021—the Brother wrote about his realization that his art, too, can fight for a cause. “My art can help some needy person or support a chosen cause and thus, have meaning on a deeper level,” he remarks.

On that note, Br. Dodo encourages the younger generation to find ways to support the development of art and art institutions in the country, “What we need to do is continue to help, [to] support, and [to] develop those institutions,” he posits. “Maybe not even for us anymore, but for your children, then those who would come after us. Kasi talagang it enriches your life,”

(It truly enriches your life.)

As the role of the youth becomes more apparent in the development of art, we look on with hope that future generations will continue to use art for positive social change, and be inspired to make the art scene in the Philippines more accessible to everyone, everywhere.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In a previous draft of the article, Br. Manny was mislabeled as the current treasurer of the University of St. La Salle. The publication apologizes for the oversight.

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By Danielle David Castillo

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By Angelo Emmanuel Fernandez

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