How Filipino painter J.Legaspi sees Maynila

Dangwa II

By Carla Mortel Baricaua / Artwork images courtesy of Julius Legaspi

Julius Legaspi’s roots belong to Marilao, Bulacan, but the capital city of Manila has captured his childlike wonder.

“Manila is memorable for me ever since I was a child. My grandfather was a kargador [freighter] of dried fish in Divisoria, at Juan Luna and Sto. Cristo Streets. My sister got lost in Luneta when she was young. When she was diagnosed with [tuspirina] whooping cough, the doctor said to get some fresh air from the sea. Of course, there’s fresh breeze from Manila Bay [back then],” shares Legaspi.

“Quaipo is very memorable too, because that’s where I witnessed my mother prayed and walked on bended knees whenever we go to Church. PGH [Philippine General Hospital] was the go-to hospital of my aunts back then. IN UP Manila College of Medicine, I held my very first workshop where I got paid for teaching painting,” Legaspi adds.


Of watercolor and pastels, his latest collection was all about the other notable spots in Manila; subjects that had been chosen freely by the artist based on its own familiar connection and nostalgic vibe. It was Cultural Heritage worker, Mary Ann Bulanadi, who was able to propose and consolidate the exhibit’s concept and guide Legaspi in mounting his latest show.

In his fifth solo exhibit, Pook at Tanawin: Maynila, Legaspi unveils small-sized urbanscape pieces in watercolors and pastels that reveal his affinity tied to his memories of Manila’s iconic landmarks. From his personal notes and anecdotes, Legaspi liberally showcased his attachment to Manila and rendered the artworks from a rosy colored perspective.  “It’s a very personal collection. Even the colors are personal to me. My choice of blue is different from your blue. This time, I wanted to share how Manila looks from the eyes of a visual artist. For us, we find a different kind of fulfillment when people pay attention to that and appreciate that fact.”

While Legazpi’s impressive artworks in are watercolors, his soft pastel paintings are equally worth the time, attention and value attached to it. “Soft pastel is unpopular here. For many, pastels are underrated as poster-making materials for school kids. They really don’t have an idea what pastel can achieve visually,” explains Legaspi. “That’s why I want to show that soft pastel is at par with other mediums, that it can be utilized in painting such as oil paints and watercolors.”

In 2015, Legaspi founded the Philippine Pastel Artists to educate and propagate the use of pastel paints among visual artists. And whenever possible, Legaspi showcases his masterpieces in pastel to encourage young artists to take the medium seriously and in good measure. His soft pastel artworks dominated his 4th solo exhibit exclusively in 2018. “There are so many possibilities and processes that can be achieved with pastels. Anybody can experiment and come up with desired effect or strokes.  They just have to give soft pastels a chance,” encourages Legaspi.

Manila City Hall

As Legaspi pays homage to the city of Manila, he also extends his helping hand, particularly to the infants being treated at the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit of PGH, since part of the proceeds of his current exhibit will be donated to cover a portion of the medical bills. “That’s one thing about Julius,” says Bulanadi, “Charity had always been part of his exhibits since 2012. This time, he’s looking after the babies in PGH, the future generation of Manila.”

The Pook at Tanawin: Maynila exhibit is on display at the Gateway Gallery, 5th Level, Gateway Tower, Araneta City in Quezon City, and will run until February 1. Interested parties are also invited to a live pastel painting demonstration by members of the Philippine Pastel Artists on February 15 at the same venue.

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