Mogi Mogado, an artist with a cause; promoting Filipino heritage

Mogi Mogado, an artist with a cause; promoting Filipino heritage

Down-to-earth, quiet, cool, jokes in a calm tone, smart, logical, and full of wisdom, this is how I can describe Mogi Mogado based on our interactions through Philippine Press Club of Ontario’s meetings when we were officers of the club. Little did I know, this man is beyond the above description, there is more to him [he is a giant] with brains and talents. He was born an artist. Art is innate in him. He is a creator of many art pieces but recently known as the sculptor of the soon-to-rise [6’3″] statue of the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal in Markham.

“The 6’3″ Dr. Jose Rizal full statue sculpture I’m currently working on (is the biggest project). To be installed as public art in monument at a new park in Markham, budgeted at over $160,000 when finished, not including the beautification for the surrounding Luneta Gardens. The projected unveiling is June 2017,” shares Mogado.

Mogi, as he is fondly called in the community, was born with a gift for art.

“I was good in drawing, as far back as I can remember. Having the basics, my skills developed as I grew up. I was doing occasional painting, sculpting, doing murals in high school. Growing up in the farm has drawbacks unfortunately. Arts did not mean much, so when I went to university fine arts was not in my radar,” says Mogi in an [email] interview.

Once an artist, will always be an artist

“I started serious arts but as a passtime in the mid ‘70s, already in Canada, after seeing the arts stores here had everything an artist needs. I taught myself from books. By the ‘80s sculpting became my preferred hobby,” he adds.

“Since arriving in Canada I committed to finish one important artwork per year at least. With art there are small & big pieces, practical crafts & art for arts’ sake. What mattered was I could do a piece when it was needed. At work, I was also the de facto resident artist. I was drawing caricature portraits for special occasions & for our retiring colleagues, & doing various art stuff for our union too (poster cartoons, strike banners & placards, a puppethead prop sculpture). I made placards for our community rallies in the ’90s.”

A former president of Philippine Arts Group (PAG) in Canada, Mogi have done arts like pencil portraits, caricatures, paintings and sculptures. PAG holds regular art exhibits, and Mogi had joined in a few of them.

He also did a bust sculpture of Mayor Don Cousens of Markham, a good friend of the Filipino people. His statue is on display at the public elementary school that is named in his honor.

Love for arts

“In my heart I love the arts. I hang out with good friends at the UP College of Fine Arts, and learned a lot on how it’s done. I started an oil painting of red roses while living on campus. It was almost done when one day it went missing. My landlady had rescued it, had it framed & set it up to grace her living room. Had it been that good? 45 years later when we visited her, she was still so much in love with my red roses, still ablooming in the same old wall.”

Though he didn’t take any formal lessons to nurture his skills, Mogi, however strive to learn on his own. “I figured Michaelangelo & the iconic classic artists never went to arts school. Could I be in the same class? So I read up on how-to books. I am happy just being able to complete an art piece. However, there is always that feeling that I can do better. So to me nothing is finished, there is always room toward making it more perfect.”

His first project as an artist was in high school, a stage mural for their town fiesta, inspired from the glorious calendar paintings of Amorsolo. “Sadly I have only one picture saved, and it’s in black & white,” said Mogi.

What’s your memorable piece? Why?

“Nothing & everything. Because when you are creating you pour all your love into it. Like mothering a child, you are forever bonded. Maybe the longer you work on it the more memorable. Or if you have a winning piece. For me when I see my artwork again after many years, the emotions invested into it all come flowing back again like before. Every artwork I do has that particular intensity. Of course it amazes me that other artists can whiff off art pieces in minutes for money. Something like that can’t be memorable.”

One of Mogi Mogado’s creations, a bust sculpture of Onofre “George” Aguinaldo, founder of the famous Fiesta Filipina Dance Troupe.

In some of his artworks, Mogi does not only find pleasure and satisfaction in completing them, but he also experiences more than just that while working on them. “I don’t know if it’s just me, but there are situations that have taken me into the paranormal when sculpting. For example, after doing the statues of blessed mother, I’d be amazed that it was done fast & easy, & asking myself — how could I have done that?! I had the same experiences with George & Jose, were they somehow around to help me out! Should I go see a shrink or are these subliminal messages part of doing the job?”

Now a retiree, Mogi, spend most of his time on artwork. “It’s what keeps me going. It gives me so much excitement. The nice thing about being retired is — everything left to do become hobbies, they must be done with gusto. House chores, gardening, home improvements, my laptop – emails, FB, websurfing, sewing, carpentry, friends, social obligations, travel. Also, I repair broken statues for people out there who don’t know where to go. So much to do, I never get bored.”

An artist with a cause

“As a Rizalist, I believe the best way to educate our public about him (Dr. Jose Rizal) is still thru his statue. My first Rizal bust statue is on display at FCT (Filipino Centre of Toronto). I am working on a 2nd bust statue for Mississauga, and of course also the full Rizal monument I’m currently doing for Markham. I have this yearning to immortalize in sculpture the pioneer leaders that have contributed greatly and unselfishly in building and promoting our local Filipino community. I have started with the late George Aguinaldo who founded the Fiesta Filipina Dance Troupe. My bust statue of him is on display at the Fiesta community center in Mississauga,” says Mogi. “I hope to live long enough to do more of our folk heroes so future generations will know about them.”

How do you choose your subjects?

“It’s a funny thing with me, either one or combination of love at first sight, subliminal messages and/or social need. Artists have roving eyes, always on the lookout for the beautiful. When an ‘omg’ moment comes up, it’s saying to you “take me home”. So you take a mental image, or snap it with a camera. Then go crazy with it for days in your mind. For nature subjects, this usually happens- ‘it’s such a lovely creation of the Lord, I need to share it.” Ergo! you have a nice landscape picture or painting, and you keep singing in your mind “how great thou art, lord”. For a bust statue, “he is such a hero, loved by the people, I need to immortalize him.”

As an artist, how do you want to be remembered?

“I prefer a persona beyond an artist, maybe an artist with a cause. Since I did not go to art school I feel I don’t deserve the label. Where is this coming from – in university the message from the Oblation was ‘to serve the people’; as a charter in alpha sigma frat our ideal was ‘alay sa sambayanan’; in the Knights of Rizal it’s ‘non omnis moriar’ or not everything in me will die. What is more important to me is to be able to promote love of the arts, visual arts in particular, with a twist- to honor our heritage. When artists sign their artworks, recognition last only as long as the piece last. It’s a bonus these days that we are in cyber age, now in footprint it can last forever. It’s flattering that my name will ride with the Rizal Monument Markham project. But it will only matter if people appreciate arts, when they ask the question who the artist was. The greatest thing for me today, is to be written about in the pages of Atin Ito in a positive way, with the caviat that my humble work was done to elevate the image of the Filipino. When I am gone who cares how I will be remembered. Will the artworks preserve my name? Yes, but only among those who appreciate art.

Advice to aspiring artists

“Realize that you have a special gift from God, uniquely suited just for you. In gratefulness, you should hone up those skills and talents, aim to be the best you can. Share your good fortune with others, make someone happy, raise their spirits. Arts is simply self-expression. It’s yours individually, don’t compete and compare with others. instead take pride in your own work.”

Outstanding Knight

Mogi’s work in the Filipino community didn’t go unnoticed. He was awarded “Distinguished Service Medal of Rizal”, the highest award the Knights of Rizal (KoR) gives out to members for outstanding achievement for the organization in a series of major activities and projects. The said honor was in recognition of his contributions to the Order as a Knight, capped by his donation of Rizal bust sculpture to FCT.

In recognition to all his civic works with various Filipino organizations, some in his capacity as an artist, that contributes to enhancing the image of Filipinos, including as President of PAG of Canada, he was awarded with “Gold Distinguished Service Cross of Rizal”, the highest honor from the KoR given to any individual for outstanding achievement for the Philippines & the Order. Both awards were received from the KoR supreme commander & USA region commander at the KoR International Convention in Jersey City in 2006. KoR started in 1916, & was chartered by Philippine Congress to promote Rizal & his teachings to the Filipino people and internationally.

Note: This article was originally published in Atin Ito Newspaper:

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