The present Philippine Artists Group started as a very loose and nameless group of Filipino visual artists invited to participate in an art exhibition organized as a special feature of the 1986 gala night celebration for the annual Philippine independence day festivities in Toronto. Among them were Ed Araquel, Art Cunanan, Tony Doctor, Rol Lampitoc, Papu Leynes, and a newly arrived artist from the Philippines, Romi C. MananQuil. Encouraged by the warm reception from the Filipino community, the artists thought that by binding together they can continue to do their art and do more exhibitions and other artistic activities.
They started to hold regular meetings and decided to carry on as a more solid group with common interests, higher goals and aspirations. They called themselves the PHILIPPINE ARTISTS GROUP or the P.A G. – the same acronym as the Philippine Art Gallery, the first legitimate art gallery in the Philippines. A new set of officers were elected with Romi MananQuil as the President. Eventually, the new group unanimously decided to adopt June 12, 1988 -as their official day of founding. Coincidentally, that was also the 90th anniversary of the Philippine Independence. Since then, the Philippine Artists Group art exhibition became a traditional feature of the annual celebration of Philippine Independence Day under the auspices of the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto.
Since its founding, The Philippine Artists Group not only has held exhibitions to showcase Philippine art, but has participated in worthwhile community projects and fund-raisings. In 1996, together with the Knights of Rizal, it has donated to the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto a framed portrait, in oil of the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, on the centenary of his martyrdom. This exquisite artwork was painted by Romi Mananquil, the group’s first chairman.
In September, 2004, the PAG, joined by other Filipino artists from the U.S., France and the Philippines held its first and biggest art exhibition to date on Philippine soil called “Convergence Internationale” (convergenceinternationale.com). It had a follow-up exhibition, “Kulay Balikbayan”, in April, 2008.
The group’s membership boasts of some of the more important names in Philippine art in Ontario today. Although very selective in the acceptance of new members, the P.A.G, now known as the Philippine Artists Group of Canada, continues to grow not only in membership but also in stature and idealism. It is no longer just a group of Filipino artists trying to promote their art, but has now developed into a joint endeavor with the support of the community, to promote Philippine culture, particularly the visual arts. To the Filipino in Canada, amidst the task of rebuilding his life again in this “new” country, the P.A.G. is slowly but surely impressing upon and reawakening his dormant psyche on the values and richness of Philippine visual arts.
To the members, currently chaired by Omel Masalunga and with active members namely, Rolly Abarilla, Jun Afable, Teody Asuncion, Ma. Nellie Bautista, Cobie Cruz, Frank Cruzet, Jhun Ciolo Diamante, Tony Doctor, Romi C. MananQuil, Koni Marcoux, Calixto ‘Toots’ Quiachon, Frank and Nelia Tonido, the Philippine Artists Group of Canada is a vehicle that inspires them to create and be proud of. To the young and aspiring Filipino artists in Canada it is the group to look up to and in time be part of.
Presently, The PAG is preparing for their trip to Coaticook, Quebec and surrounding townships for their first “PAG Art Expedition” outside Ontario on August 2010. This activity will involve the local artists of the venues for a group show and on the spot drawings and paintings.
As well, the PAG is working to get a grant from the Canadian government. With this, it hopes to expand its activities and hold more exhibitions in more cities in Canada, the US and the Philippines.
Looking at the near future, The PAG cultivates the possibility of being a bigger part of the Canadian and international mainstream in art. Hopefully come out with a coffee table book on its 25th anniversary in 2013.