Batik as Pinoy art
Posted: 0:14 AM (Manila Time) | Oct. 27, 2002
By Rowena Burgos
Inquirer News Service

PASILAN'S installation of starfish

Ancient art form

BATIK is an ancient art form that originated in Southeast Asia more than a thousand years ago, creating a path of colorful designs in fashion and in decorative art. In the "Age of Aquarius," batik made a splash on the fashion scene with tie-dyed clothing and accessories. The last couple of decades it took a back- seat to the new "hip" forms of expression.

But Diokno Pasilan has remained loyal to batik for 15 years, working hard at his craft to insure it doesn't become monotonous labor.

Batik involves a resist process and requires patience and time. Each piece begins with a sketched scene on fabric. The artist then applies hot wax to the fabric to protect these areas during the immersion of the cloth into a dye vat. After the cloth dries, the artist repeats the procedure with each color.

Pasilan uses as many as 18 colors in some of his works. He works on as many as three or four pieces at one time so as not to lose creative momentum while the pieces of cloth dry.

What is it about batik that has kept Pasilan's interest all these years? The artist cites a multitude of things: brilliance or subtlety of color; working with and manipulating two mediums, wax and dye, to produce layers and textures; the need to plan and occasionally to adapt. Perhaps it also has much to do with the need for infinite patience-batik is certainly a slow process!

"[In] making batik using the traditional method, I love the challenge of bringing all of the facets together, the drawing and planning, the waxing, the dyeing and the overdyeing. Each is an art in itself," says Pasilan, who's also a member of The Adobo Band.

Doing batik is a "wonderful personal adventure" for Pasilan. He uses dyes from kasuy, ipil, atsuete and yellow ginger, and piņa cloth as his canvas. The resulting product is transformed into shawls and barong by Rurungan sa Tubog Foundation Inc.

The melted wax is applied with a brush, a heated bowl with a spout from which the wax flows, or occasionally a stamp. The color is the result of as many as 14 dye baths. "I continue to experiment with the manipulation of the wax and dyes and am finding batik a source of never-ending challenges and pleasure," the artist says.

Due to many variables, like the random cracking of the hardened wax and the color values of the dyes, there is always an element of surprise as the image begins to emerge with each successive dye bath. "My subjects are varied and an exploration of my experiences and I strive to recreate a clear mood for the viewer," Pasilan adds.


FOR DIOKNO Pasilan, batik is a personal adventure.

Focused on landscapes

Before he delved into batik, the 39-year-old artist focused on landscapes in oil and pastel. A native of Bacolod, he stayed in Baguio and Sagada for several years before going to San Vicente, Palawan, in 1997, on the invitation of his late friend, Robert Villanueva. "The peacefulness and spectacular beauty of the place inspired me to stay," he says.

From 1998 to 2000, he studied fine arts and worked with the local community in Perth, Australia. "Inspiration for my art comes from my travels and from the wealth of the countryside. Natural history and environmental themes feature strongly in my work, as do allegory, color, design, texture and pattern," Pasilan explains.

Nature and marine life are the subjects of most of his works, but these themes would gradually lose their appeal if he would not pursue other subjects and media. He's now experimenting with rust on piņa, using a variety of tools and motorbike parts to mark the fabric. He plans to exhibit such works at The Drawing Room in Makati early next year.

As resident artist of Barangay Kemdeng in San Vicente, Pasilan has and is continuing to share his knowledge and skills with the locals, as he is a firm believer in the practice of art through the community. "It's my mission to extend the concept of the barangay into the territory of art and culture," he says. He conducted a series of workshops on batik-making in Kemdeng, which resulted in the formation of the group Masinlo.

An Agutaynen (an ethnic Palawan group) word meaning "beauty" or "good things," Masinlo also stands for Mamamayan at Sining Itinatag ng Linabungan Organization. It is now involved in the production of batik-inspired art and handicrafts with Pasilan as coordinator.

The group has an exhibit, "Batikurit," at Casa Linda on Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa, until Nov. 5. "It aims to showcase my collaborative work with the Masinlo community," Pasilan says. It features installation art consisting of schools of fish on fabric and wall hangings using natural fibers, cloth, wax and dyes.

At present, Pasilan is building a 6x4 boat of bamboo and batik canvas, with Palawan's map as design, for the Philippine Travel Mart to be held on Nov. 20 at Megamall in Mandaluyong.

Pasilan will continue to do batik but will pursue change, whether that involves the media or the environment, to rejuvenate his soul and revitalize his form of artistic expression.