Painter-activist seeks volunteers for ‘Wall of Nature’
He’s well past his “quota” of 23,000 dolphins.
On May 25, however, A. G. Saño hopes others will join him in painting more of these amazing creatures and other marine wonders to make a colorful statement in celebration of Mother Nature.
Saño, who left a globe-trotting job on a Disney cruise ship in 2008 after seeing disturbing news footage of some of the practices in Japan’s dolphin hunting industry, is the visual artist tapped to lead a mural painting activity marking the Month of the Oceans.
Scores of volunteers—including government employees, environmental advocates, fellow artists, students or anyone who may have read about the campaign on Facebook—are expected to pitch in by picking up the brush on Friday, starting at 8 a.m.
Their collective masterpiece will adorn the one-kilometer-long wall surrounding Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City. The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) which organized the project is calling it the “Wall of Nature.”
Since May 4, Saño has been preparing the wall with sketches depicting different species of fish, turtles, manta rays, sharks, dolphins, corals, etc. The painting will include freshwater or marshland dwellers led by “Lolong,” the giant crocodile caught in Agusan del Sur last year.
Lolong’s image will have a prominent spot near the park’s Quezon Avenue gate, Saño told the Inquirer in an interview last week. “He’s our flagship species for this project.”
Come Friday, the volunteer-painters will apply the colors based on a scheme Saño had prepared, “just like in a coloring book,” he said.
PAWB chose the Batangas-based 36-year-old Saño for the mural project not only in recognition of his talent but also for his decade-long involvement in green campaigns.
From a family of artists
Coming from a family of artists, Amado Guerrero “A. G.” Saño started painting at age 10 and received an apprenticeship under master Fernando Seña. He earned a degree in landscape architecture at the University of the Philippines in Diliman although the call of the wild led to his participation in several “immersion” tours in the countryside as a volunteer for environmental groups.
By 2000, he had segued to wildlife photography and was taking shots of humpback whales off Babuyan Islands. Between 2004 and 2006, he was somewhere in The Cordilleras, painting the walls and ceilings of churches and holding art classes for children.
A job overseas as a portrait and scenery photographer for the Orlando, Florida office of Disney Cruise Line briefly veered him toward a regular, if not a more lucrative, career. But an epiphany at sea in the Bahamas steered him back to his earlier course.
“I was on the ship Disney Wonder watching CNN when I saw a report on the slaughter of dolphins in Japan, and how two Hollywood celebrities once tried to get in between the dolphins and the fishermen.
“I was affected by what I saw, especially after someone (who knew my past volunteer work) told me that I could have been that person coming in between the hunters and their prey,” he said.
That episode was enough to make him return to the Philippines. In March 2010, his revived passion was further reinforced when his girlfriend made him watch a DVD copy of the 2009 documentary “The Cove.”
“It turned out that the clips I earlier saw on CNN were from the [then upcoming] documentary,” Saño said. “That’s when I also learned that in Japan, particularly in [the town of] Taiji, they supposedly have this quota to kill 23,000 dolphins each year.”
Man with a mission
Saño decided to use his art to draw attention to the killings. A mission was thus born: To paint a total of 23,000 dolphins, matching the number of casualties in the annual slaughter.
He painted “Dolphin No. 1” on March 31, 2010, just a day after watching “The Cove,” during a return trip to Camiguin Norte, Babuyan Islands, on the walls of St. Vincent Ferrer church.
Over the next nine months, with the help of an online campaign and some media exposure, he received one invitation after another to paint his favorite subject on the walls of private homes, buildings and schools in Metro Manila and several provinces from Isabela to Tawi-Tawi, and even in Singapore and Indonesia.
“Friends and strangers alike asked me to do their walls. For the paint, I sometimes went to nearby construction sites and asked if they have leftovers that they could give me.”
In between sessions, he hit the streets as an activist. He joined protests, for example, against a dolphin show held at Araneta Coliseum in December 2010, a campaign that later led to a court case against the show’s organizers for alleged animal cruelty.
Quite fittingly, it was also around that time that he finally rendered his 23,000th dolphin, on one of the floats during the annual UP Lantern Festival.
For the May 25 event, Saño said he would be joined by members of Save Philippine Seas, a group which recently helped expose the smuggling of black corals and other endangered marine animals out of the country, and the Dakila Artist Collective who would also hold a concert.
Volunteers are still welcome. To register, they may call PAWB’s Coastal and Marine Management Office at 9258948 and look for Jhorace Engay.
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