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Supporting local farmers through art: New exhibit at airport hotel showcases coffee artists

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“HOW can we propagate Philippine culture and arts?” was the question posed by Rens E. Tuzon, the pioneer of coffee art in the Philippines, when he first began making paintings from coffee grounds in 2005.

“Kahit sobrang yaman natin sa pamana ng lahi, sobrang nawawala na ito ngayon (Even if we have an abundance of cultural heritage, it has been disappearing over time),” he said.

This realization drove Mr. Tuzon to start the Sining, Kape, at Kultura, an organization of artists whose coffee-based paintings and various artworks about pop culture and Philippine heritage go viral online and get sold all over the country — with proceeds going to local coffee farmers.

The group’s latest exhibit is “HIRAYA: Kape, Sining, Kultura,” launched on June 24 at the Megaworld property Belmont Hotel Manila.

“Coming from two successful shows in our “HIRAYA” exhibition series so far, we thought something different to showcase was coffee art,” Socrates “Sonny” Alvaro, the general manager of Belmont Hotel Manila, said at the exhibit opening.

The exhibit features two of the country’s best known coffee artists and the founders of Sining, Kape, at Kultura: Mr. Tuzon and Esang Ocampo. Their works are on view in the lobby of the hotel.

Because the hotel is strategically connected to Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport through the Runway Manila footbridge, the exhibit will be seen by both local and foreign travelers.

“These coffee artists’ advocacy is aligned with our vision as a homegrown brand centered on local culture,” said Mr. Alvaro.

According to Ms. Ocampo, an upcycling artist, much joy lies in creating and seeing beautiful works come from things that were meant to be thrown away — old jewelry, scraps of cloth, any broken material at home.

“I started during the pandemic when we were all locked up at home. I began reusing items at home to paint my artworks,” she told BusinessWorld. This then led her to go to a coffee shop to obtain some coffee grounds that they were about to throw away. “Pinatuyo ko at nilagay ko sa mga obra ko (I dried them and added them to my works).”

Mr. Tuzon and Ms. Ocampo established their organization of Filipino coffee artists in the Philippines in 2020. It now boasts of 800 members. By raising awareness of coffee art and upcycling, they also promote Filipino culture and support coffee farmers.

Their art often centers on distinctly Filipino images — women in Filipiniana dress, scenes of Igorots by their huts, children playing palo sebo, images of the Virgin Mary.

Proceeds from the sale of the artworks will help farmers in Negros, Laguna, and Cavite purchase coffee seedlings. — Brontë H. Lacsamana

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