I am lucky these days because some of my design projects came from Coop-Natcco, one of the cooperative partylists in the country today. After lunch, I had a brief meeting with their Davao City Coordinator Ben Togonon at their Maa office to talk about the three brochure projects. But this post is not for these projects. While going downtown after the meeting, I happened to meet Roger Paconla. He invited me to a snack in one cafeteria in C. M. Recto Avenue. While enjoying my hot cup of coffee, I decided to know more about him as one I already met in various occasions during our organizational meetings in 1996 as visual artists in Davao City.
Roger is one of the prolific visual artists here. He is not the artist who says he need the right "mood." Some artists are said to be moody. We have a term for that - "ta-mood" LOL from the word "tamad" or lazy for you. I think, if you talk about visual art development in the city, Roger, for a number of reasons, is one big contribution to it. I know that from the various art shows he conducted in and outside Davao City. I visited some of his art exhibits in the past but failed to come to his latest art show in the city.
He hailed from Malangas, Zamboanga del Sur, and decided to live in the city during the 70s. In one of the main thoroughfares in the city he put up his art and sign shop. He had to eke out for a living but never forgot to pursue with his hobby – painting.
We both participated in a number of group art exhibits in 1996. But I am no equal to him when it comes to the number of solo art exhibits he made since the 70s. In fact, I still have to hold a single solo art exhibit. Maybe soon, I will break my own ground LOL. Anyway, the latest that was his 32nd art show. Definitely, he has gone a long way as a very serious artist. I can see how he collected all his visuals through a computer coffee-table book he showed me during our brief meeting.
He said that as a hobby he gave time to his passion for art when he is at home. Money was never in his mind but all that he wanted to do was to paint. “I’m not good,” Roger stressed when he is being compared to other home-grown artists. But what set him apart or unique as a person dedicated to his art is that he is hard-working. He painted a lot with themes ranged from landscapes to still-life genres and portraits of Indigenous Peoples to showcase Davao’s culture. His media varies too from acrylic, oil, charcoal, pastel to watercolor, etc. and continuously explore on techniques.
While already known as one of the visual artists in the city, Roger is down-to-Earth and continues to serve the small and less privileged whom he trains to become serious visual artists someday or as art and sign artists where they can to earn for a living like him. “Who knows I die tomorrow, that is why I give all my knowledge and techniques in painting for free, “ he said. While I got support from local government officials, I spent my own salary as barangay councilor for the workshop materials,” he told me.
Aside from the numerous citations and awards he earned as an artist, Roger has continued to receive accolades from the people whose lives he had touched through his free art workshops since 1967. Not all artists have done this extensively. But Roger was able to give time to various communities in the city. What surprised him is that those he trained to paint years ago are coming back to buy some of his paintings. “I have trainees before who have become wealthy now who are among my collectors,” he said. “This is their way of thanking me.” But Roger told me that all he wanted was to share his knowledge to the less fortunate kids in the city. I would say that for that Roger is an artist for the people.