Perhaps no other single artist has exerted so great an influence in the development and growth of visual arts in Cagayan de Oro as Pennessencio “Nonoy” Estarte, a self-taught artist originally from Malangas, Zamboanga Sibugay.
Noted Capitol University President Atty Casimiro Juarez, Jr. in his opening remarks during the exhibits June 21st opening: “We want to acknowledge with gratitude the efforts of this beautiful person Nonoy, a friend of Dr. Fe Juarez and myself, and of Capitol University. Because of our friendship, we have learned to appreciate art more because of Nonoy, especially his kind of art which tends towards religion.”
“Art is the only platform I know, where my ideas, vision, creativity and dreams are substantially expressed,” the artist said during opening.
“The exhibit is not intended for argument, strict critical discourse, but is an art form the heart to the heart. I always love to see simple people, street kids, Lumads that appreciate my art. I want to see young students understand and value my art. I wish my art becomes an instrument for formation and transformation.”
Nonoy was instrumental in the creation of programs for artists in Cagayan de Oro, foremost of which was the Oro Art Guild. He also helped organize the Xavier University Circulo de Arte for students.
Today, the visual arts is thriving not only in the city but its peripheries with new artists groups sprouting every now and anon, thanks largely to Nonoy’s efforts in promoting visual arts in nascent artists who became the seeds that spread his gospel to the four corners of the region.
During his formative years, Nonoy was greatly influenced by a grade school teacher and further exposed to love art by an American Peace Corps Volunteer artist.
In 1978, the late Fr. Frank Demetrio, S.J. took Nonoy under his wing as the resident artist of the Museo de Oro. Later, he became the Assistant Curator on files and records and eventually Assistant Museum Curator.
During his long years of service in the museum, he immersed himself with the indigenous peoples of Mindanao like the Talaandig and Manobo.
“This exhibit is a collection of illustrations during my long years of service to the university of Xavier to the present. Since then, folklore, history, environmentally indigenous communities became my passion.”
“For 30 years in XU I had a great opportunity to work, interact with great people, like the late Fr. Francisco Demetrio, Dr. Erlinda Burton and John Burton, Tony and Joy Enriquez, and Lovenia Naces, and many others.”
Fr Demetrio frequently sent him to attend conferences, workshops and lectures on Museum Development Projects, Art and other Museum Educational Programs.
The artist has joined several group exhibitions locally and had some solo exhibits in Xavier University.
His Manobo Epic Paintings were selected as part of the Philippine exhibition in Munich, Germany and Delf Museum in the Netherlands in 1987.
“I was able to visit the far mountains in San Fernando, Lantapan, Bukidnon and Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur. What did I do there? I witnessed various rituals, weddings, datuship rituals and peace ritual. I came to know better these ethno linguistic groups like Manobo, Higaonon, Talaandig, Matigsalog, Maranao, Maguindanao and Subanon. It was a great immersion in culture.”
“Two of the personalities in my exhibit I came to know personally: the late Datu Kinulintang, Supreme Datu of the Talaandig; Datu Vic Saway, his son; Nanay Igbi, a Subanon Bae and musician.”
Five years ago, he retired and currently runs the Estellar Art Space and Mini Library for artistically inclined youths at Xavier Heights in Uptown Cagayan de Oro.
Together with Lovella Maria Naces and Ghela Simon, Nonoy helped set up the social enterprise Tao Tao Souvenirs which promotes the culture of the region’s indigenous peoples through souvenirs.
“I was inspired by Dr. Burton who was very passionate about promotion and preservation of the IP culture and tradition. I saw that our knowledge about our own culture is on the verge of being forgotten,” Lovella recalls.
She approached Nonoy with the idea of a social enterprise would teach the world about the Philippine indigenous communities through souvenirs. “Sir Nonoy was happy because he also shared the same advocacy of promoting and preserving IP culture.”
Together with DepEd teacher Ghela Simon, the three cofounded Tao Tao Souvenirs. Lovella noted how Nonoy’s experience in the museum was a key to designing the product used by the community for the production of the souvenirs.
Despite his long years as an artist, Nonoy only had one other exhibit outside XU in Ateneo de Zamboanga where his paintings on the Subanon epic were exhibited with bosom friend Nic Aca.
“Allow me to thank the Big Guys behind this exhibit. Chief Curator Chris Curator, assisted by Nic Aca, our business manager Lovenia Naces Eduave, Boyet Ramoso, Edgar Daginotas and the Juarez family,” the artist said.
Atty. Juarez ended his brief talk with a quote from the Lebanese-American artist, poet, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran masterpiece, The Prophet:
“You give but little when you give of our possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
“Noy, you give so much of yourself and we could never thank you enough,” he concluded.