I met Rafael Maniago in Pasadena, California, USA as one of the featured artists of the ”Images of our Heritage" Visual Exhibit in 2002. After my presentation, he came to tell me that he appreciated my ethnic background. He even requested that I model in his class in full Igorot costume. Unfortunately however, our schedules did not jibe.
Rafael Maniago was not only a versatile artist. He was also humble and generous. The walls of his art studio were peppered with ribbons, medals, trophies. He explained later that he accumulated those as he persevered to attend art classes in California. That was interesting. When he left the Philippines as an immigrant to the United States in 1989, he was already a master artist in his own right. He operated a gallery in the Philippines for at least twenty years before he left. He had been doing portraits using his own art formula. Learning is a continuing process, but what were those art classes for?
Art, he explained to me is a world in the west that you cannot just conquer. So he had to start from the bottom. He patiently attended art classes even right from work. So, most of the time, he was in snooze mode. He did not have to learn the basics of art however; he just had to take time to integrate himself in art societies. Slowly, he gained the confidence of his classmates and their respect because in every art competition, he would have those awards.
He graciously toured us around art galleries in Southern California. He brought us to Disneyland in Orange County where he worked part time as an artist. He drew my portrait in pastel. A precious gift. Thank you, Ka Raffy!
Rafael Maniago was not only very professional in his work, but more importantly, he was intensely passionate with his art. He portrays a person from within, and focuses not on the visible physical attributes. He depicts what radiates from the inside.
A real artwork is a portrait to the soul.