Neptalie Aunzo’s The Pandemic and Night Mode Series | Contributed Photo
ANTIPOLO CITY, Rizal — His real name is Neptalie Aunzo. However, he is also known as Pedrong Masipag (literally translated as Industrious or Hard Working Peter), a moniker given to him after the main character of his paintings—the man dressed in Barong Tagalog, the national costume of the Philippines which is made out of piña cloth or jusi, a sheer fabric hand-loomed from the abaca fibers, something that is plentiful in the Philippines, especially in the Bicol Region.
More than a character in his paintings
Pedrong Masipag is more than a fictitious character, Aunzo said; it is actually someone he wants to emulate.
“Pedrong Masipag is clothed with Barong Tagalog for he is a decent person, with high morals and earns an honest penny through his hard work. He is also humble and has respect to all,” Aunzo said in an interview in his home studio in Tanay, a first-class municipality in the Province of Rizal. “Moreover, Barong Tagalog is also a symbol of elegance and being a respectable person,” he added.
He created Pedrong Masipag, Aunzo shares, to counter the despicable character in one of the popular folklores in the country, Juan Tamad (Lazy John).
“We Filipinos are a hardworking people. And we do everything just for the sake of our family,” this self-taught artist shared with this writer during the interview.
Aunzo grew in a not well-to-do family. He worked his way through high school, doing odd jobs, including cleaning their neighbor’s yards. And due to financial constraints, he never made it into college.
“I promised myself that I will do everything just to make my family comfortable. Besides, it is the very reason why we work hard,” he said.
The Pandemic and Night Mode Series
Unlike his old paintings that are replete with colors, his new set of works is quite different. Against the pitch-black backdrop was Pedrong Masipag, glowing like gold along with the few stars and the moon shining in the dark skies. With his usual Barong Tagalog, he has his hands all busy: doing chores, pulling net teeming with fish, holding fighting cocks for leisure, planting or harvesting rice, taking care of his loved ones, or doing something noble or useful.
“The Night Mode Series is based on my own experiences during the series of government-implemented lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus,” he said.
As an artist whose primary income comes from selling his paintings, the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) on March 5th, 2020, affected his business for a while.
“I suffered from anxiety and was very worried for my family’s safety and well-being. The first thought that I came into my mind during the lockdown, “How can I feed my family?” But as the head of the family, I need to be strong. So I used the pandemic as an inspiration; thus, the Night Mode Series was born,” shares Aunzo.
The light coming from the character of Pedrong Masipag, shining against the almost pitch-black backdrop, symbolizes the hope and strength coming from within our hearts and souls. The stars and the moon, and from time to time, a shooting star appearing from afar, signify the dreams, hopes, and aspiration of humanity, which despite the darkness brought by the current health and economic situation due to the pandemic, there will always something beautiful to look forward to.
Meanwhile, he also explained why his characters have their eyes closed.
“This is to honor my son who was born blind,” he said. “For me, blind people may not view the world as we see it, but they have their other senses open; thus, in some ways, the can see the world notwithstanding the darkness that surrounds them.”
Dreaming of Paradise
Aunzo also said that his dream is to see Pedrong Masipag living peacefully in paradise, even just in his paintings. This is one of the masterpieces that he wants to work on in the future.
“This is what I am dreaming of personally, to see the world with no wars, no poverty, no hunger, and all people are living happily and comfortably,” said Aunzo.