Arts & Culture

‘If trees could talk’: We’re still failing them, what is to be done?

Images courtesy of,, and R.C. Ladrido

Amidst drought and extreme heat scorching the country, CANVAS unveils the first “If Trees Could Talk” International Art Biennale in the green fields of Ibaan, Batangas until 24 June 2024.

Through art, CANVAS hopes to spark conversations on environmental issues, especially climate change, as well as to raise environmental awareness.

It is a recurring theme for the Center for Art, New Ventures & Sustainable Development which has organized three group exhibitions of “If trees could talk” in 2014, 2017, and 2018. Eventually, the place will be the site of the Tumba-Tumba Children’s Museum of Philippine Art, another CANVAS initiative.

Aside from the exhibit, CANVAS has organized workshops and book distribution activities for public school students in Batangas.

Selected works and artists

Participating artists include Geraldine Javier, Matias Garff, Veronica Garcia, and Laurence Valliere for their use of found and recycled objects; installations of multisensory spaces by  Cian Dayrit, Pam and John Santos, Don Bryan Bunag, and Mark Salvatus to encourage communing and being with nature; and Elmer Borlongan, Lito Mondejar, and Leeroy New for their large-scale works that evoke pure imagination and wonder.

Detail Tree Huggers.Photo by

Tree Huggers: A collaboration between two artists, it is based on Elmer Borlongan’s painting of the same title. Lito Mondejar and his team made the towering sculptural installations that depict the colorful Bagras or Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree characterized by its orange, blue, and green trunk.

Elmer Borlongan (b.1967, Manila): A fine arts major in painting graduate of the UP College of Fine Arts, he is a recipient of the Thirteen Arts Awards in 1994, Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and an artist-in-residence for ARCUS in Ibaraki, Japan.

Self-taught in printmaking, he has taken it up again since the 2020 global pandemic.

Manilito T. Mondejar (b.1960):  a sculptor, educator, and environmental activist. A sculpture graduate of the UP College of Fine Arts, his mentors included Napoleon Abueva (1930-2018), national artist and pioneer of modern sculpture; he also worked as an assistant sculptor for Anastacio Caedo (1907-1990) where he learned cold casting in bronze and bonded marble that would influence his own work.

He has been involved in community-based environmental projects with various organizations.

Sketches and Drawings by Elmer Borlongan, 2014. Photo by R.C. Ladrido

Nanay Pawikan: A huge yellow pawikan or sea turtle, by Laurence Valliere, who works with large-scale animal sculptures, usually made of cardboard and recyclable materials.

Nanay Pawikan. Valliere at work. Photo by

Five of the world’s seven marine turtle species are found in the country; local species include Green, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, and Leatherback turtles.  Endangered, marine turtles remain at risk due to increased poaching, habitat destruction, and marine pollution.

Laurence Valliere (b. 1986, Quebec City, Canada): Known for her large-scale sculptures in cardboard, she would like to ignite conversations and reflections on the need for an ecological balance between human and animal life.

Not a Mirage: A whimsical installation of a wishing well with its surface wrapped in mirrors, glittering under the sun. An interactive work, children can drop their wishes into the well. As its title suggest, such wishes may just come true. Just try it!

Jose John Santos III (b. 1970, Manila) and Pam Yan Santos (b. 1974, Manila): both are graduates of the UP College of Fine Arts, where Pam Yan Santos taught studio courses for five years. They are recipients of CCP’s Thirteen Artists Award, Jose John III in 2000 and Pam in 2009.

Not a mirage. Photo by

Lilim: an installation made from fabric kites, and shaped like a cave or a tent where one can rest and recuperate from the noisy world. The dark colors of the kite evoke the mystery of a forest, full of shade in contrast to the brightness of the outdoors.

Don Bryan Bunag (b.1993, Bulacan): A visual communication graduate of Bulacan State University, he usually uses monochromatic colors in his works. He was a grand prize winner of the 2015 Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) and a CANVAS artist-in-residence in 2018.

Lilim. Photo by

I am the Explorer: A permanent installation shaped like a spaceship, it is an indoor museum space, inviting children to take a journey through their imagination.

Leeroy New (b.1986, General Santos City, Mindanao): an artist-designer trained as a sculptor. Known for his large-scale public art installations such as Balete (2010) and Mebuyan’s Colony (2022-2024) in Ateneo de Manila University.

For the Earth Day 2024 celebration of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Mebuyan’s Colony will take its roots at the CCP Front Lawn, on April 24, 2024.

New is a recipient of the Ateneo Art Awards in 2008; Thirteen Artists Award, CCP in 2012; and Asian Cultural Council arts grant in New York in 2015.

I am The Explorer. Photo by

Going there

Address: Sitio Malacañang, Bgy. Lapu-Lapu, Ibaan, Batangas.

Take a public bus such as Alps from Cubao to San Juan, Batangas and alight at Ibaan Poblacion. Take a tricycle (80 pesos) beside Ibaan Municipio and head to Sitio Malacañang