Barako PH - The Heart and Soul of Art In Batangas

Barako PH - The Heart and Soul of Art In Batangas
Authored By David Tan

Name:  Herald Nissi and Mhar Jhun Cuasay

Location: Batangas

Filipino Artist Profile: Herald Nissi and Mhar Jhun Cuasay

All it takes is for one person to change the world. In the case of Barako PH, it’s a collective of passionate and driven artists looking to make an impact through their work. With Herald Nissi spearheading the group and Mhar Jhun Cuasay as one of its talented members, sky is the limit for Barako PH. Learn how these two have risen above the challenges set before them to create great art.

How did your journey as an artist begin?
MJ: I’ve been drawing anime in the back of my notebooks since elementary. I carried that practice with me to college. I then joined poster-making contests and won some of them. It became my passion all throughout. It was also through art where I got to express myself. That’s why I still do it now.

What is the story behind Barako PH and how did you come up with the name?
Herald: Barako, refers to the Batangueño community and the coffee product itself that’s famous here in our province. Barako PH is a Non-Government Organization and non-partisan group but we partnered with the Provincial Government of Batangas through the Batangas Coffee Committee with the goal to support this kind of coffee. We are the media partner of the Batangas Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affair Office. That’s why last 2019, we were awarded the Tourism Excellence Awardee by DOT-4A. 

What is your favorite subject to create and why?
MJ: For me, I’d like to create illustrations of birds and religious items. For birds, I feel that they are so free. It feels good to think about flying.

How would you describe your style as an artist?
MJ: From the start, I prefer to use realism as my style. I’m also exploring other styles as well.

Who or what do you consider as your influences as an artist?
MJ: It’s Marcelo Barenghi. Nante Carandang too because his work is very realistic, especially his piece on Guimaras. He’s from Batangas and his creations use photo realism as the primary style. The great thing about him is I get to talk to him and he gives me advice.

Every artist has that one creation they’re proud of the most. For you, what is that piece and why?
MJ: I have a piece titled I Am With You #1 because it’s from a series. It’s a coffee painting of a kid who’s looking up at a bird in the sky. I always compare myself to that kid. I envision the bird to be a representation of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. It’s like I’m asking for guidance in that painting I made.

What are the common challenges you face as an artist?
MJ: Since the pandemic is still ongoing, clients tend to save money for their personal needs. In the process, sales really went down. It’s like paintings are not essential right now. Even with this challenge, I still get to make art. Another struggle is the absence of a physical exhibit to showcase my works.

Whenever people see your work, what do they usually say about it?
MJ: They usually say I have a future doing art and I should continue doing it. Others get inspired and they want me to teach them.

As an artist, what is your most important achievement to date?
MJ: I consider my first experience to join an exhibit in SM as my most important achievement. I never expected to be interviewed by the media back then. That was my first time and I was still starting out with an art group in Batangas.

What are your strengths as an artist?
MJ: First of all, my confidence in knowing that I can accomplish anything. Even though it’s hard, I’ll still finish it. Even if I fail, I’ll tell myself that there’s a next time. My outlook is always positive, even if I fail. Next, I believe in the talent God gave me. I plan on improving it.

How do you handle criticism and negative feedback?
MJ: I accept it as a challenge to do better the next time. About criticism, it helps me to grow and improve more. If people see something wrong with my work, I will certainly improve it so they will like it next time.

Are you more comfortable working alone or with a group of other artists?
MJ: When I was starting out, I was more comfortable working alone. That changed when I joined Sining Batangas, the art group I’m a part of right now. I didn’t expect them to be so accomodating and I learn so much from them. Now, I’m more comfortable working with others.

Do you have any advice to talented individuals who plan on becoming an artist like yourself?
MJ: First of all, don’t be afraid of failure. If Plan A doesn’t work, there are other letters in the alphabet. As long as you don’t stop and you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’ll eventually get to your destination. I read somewhere that failure is the first attempt at learning. You won’t learn unless you don’t make mistakes. Just love what you’re doing.

How did you discover Merchiful and why did you choose it as the platform for your designs?
Herald: I research online whether there’s a Philippine company that offers Print On Demand services, like Amazon, Red Bubble, and Teespring in the United States. I found Merchiful and its services are very organized. There’s even a Viber group if ever I need quick answers from them.

What can Merchiful customers expect from your brand in the coming months?
Herald: Right now,  we are supporting Batangueño visual artists and the Batangas visual arts community to have their artwork placed on merch, and not only on canvas. This is a big help to them in this time of the pandemic. They gain an outlet for their artistic passion and earn at the same time. Merchiful customers can expect designs that revolve around Batangas’ culture soon.

How would you describe yourself in one word?
Herald: Magiting.

MJ: Fragile.

With the art scene in Batangas more vibrant than ever, it’ll only be a matter of time before Barako PH makes an impact all over the world. Before that happens, do check out their Merchiful store for an impressive array of merch items. You can also discover more about this group on these different social media platforms.

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