A motif that the cubist Vicente Manansala returned and reconnected from time and again, is that of Pila sa Bigas by where people living on the edge of society are depicted lining for their average ration of rice, the main staple of the Philippine diet. This mixed media on board seen here depicts the plight of the average Filipino in the barong-barong or shanties seeking for their daily sustenance from the store. By comparison to the austere and dignified of the populace as seen in the subsequent iteration executed in 1974, presently in the Judy Araneta-Roxas Collection, the people are depicted as disheveled, tired and weary of their continuous pain and agony. A social commentary that is reminiscent in modern times, this work aims to galvanize the viewer to ask and inquire instead of being blinded from their poverty of the brethren. At the period at where Manansala was composing this series, food rationing across the archipelago was commonplace and stringent rations for rice through the National Grains Authority (present-day, the National Food Authority) for which housewives and even their own children lined up every single day.
The happiness that is normally associated with the palette of colors by Manansala have been exchanged with toned down colors of creams, browns and shades of crimsons that captures the raw emotions of the populace. Manansala utilized his distinct technique of “transparent cubism” which retained aspects of realism unto his style in order to humanize the emotions of his characters.
This study at hand of Pila sa Bigas for plausibly envisioned by Manansala for much larger mural that was meant for a public space. This came into fruition when the final iteration of this work was executed in 1980, done in oil that is presently in the private collection of Paulino and Hetty Que and is considered as one of his final magnum opus before his passing on the 22nd of August 1981. For Manansala, depression and poverty are not seen as badges of shame, rather it is a continuing struggle for the Filipino people to come out as strong and resilient as a nation.
References: Nazareno, Isabel, Discovering Manansala, Friends of Manansala Foundation, Inc., 2005
Si Mang Enteng... Encountering Manansala, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, 2010
Images of Nation: Vicente Manansala as Social Realist, Ayala Foundation, Inc
Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc and Friends of Manansala Foundation, Inc., 2010