Art, Exhibit, North Wing Gallery (Landing), South Wing Gallery

Pabula / Fables | Drawings by Elmer Borlongan

Borlongan shows illustrations of fables at UP Vargas Museum

E-VITE_revisedIn 1992 to 1993, writer and poet Hilario Francia embarked on a translation project of Aesop’s fables from English to Filipino. The work of illustrating the tales eventually fell to a young Elmer Borlongan, on fellow artist Egai Fernandez’s recommendation. The drawings are currently on display at the 3rd floor Galleries of the Vargas Museum in the University of the Philippines – Diliman Campus, show titled: Pabula/Fables.

Borlongan, in the first few illustrations, used poster color on black paper, imitating wood engravings, but Francia had reservations on the style. Borlongan thus shifted to charcoal pencil, better capturing light and shadow, and giving life to the animal characters. Francia submitted photocopies of Borlongan’s work to the newspaper, Manila Chronicle, which then published one fable with an accompanying artwork every Sunday. But the decision to submit only reproductions of the illustrations has proved to be blessing in disguise – thanks to Francia, Borlongan was able to keep the complete set of original drawings intact.

There is something about fables – these short fictional stories, typically with animals as characters and imparting a moral – that speak to us. The way that the animals are portrayed – given life and human voices, sometimes speaking even more wisely and profoundly than us – is amusing. Their silliness and rashness, too, make for either funny or thrilling short stories. But perhaps, what fables are able to most successfully do is to hand us a mirror to ourselves to reveal our own folly and animal nature.

Pabula/Fables revisits Borlongan’s charcoal pencil drawings with fresh adaptations and translations by Rhandee Garlitos. They will also be published by CANVAS as a children’s book titled The Cat and the Bat – and Other Fables.

Exhibit runs at the 3rd floor Galleries of the Vargas Museum, University of the Philippines – Diliman, from October 23 to November 8, 2013. For more information, email or call/text 0917 306 4175.


About Jorge B. Vargas Museum

It aims to preserve its collection donated by Jorge B. Vargas and conducts research, exhibitions, publications, and educational programs. The Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center houses a museum, archives, and library devoted to the Philippine history, art, and culture from the late 19th century until the post-war era. Its main beneficiaries are students, faculty, researchers and scholars of the Philippines and Asia.


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