A Look Back: The Don Papa Rum Art Competition

Update: Submission of entries for the 2021 Art Fair PH x Don Papa Rum Art Residency Program is now closed.
Don Papa Rum, is a highly visual brand. When it first launched in 2012, the first industry and community to take notice was from the art and design community. The magical and dream-like imagery captured the imagination and inspired people to explore this world for themselves. Capitalizing on the visual language helped the brand cut through different language barriers and is one of the reasons the brand has presence in 30 plus countries to date.
2015 - 2020: Art Competition
The natural affinity that emerged between Don Papa Rum and art/design inspired the brand to launch an art competition in 2015. It was open invite to gallery represented artists to submit an artwork inspired by Don Papa and the land of Sugarlandia. 
The winning artwork was then translated into a special canister packaging which was then sold in the different Don Papa markets around the world. In addition to their art being introduced into audiences outside the Philippines, the winning artists were awarded with artistic sojourns in key artistic capitals around the world. It has been five years and we have sent winners to Paris, Florence, New York, London and soon Barcelona.
The Art Canisters resulting from this competition were well received in the markets they were made available in. Moreover, they have proven to be very collectible.
The main platform for the Don Papa Art Competition has been Art Fair Philippines, the most popular and prestigious contemporary art fair in the Philippines. Because of its participation in Art Fair Philippines, the brand has quietly and slowly built a solid reputation as a supporter of visual arts. In 2019, France launched their own art competition.
2021: A Paradigm Shift
Don Papa recognizes the creative power of art to get a specific message across. And so, moving forward, we are giving a more thoughtful approach to how we support artistic endeavors. In 2021, focus is shifted to investing in the artist and their artistic process by way of supporting the ArtFairPH residency programs. We have seen the positive effects of artistic immersion with the winners of the past Don Papa Art Competition and how the art sojourns helped deepen their knowledge, widened their horizons or even validated their chosen path. In supporting residency programs we see the opportunity to have deeper and more meaningful conversations with artists. Also we see this as an opportunity to dialogue with artists to come up with work that can help raise awareness on key issues like conservation.
Here's a look back at the winning artworks from the Don Papa Rum Art Competition.
2015-2016 Winner - "The Spiritual Landscape of Papa Isio" by Riel Hilario
4x6 Mixed Media on Canvas
“My work depicts the hero’s unique ideology that incorporates
syncretic religiosity, belief in amulets and homage to indigenous nature guides,” says Hilario. “The main figures of Papa Isio are located in a niche, suggestive of the appropriation of Catholic imagery in the definition of his ‘papacy’. Behind him are Arsenio Lacson (a former collaborator and Negrense liberator), his muse (a woman representing a diwata/nature spirit), and Jose Rizal (Filipino national hero and Papa Isio’s spiritual guide). In the foreground are images that symbolise his goals and attempts: a burning church with prostate friars representing his desire to cleanse Negros of Spanish presence and false religiosity; a burning Mt. Kanlaon as a sign and omen of his power base; and a Trojan Horse with captive American soldiers suggestive of his desire to round up American imperialism.”
The overall composition also evokes an Ouija board. It is “a playful reference to ‘speaking with the spirits’,” according to Hilario. “It also pays homage to another Negrense icon, The Angry Christ by Alfonso Ossorio, which is an empathic representation of a justice-seeking Savior. By slightly equating Don Papa to Ossorio’s Christ, I seek to establish the spirit of judicious power that fuels both to action and form.”
2016-2017 Winner - "Field Notes for Papa Isio" by Henrielle Pagkaliwangan
2x4 Pen, Ink, and Watercolor on Canvas
According to Pagkaliwangan, "The work started from the story behind the Masskara festival: a symbol of Negros’ positive and colorful response during a time of crisis. The sugar market reached a low point, (among other unfortunate events), and so the Masskara festival was born with the intention of uplifting the spirits of the Negrenses. This dark story behind the lively Masskara festival inspired the amalgamation of contrasting yet coexisting elements of the work: the inevitable symbiosis of sugarcane and the pests, the rum barrels and glasses representing the production of succulent rum, the beautiful yet endangered species of Negros, and the ornate, smiling, ‘moustached’ Masskaras (in honor of Negros’ unsung hero, Papa Isio) that conceal the difficult past."
The piece adopts a straightforward taxonomic format of natural history prints and illustrations: encouraging comparison among subjects, and framing the dualities that exist in Sugarlandia, the spiritual home of Don Papa Rum‐‐‐ putting into visual form the triumphs over trials.
2017-2018 Winner - "Passage to the Land of Sugar" by Lee Paje
3.6x6 Oil and Patina on Copper
"Passage to the Land of Sugar’ explores the possibilities and adventures beyond the walls (of the canister) into the boundless Sugarlandia universe may it be to an exhilarating cityscape, a vibrant seascape, or the vast land of Sugar. It began with the question ‘How would the passageway to Sugarlandia be?’. Then it was developed into a visual narrative rooted in the historic past of Negros, melding present and future into a fantastical dimension, and forming windows between worlds. This piece shows the path to Mt. Kanlaon where it originates, to the world where experiencing the sweet rum, and to the rest of Sugarlandia waiting to be explored. Within the tower-like structure (once formed as a cylindrical canister), animals found in Negros are next to explorers' tools and maps; American oak barrels are beside books; and the sugar cane is reimagined and reinterpreted in various ways. What I hope to show is that the closer one looks, the closer one discovers the expanse of the adventure waiting to be unraveled just like how Don Papa rum drinkers find complex flavors within each sip."
2018-2019 Winner - "Botany" by Sam Penaso
3x5 Acrylic on Reflective Stainless and Biodata
"The Flora and Fauna on shown the piece exhibits the interdependence of both plants and animals as the  elements of nature that surround man. Exhibiting the beauty, the complexity, the surreal and the beauty  of all beings, the work extends its meaning to how interdependence is an important factor that  determines man’s connection to nature."
2019-2020 Winner - "Timeless Landscape" by Geovanni Abing
3x5 Collage and Acrylic on Canvas with Archival Coating
An incredible piece of nature in the heart of the majestic Kanlaon that towers over lush green forest and fields, a sight to behold. Portrayed by Abing as a magical place, floating in a sea of clouds with its diverse flora and fauna. Conquered by humans for years yet nature prevails and governs over man-made things. The allure of this landscape goes on, eternally.
Bleeding Heart Rum Company, 2021


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