Bacolodnon artist keeps coming home

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Friday, August 1, 2014

RIYADH—A Filipino artist may succeed in a foreign land but he will always return home to share his art with his countrymen.

Like Bacolodnon visual artist Natalio Alob Jr.

“Nonoy,” as he is fondly called by his friends, is based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for 13 years now, but he keeps on returning home— figuratively.


Being away from his homeland does not stop him from connecting to his native country's local art scenes and its annual art competitions sponsored by different institutions.

Nonoy won the grand prize in the sculpture category of the 2012 GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) Art Competition held in June, for his piece "The Painful Tie That Binds."

In the same year, he won again the grand prize in the 2012 Sining PSE, the first national art competition of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) held in November. His sculpture was called “Gear Up Pinoys.”

This year, Nonoy joined the Metrobank Art competition, the results of which will be released in September. His entry is a sculpture called “Storm Surge,” depicting the Filipinos’ resilient spirit in times of calamities and tragedies.

Nonoy lived and studied fine arts in Bacolod prior to working in Riyadh.

Here in Riyadh, he has had the chance to present his illustrated works to royalties.

Growing up

Nonoy was born in Zamboanga. His parents Natalio Sr. and Nelly Gelisanga-Alob are from Bacolod but they migrated to Zamboanga in the 1960s to start a livelihood in fishing.

In Zamboanga, Nonoy grew up with three artist-brothers whom he greatly looked up to.

One of his brothers is Noel or “Katsang" who influenced him to delve deeper into creative endeavors and inspired him to discover his creative sensibilities.

But life was hard in Zamboanga for them. With no option, Nonoy had to stop and delay schooling for years.

Exodus to Bacolod

Katsang moved to Bacolod and start a workshop for a handmade art outsourcing business. He brought Nonoy with him.

In Bacolod, Katsang taught Nonoy to mold and paint masks for use by the MassKara dancers.

However, the workshop proved to be hard to maintain as its seasonal nature affects the venture’s balance sheet.

Thus, his academic pursuits were further delayed until a stroke of opportunity knocked.

Through a city-sponsored scholarship, Nonoy made his way to the corridors of La Consolacion College where he majored in Advertising in the ARFIEN Department.

With this chance, his dream was finally etched on firm foundation. Eventually, he became a member of Art Association of Bacolod, widening his creative doors by meeting AAB's seasoned founders and collaborating with other Negrense artists.

As for his part, Nonoy mastered the art of painting and sculpture. These have become his primary skills before the advent of computer graphics design and digital art.

His distinct style helped him carve a niche in Bacolod’s visual arts world. Eventually, Nonoy found himself joining various art competition contests and exhibits as Bacolod City became a haven for design contests and colorful festivities.

Year after year, he proved himself by wowing judges and surprising the art circle; bagging grand trophies after grand trophies from Christmas Tree and Parol design contests to art fashion tilts to Belen-making competitions. And by joining contests in T-shirt designs, PLDT's Yellow Pages, body paintings held in Mambukal plus LCC Arfien Department's Alta Costura fashion, he earned more laurels and this created ripples among his peers and art collectors.

His craft, skills and awards in total became his passport to another chapter of his life as he had another grand exodus that will completely alter his art, his life and his future.

Land of great opportunity

Like his award-winning works, Nonoy has eventually become a winner in a country with an image that is usually connected to oil and construction.

The country is Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Nonoy has been based here since 2002.

Saudi Arabia's fast modernization after the construction boom opened new opportunities for creative individuals like him.

For 13 years now, he has been working as an in-house artist for books written by Princess Maha Al Faisal, a direct descendant of the royal founder of this kingdom, King Saud.

Under Princess Maha's Darnun Publication, Nonoy has already illustrated many books but this time he uses a combination of computer digital painting (or photoshop), pen and ink, and traditional oil painting.

He also provided a unique approach in interpreting a story by creating molded clay sculpture based from it, which were finally photographed and printed on the hard bound glossy pages.

These books are sold in the UK and the Arab countries and are available in English and Arabic versions. (George Pontino Jr.)


George Pontino Jr. was Lifestyle editor of Sun.Star Bacolod from 2002 to 2007 prior to working in Riyadh as a senior graphic designer until now.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 01, 2014.


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