Artworks of Protest Against the Sufferings of the 43 Health Workers

In the exhibit entitled Fact Sheet 43, different forms of art were used to depict the torture and hardships the 43 detained health workers went through as a consequence of their choice to reach out to those with no access to health care.


“Binalot ng kadiliman ang ginuntuang puso,
Na sana’y magsisilbing pag-asa,
Magsisilbing liwanag sa pag-asa…”

(Enveloped in darkness is the golden heart,
That should have been a source of hope,
Serving as a ray of hope…)

This is an excerpt from Bobby Balingit’s poem that accompanies his artwork about Ma. Elena Serato, one of the Morong 43, entitled “Binalot ng kadiliman ang ginuntuang puso.” (The golden heart is enveloped in darkness.) In his artwork, a candle is wrapped by a newspaper clipping that read, “Health workers, kin fast against detention”.

Balingit, an artist and lead singer of The Wuds, said he wants his art to be useful to those who need it like the campaign for the release of the 43 detained health workers.

Arrested on February 6 in Morong, Rizal, the 43 health workers were detained for more than three months inside a military camp. They exposed the physical and psychological torture they endured. Due to pressures from the international and local community, the health workers have been transferred to a police detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan.

Balingit’s work is part of the Fact Sheet 43, an exhibit of artworks by different artists depicting the torture experienced by the detained health workers. The artworks are based on the health workers’ affidavits.

The exhibit was first mounted in Baclaran and other venues that are accessible to the ordinary people. The fourth installment of Fact Sheet 43 was held at Taumbayan and will be displayed in different venues.

Kepi Losaria, a 22-year old poet and a visual artist, also contributed an artwork for the Fact Sheet 43.

Losaria personally knows Jacqueline Gonzales during his early years at the University of the Philippines Diliman. They were both members of Stand UP, an alliance of progressive student organizations in UP and both belonged to the College of Mass Communication.

Losaria’s artwork features strips of pages of the research book and strips of Gonzales’s affidavit and a red cross with acupuncture needles, which symbolizes the health workers.

“Free the 43 now!” is the title of Leonilo Doloricon’s artwork. Doloricon is a former dean of the UP College of Fine Arts and husband of Angela Doloricon, one of the Morong 43. In his painting, the health workers are depicted screaming while guns are poked at them.

Bong De Leon’s artwork entitled “Dr. Montes” is made of acrylic. The doctor is gagged in the mouth.

“Kasalanan ba ang maglingkod sa kapwa,”(Is it a sin to serve others?) is a digital artwork made by Recci Bacolor depicting a health worker being targeted as enemy.

XL Fuentes’ artwork entitled “Piring” (blindfold) depicts the torture of Leah Christine de Luna. The artwork is painted in black featuring a blindfolded subject.

JL Burgos, a visual artist and film maker, also joined the exhibit with an artwork titled,“Dalawang bala ka lang.” (You could be felled with two bullets.) JL said the title was derived from the testimony of the woman political prisoner. “So in my artwork, while she is being interrogated by the military, there are two bullets floating around her,” JL said.

JL, brother of missing activist Jonas, said he imagined his brother being tortured while being interrogated and threatened to be killed while doing his artwork. He said he had a feeling that his brother was also tortured and threatened like the 43 health workers. “The only difference is that the health workers were found and Jonas is missing until now. And we’re clueless if he is dead or alive,” said JL.

The untitled artwork of Rustum Casia depicts the two pregnant women political prisoners who were also tortured and are still imprisoned.

Casia, a member of Artist Arrest and Kilometer 64, said they are inspired by the heroism of the 43 health workers. “These people who chose to stay here in the country to serve those who are underserved are those who are being illegally arrested and detained and were accused of fabricated charges,” he said.

Performance Art

Sining Medikal, a cultural group of the health sector, has also drawn inspiration from the Morong 43 for their street performances. During protest actions for the release of the Morong 43, Sining Medikal always has something new to perform.

One month after the arrest of the Morong 43, Sining Medikal performed a monologue at the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge. The main artist Terence Krishna Lopez, who also wrote the script, portrayed Rey Macabenta, the driver of the Council for Health and Development (CHD) who was among those arrested. Not a few in the audience shed tears as the monologue re-enacted the incidents on Feb. 6.

Another performance art by Sining Medikal was staged in front of the Supreme Court when relatives of the Morong 43 filed a petition seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals’ decision junking the habeas corpus petition of the health workers. One of the artists chanted the names of the 43 health workers while music played.

Another performance titled “Itambad sa larab ng araw” (Expose to the heat of the sun.) struck at the lies being peddled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines with regard to the 43 health workers.

Role of Artists

“Through his or her artwork, an artist helps inform the people about what is happening in society like the illegal arrest of the 43 health workers,” said Casia. ?
Balingit said an artist’s knowledge is significant in making history. He said an artist should contribute to change in society through his or her art. “I am not the type who wants to be a commercialized artist,” he added.

As an individual artist, Balingit said it is usual for him to express his views on social issues through his art– be it visual, music or poetry.

“An artist cannot be indifferent to this struggle; an artist is no different from a worker, a peasant and a farmer,” JL Burgos, a visual artist and film maker, said, referring to the struggle to free the country from its oppressors.

Thankful Relatives

During the fourth installment of Fact Sheet on June 24, relatives of the detained health workers were there to see the exhibit.

Nenita Monasteryo, mother of Linda Otanez, said it is in the support of people where she derives her strength. “I get my strength from people who support the detained health workers,” Monasteryo told Bulatlat. She added that bringing the exhibit close to where people are is a strong show of support for the 43.

Evelyn Montes, wife of Dr. Alex Montes, was with her daughter and some relatives that night. “This is one way of campaigning for the release of the 43 health workers because the artworks depict the actual experiences of the health workers during the time that they were being tortured,” said Mrs Montes.

When asked by Bulatlat if it is painful for them to see, through these artworks, what their loved ones went through at the hands of their captors, Mrs. Montes answered: “No. All the more I feel enraged and inspired to continue fighting until they are released.” (With reports from Ronalyn V. Olea /

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