Art and lyf in Manila: Meet the Winners of Torre Lorenzo and DLS-CSB’s Manila Digital Mural Art Contest

Posted March 16, 2023

By: Torre Lorenzo

 Winners of Manila Digital Mural Art Contest

The beauty of Manila can be found all around the city, from the vintage monuments to the age-old universities to the new modern-day buildings that peek through the skyline.

All these served as inspiration for the winners of the Manila Digital Mural Art Contest organized by Torre Lorenzo Development Corporation (TLDC) in partnership with the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), where the four students’ winning mural artworks based around bustling Manila life will be displayed in lyf Malate Manila.

The Contest John Benedict “JB” Mangco, a sophomore Multimedia Arts student, saw the email regarding the mural competition in Torre Lorenzo Malate co-hosted by his school. He said, “I got interested because I wanted to showcase my talent. I wanted people to see what I do, and I wanted to test my skills…This is my first competition that has to do with art.” Albertha Dorado and Mikhayla Renee Harlea, two Multimedia Arts freshmen, were informed about the contest by their teachers. The friends decided to team up to finish their submissions quickly while balancing their entries with their academics. Junior Architecture student Januel Andrei Pitoy was scrolling through his school email when the words “Digital Mural Contest” caught his attention. It was a rare sight in the midst of emails on class updates. It just so happened that he was interested in pursuing mural art, and he figured it was a great way for him to put his name out there, as well as represent his fellow Architecture majors. “I really believed I could win. I had that mindset from the beginning,” he truthfully shared. On February 27, 2023, they were announced as the winners of the competition. Mangco managed to snag two winning entries into the contest - the vibrant ‘Abstract Diversity’ and the colorful ‘Kape Para Kay…’ Despite the demanding five-entry requirement and their impending midterms, Dorado and Harlea successfully submitted their artworks, which paid off with one of the entries, ‘Larga,’ ended up winning. Pitoy, meanwhile, also had two winning murals: ‘This is Manila’ and ‘Rise.’

Artists’ Beginnings

John Benedict Mangco together with his digital mural artworks

For every artist, there’s always someone who pushes them to fully pursue what they love doing, which is creating. Aside from supportive family members, and friends, Mangco says his primary motivator is himself, having discovered his love for art while on lockdown during the early days of the pandemic. “It’s a way to push myself to do better…it’s still up to me. I still have to push myself to do this. I can have all the support in the world [but] if you don’t push yourself to do it, parang wala lang siya. (It’s all useless.) In college, you have to develop your skills, and this is a way to showcase my work,” he shares, adding, “My talent is God-given. I owe my skills to the Lord. Since I’ve never joined [an art] competition, this was a perfect opportunity to start.”

Dorado credited her interest in art with the animated movies and shows she watched growing up, saying, “I was inspired by [Studio] Ghibli films and cartoons [as well as] animators in Disney. I take inspiration from the films that I [watch]. That’s what inspired me to pursue art as a course right now.” Meanwhile, Harlea thanked her supportive mother, sharing, “She really tries to push me, and she supports me in whatever I’m doing.”

Januel Andrei Pitoy with his grandparents

Pitoy’s journey with art began in childhood, sharing, “I’ve been creating and doing art since I was five years old. It’s been something inside of me ever since I was young, but my grandfather was the person who intrigued me and sparked my interest in art. I saw him drawing since he was also an artist back in his days. And that’s where I got my inspiration from.” He loved drawing what interested him during his childhood, such as cartoons like Dragon Ball. Since then, it has become a natural thing for Pitoy to create, saying, “Nowadays, I don’t have any motivation. It’s [now] a part of me. It’s more of something I do as a habit. I draw every day.”

“I only have two choices: I do nothing, or I create. I would rather create something than do nothing and just blandly live my life. I’ve always been a creator deep inside, and I’d love to do creative stuff. You only live once, so why not create and provide value to others?,” he added.

Manila Murals from Fresh Eyes

The most interesting thing in common that the four winners had in common is the fact that none of them are from the capital city. Through their stays and visits to the city for college, the artists managed to gain so much inspiration from the rich vibrancy and history of Manila for their winning mural art. It’s poignant that the artists who are not from Manila have created art that will welcome lyf Malate Manila’s guests who are coming from overseas and different parts of the country.

“I rarely go to [the city of] Manila… There’s not one design here. You can see [a] vector art of people. It’s diverse,” Mangco said about his art style used for ‘Abstract Diversity.’ “Manila is a hotspot for inspiration. Just look outside. You can see practically everything. [In] any corner, you can see inspiration. The diversity as well…this is the capital of the Philippines. It’s never lacking in terms of inspiration,” he adds.

Albertha Dorado and Mikhayla Renee Harlea the artist's behind LARGA digital mural artwork

For the mural art ‘Larga,’ Dorado and Harlea cite local graffiti artists as an inspiration behind the artwork, while the large, illustrated jeepney was based on their trips on the way to school. “While going to Benilde, we saw some street food vendors and people walking around, and jeeps of course, because it’s the Philippines, so we tried to base it on that. We decided to put them as our inspiration for the mural,” explained Harlea. On why they depicted this, Dorado added, “What we wanted to do was to show our appreciation and to show the Philippines that these kinds of people, especially those who were somewhat neglected in some cases are actually really important in the way we live in Manila.” Dorado took charge of creating the foreground of the mural while Harlea developed the art’s background, resulting in a truly winning combination.

For ‘Rise’ and ‘This Is Manila,’ Pitoy was primarily inspired by the contest’s theme of Manila, “and what it feels like to walk around and travel around the streets of Manila.” He explained that it was “how I [felt] when I walk around the streets, the people around me, my friends whenever we’re hanging out outside. I tried to implement and infuse that into my artworks and then make it livelier and colorful.”

Manila’s Beauty

What about the city of Manila makes it so beautiful?

Mangco believes it is the “busyness” of the city, explaining, “When I go to CSB, I can really see the difference [between] my hometown to here. You can see the sense of Manila compared to when you’re in [other cities]. It’s the people, it’s the buildings, and it’s the culture.”

“Manila is very multicultural. It has different cultures and different people. Manila has a lot of opportunities. School, jobs…a lot of people are diverse here. That’s why Manila is interesting to look at because of the diversity here,” said Dorado.

For Dorado, who is based in Antipolo, the attractions and the sky-high buildings were sources of beauty for her, especially in stark contrast to the nature-filled provincial area she was used to growing up. For Harlea, “Yes it is busy, and a lot of people are there. The overwhelming feeling captures your interest, and it is something new. And that new feeling pushes me to say, ‘Oh, Manila, it’s so nice,’ and it’s like meeting the people. There are so many people who come from different places, and you’re like, ‘Wow! I’ve never heard of that.’”

“There’s a lot of people that come here with different stories. It’s a good place to make art. Due to the different lifestyles that we have, you get inspired by the stories of these people as well as [having] a lot of good schools in Manila that teach art. If you want to start making art or have a future in art, you have to be somewhere near Manila so you’re getting a first-hand experience of everything,” said Harlea.

How can you fully appreciate the artistic side of the capital? “Go to CSB,” both said jokingly.

Pitoy’s parents are OFWs, hence he spent his childhood growing up in several countries, and lived in Dubai before moving back to Manila for college. He shares, “It was a bit of a culture shock because of the surroundings. As time passed, I grew in love with how Manila represents itself to everyone. It’s very diverse. It’s not just one thing. You have a wide array of experiences that you can feel not just with yourself but [also] with other people that you can easily get along with. That’s what I love about it. It feels free…It feels livelier.”

“It's spontaneity…there’s like many extremes you can go from one point to another. It’s not just a high-end experience all the time. You can also go and experience some of the truths. It gives you a sense of humanity as well, and not just this one side of the world where you’re always there, and when you experience it, you feel uncomfortable. That’s what I love about Manila - this sense of [excitement] and thrill that you can’t get anywhere else,” he concludes.   

Winners of digital mural art contest group photo

Mangco, Dorado, Harlea, and Pitoy’s murals will be displayed at several unique spots at lyf Malate Manila at Torre Lorenzo Malate when it opens later this year. Managed by The Ascott Limited, lyf Malate Manila is a serviced residence at the heart of the city aimed towards next-generation travelers. lyf is a unique coliving concept that allows digital nomads, technopreneurs, creatives and self-starters to “live your freedom” in a dynamic environment for live, work, and play. With curated experiences and social programmes , lyf is also designed for residents to plug into the local community and form connections with one another.