How Siargao Island Inspired Uruguayan Artist Manuel Arnabal

How Siargao Island Inspired Uruguayan Artist Manuel Arnabal


For Manuel Arnabal, Siargao wasn’t just a place—it became the muse that deepened his love for our nation

The magic and allure of art lie in its ability to transport us, urging us to feel its every brushstroke and ponder over each element. This enchantment unfolds at Talyer 15, immersing you in a vibrant beach with inviting coasts and shores. The gallery is currently showcasing works by international artists who underwent a residency in Siargao. Among them was Manuel Arnabal, who traveled all the way from Uruguay to translate the beauty of the island into captivating pieces. Together with other international talents like Federico Tosi and Juan Perdiguero Trillo, as well as Filipino artist Jigger Cruz, they’ve condensed the tropical paradise into a single exhibition space.

Manuel Arnabal

Before the exhibit concludes on November 30, MEGA Man had the opportunity to talk to the Uruguayan artist, where he shared how the island inspired and influenced his art and expressed a curiosity to explore further.

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A beachside reunion

Manuel Arnabal with other international artists

Our conversation began as Manuel revisited the beginnings of his friendship with Federico and Jigger. “We met in 2015 at another residency in Saint-Tropez.” During that experience, they had the opportunity of meeting Filipino artist Ian Giron. Fast forward eight years, Ian reached out to bring them together for another residency—this time, in the Philippines. He shared that he eagerly embraced the offer, excited not only to collaborate with old friends, but also to immerse himself in the beauty of the country. However, he expressed regret for missing the chance to meet Juan Perdiguero Trillo as Juan’s residency had concluded before his arrival.

Siargao’s spectrum

“It is a very special place. The local people really feel like a community—they are very friendly and welcoming.”

Manuel describes his impression of Siargao and its residents.

Living in Siargao, Manuel discovered himself enthralled by the island’s charming beauty—the people, the food, the weather, and the water. Yet, amidst it all, he pointed out, “Most importantly, it’s the colors.” These hues, vividly displayed in his works, carry profound meanings. The artist emphasized that these weren’t casual choices; they were the precise colors that entranced him during his weeks on the island, fostering a love for the place that is deep, authentic, and unquestionable.

The colors of Siargao

A tropical masterpiece

Nestled in the gallery’s quiet corner, amidst Manuel’s watercolor paintings, is a piece that stands out—coconut shells cut in half. Interestingly, this holds a special place among Manuel’s favorites. He shared that these shells, polished and adorned with gold leaf, were his personally collected treasures from the beach. Drawn to transforming items with “insides” into art, he chose the coconut as a nod to Siargao’s presence. Although time-consuming, this artistic endeavor, according to Manuel, was worth every moment.

The Uruguayan artist's favorite work during his stay in Siargao

The value of art residencies

MEGA Man also had the chance to talk to Alelee Andanar, one of the key figures in bringing this residency to life. She credited her husband, Martin Andanar, for championing the idea, deeply rooted in his Siargao upbringing. Alelee said that she swiftly embraced the project when it surfaced, explaining simply yet profoundly, “You see life from a different perspective.” She shared that she finds joy in witnessing how people, especially foreign tourists, appreciate our beaches. For her, it’s a beautiful exchange that she hopes will ripple across borders.

Alelee Andanar with the international artists in Siargao

Fueled by a deep commitment to harness the transformative power of art, Alelee shared their ongoing mission. Beyond sustaining art residencies and showcasing Filipino talent abroad, she and her partner aspire to carve a haven for art in Siargao—a gallery that echoes the island’s unexplored beauty. In her words, it’s about uncovering the hidden gems and inviting Filipino artists to find inspiration in its enchanting landscape.

Painting new horizons

As we wrapped up our conversation, Manuel shared something fascinating—despite crafting stunning art during his stay in Siargao, he only dipped into watercolors for the first time just a year ago. And just like his first ever visit to the Philippines, this fresh foray feels like an artistic voyage that resembles stepping onto a pristine shoreline, marking the start of something beautiful. It’s a thrilling moment, inviting us to witness the gentle tides of his creativity shaping the landscape of his evolving chapters.


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