The much-publicized virtual art exhibit of New York-based painter Rommel Rico that went online for free last June 12 & 13, 2021 was hard to miss out so to speak. It went global with huge successful hits following it.

Yes, I watched it not just once but even thrice to upend movie queen Susan Roces’ famous line from the movie. Good that this event is now accessible still for free by merely clicking it on
YouTube:“Salamat Frontliners” A Virtual Art Exhibit by VIRCCO.

Said path breaking and memorable event was all over the surfaces of the social media platforms aside from other features on mainstream media broadsheets and tabloids that colleague George Vail Kabristante was forwarding to me for my perusal and consideration in this section.

The one-man virtual art exhibit was billed “SALAMAT FRONTLINERS” and auspiced by VIRRCO Virtual Art in partnership with the UP College of Medicine (UPCM) Class of 1997 and FILMARTS as

Mainly, among others, the virtual exhibit featured the fresh, virgin, luminous and ethereal semi-figurative art works of Rommel. This was launched like your usual grand event with aperitifs before the main course. The event was first ushered by encouraging endorsements from
local celebrities, personalities, beneficiaries from the UPCM Batch ’97 themselves.This was followed by song numbers from Fil-Am artists with the special participation of one local multi-talented artist (actor-singer-musical director-painter-production designer- columnist) turned avowed preacher – Zyruz Imperial — and a very good friend of mine as well known for his uncompromising volunteering spirit.

Curiously, Zyruz’ song number “Hanggang” by Wency Cornejo was a good choice in that it talks of infinite love among humans and his spiel was most relevant and inspiring extolling the heroism,
unconditional love and noble task of our frontliners who took it upon themselves to put their lives at risk in the line of fire amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

To recall, Zyruz has composed the musical score of the recent indie film version of “Noli Me Tangere” (line-produced by former PMPC prexy Fernan de Guzman directed by George Vail Kabristante) where he also played the role of Elias to Alex Castro as Crisostomo Ibarra (from the defunct Star Magic of ABS-CBN) and now the youngest Board Member of Bulacan Province.

Zyruz also composed the musical score and did the production design of director Sandy Es Mariano’s indie film “Jumbo Jericho” that won for him Best In Theme Song Interpretation at the Phil. Movie Press Club (PMPC) Star Awards for Movies.

Surprisingly, movie star Giselle Tongi (or Toengi here locally)-Walters sparkled vivaciously throughout as the event’s host and she was effusive in thanking Zyruz for his participation and so
with the rest of the Fil-Am artists in the line-up. This was top billed by the “Crystal Voice of Asia” Sheryn Regis who has not been seen and heard locally since she left the country about a decade ago and settled in Houston, Texas with her family.

In her most sparkling crystalline voice Sheryn breezed solidly through her couple of inspirational song numbers, “Light of A Million Morning” and her recent single “Tulad Ng Dati.” She is sorely missed back home by her fans including yours truly but of course.

Pride of Iloilo and New York-based physical therapist and musical theater actor Jerome Amanquiton crooned a heart-tugging rendition of the classic “Walk With Faith in Your Heart” from
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Carousel.” It sounded like a beautiful touching dirge dedicated to those frontliners who perished not in vain in our fight against the pandemic and where I like to think a place in heaven awaits them.

Another upending cool number came from Seattle-based radio host of “US PHILtv”Louie Roa with his unique version of “Dance with my Father.” His song also reminded us of the pain in losing someone we loved. And they could be those elderly frontliners like medical doctors (fathers, mothers, titos, and titas) including maintenance staff, janitors,etc. who also perished in line of their sacred oath to serve humanity at all costs.

Rounding off, Rachel Alejandro who was very active in the local entertainment scene before the pandemic did a heart-rending, albeit a little dark and charming finale number from her latest
single “Takipsilim.” Fans back home couldn’t wait to see her again, this lovely daughter of the iconic Hajji hopefully when the pandemic dies down.

At the outset, the show’s opening salvo was perked up by the well-wishes of celebs Jhong Hilario, co-host of ABS-CBN’s defunct “Showtime” and singer Ronnie Liang who was launched in director Elwood Perez’ recent oeuvre “Esoterika: Maynila.” They hailed the event for its advocacy in honoring the unsung heroes of the pandemic with Games and Amusement Board (GAB) chairman Baham Mitra, etc. positively underscoring said occasion as well.

At this point, Rommel would also like to thank the officers of UPCM Batch 1977 for their unflagging initiatives to make said project come to fulfilling fruition, as follows: President, Juan Antonio Maximiano Escano (Orthopedics); Vice Pres., Ma. Cristina Pelaez-Crisologo (Obstetrics & Gynecology, Perinatology);Sec., Madonna Victoria Calderon-Domingo (Obstetrics & Gynecology, Reproductive Medicine); Treasurer, Ellen Ng Yu-Keh (Ophthalmology); and Auditor,
Cecil Ver (Ophthalmology). Also heartfelt gratitude from Rommel is in order for the support of the following good Samaritans: FilAm Arts, Giselle Tongi-Walters, Chelly C. Sanchez Zack, Brian, Getz Pharma, Biofemme Unilab, Violi Remo, Joey L. Santos, Charina Wheelock Vlogs, Roxy Nicolas, Axl Guinto, JFK Essentials, Manila Times, Saksi Ngayon, Business Mirror, Phil. Movie Press Club, Ma. Leony Garcia, Allan Sancon, Throy Catan, George Vail Kabristante Jennifer Ann Wi, Kiko Tranquilino, Tony Leachon, Lynn Gomez, Jen Lqudo Deb Palmes, Baby King, Raebert Santos, Sheryn Régis, Michelle Basa Unso, Rachel Alejandro, Louie Roa, Zyruz Imperial, Jhong Hilario, Ronnie Liang, Baham Mitra, Jerome Amanquiton ,Hazel Luna, MJ Racadio of Blogtalk
Advocacy, TV Host-Broadcaster Don Tagala of “Balitang America,” TFC (The Filipino Channel), etc.
Magnificently, the dramatic centerpieces of this online event were the all-t00 lambent and soft radiant creations of painter Rommel Rico.

Rommel’s magical portraits of acrylics virtually weaved in at hand on the socmed platform flowed into and captivated our eyes laying up a melange of distinctly unique and gorgeous faces hewed from the profiles of Asian-American models with full noses, lips, and a striking pair of almond eyes with bodies subtly hinting accoutrements of a risk-taking, courageous health worker. The virtual project at hand was not Rommel’s first. Earlier, he collaborated in a fundraising initiative with Duyan Project under the Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation, Inc. that helped
separate the care and treatment of children in the country with HIV-AIDS from adults with the same affliction.

Rommel, by the way, juggles between a highly demanding job at Pfizer Headquarters (42nd St., New York) as a project manager and his first love painting, devoting much of his free time on weekends at his 3-storey haven shared with other friendly Asian- American occupants at Flushing, Queens. Into the pandemic, Rommel was one the more than 80,000 Filipinos from New York who was given a special tribute by City Mayor Bill de Blasio who thanked all of them for their incredible work and sacrifices as cultural and social development animators, and public health service advocates and volunteers.

He added that America would not have literally survived the Covid-19 pandemic without the sacrifices of the Filipino brothers and sisters who served on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic. This was underscored by Mayor de Blasio during the recent celebration of
Filipino-American History Month all over the States.

The Mayor’s unabashed tribute then added in part; “. . . we are proud to be the home of Filipino migrants being the second largest Asian community in America.

“Asian Americans are not a monolith. No people of color are. That’s why it’s important we lift up and pay homage to your community – to this community — individually.

“So many of you serve as doctors and nurses and health workers. More than a quarter of the immigrant nurses in our country are from the Philippines.

“You keep our city moving forward, and you keep us progressing during one of the greatest challenges of our time. Thank you for protecting us,” concluded Mayor de Blasio. From the Philippines together we join in bowing our heads in all humility to all life-enhancing artists and health workers for making our country and the rest of the world a better, safer, and healthier place to inhabit even up to the 7th generation!


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