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Philippine artist champions humanity, environment through her paintings

Michelle Mora Delos Reyes poses for a picture with one of her pieces (Photo supplied)

Michelle Mora Delos Reyes honored men and women with ordinary jobs in her piece that drew the interest of people from all walks of life at a recent art show in Manila, Philippines. 

She pampered the audience's visual taste with an artwork portraying a man repairing a shoe in a cramped space using tools that had seen better days.

Themed 'Everyday Heroes', the exhibit was staged by Art Show Philippines, a group of local artists, at SM North Edsa, one of the largest shopping malls in the country and Asia.

Harnessing art's power
Delos Reyes, who hails from Albay, uses her brush to remind people of the value of humanity and the environment.

"I wish to tell people through my art our need to treasure nature and promote the common good of men," she said.

Delos Reyes added that people should also be grateful for the gifts that God has given them, like human life, nature, and talent.

Albay is a province nearly 500 kilometers south of Manila. It is home to the Mayon Volcano, an iconic landmark measuring over 8,000 feet tall and known for having the world's most perfect volcanic cone.

Delos Reyes wishes to communicate through her artwork the duty of everyone to be receptive to the issues impacting people and nature.

To her, art should be harnessed not only to achieve one's own needs but also to advance the welfare of others.

"If art has the power to change things, I would use it to realize not only my dreams but also the good of society," Delos Reyes said.

A painting by Michelle Mora Delos Reyes was displayed at the Everyday Heroes art show at SM North Edsa, Manila, Philippines (Photo supplied)

Inclusive art
Delos Reyes had seen the grave images of poverty in the community where she grew up and realized that art was not a sweetened commodity exclusive to the palates of the well-heeled. 

"I'm dreaming that someday art will become accessible for everyone," she said. "I'm looking forward to the day when ordinary people can appreciate art."

She grew up in a family with less in life and experienced being in the cold bowels of poverty.

"I wish someday, artists who are not fortunate in life will have access to art materials," she said.

Delos Reyes started attending art shows during the pandemic in 2021. She's currently associated with artist groups like the Obando Visual Artists, the Art Show Philippines, and Ace of Art. She also joined art shows staged by these groups in different parts of the country.

Her interest in art was born way back in high school in 2005, spawned by her drafting class and occasional participation in mural contests.

"But it was only during the pandemic when I decided to resume painting and started doing it seriously," she said. 

She picked her up to brush again to lift her spirits from the jaded conditions of a pandemic.
Delos Reyes had set aside her brush for a long time after getting married and starting to raise their child.

Michelle Mora Delos Reyes poses for a picture with a painting of her daughter and dog (Photo supplied)

Delos Reyes currently lives in Obando, a coastal town in the province of Bulacan, about 19 kilometers north of Manila.

The town is known for “Sayaw sa Obando,” a fertility dance where couples praying to conceive a child dance in the street. Sayaw sa Obando is part of the three-day Obando Festival honoring three saints: Paschal Baylon, Claire of Asissi, and Our Lady of Salambao.

The fertility dance was originally an animist practice by pagan Filipinos. When the Spanish friars came, they converted it to a Catholic practice observed in May.

Delos Reyes' husband works as a fishpond caretaker. Obando, a coastal town bounded by the waters of Manila Bay, is host to commercial fish farming. Hundreds of hectares of the sea are devoted to large-scale fish cultivation.

In 2011, Father Vince Hizon, former Obando parish priest, was reportedly harassed for protesting the construction of a sanitary landfill in abandoned fishponds. The local fishermen had sourced the town's rivers for food and livelihood. Hizon believed the landfill would pollute the rivers, putting the livelihood of the local fishermen at risk.

The fish kills in Bulacan that resulted in massive losses could have put more spark in the strokes of Delos Reyes over the canvas, since her husband works as a fish pen caretaker.

In May 2022, fish being grown in the pens in Tawiran Lake died due to heavy rains and extreme heat. Also, the flooding in the neighboring city of Valenzuela, following damage to a dike and floodgate, resulted in a fish kill in several fish pens in Obando in June this year. And in May 2018, fish died in more than 100 hectares of fish pens in the town. The fisheries suspected the fish kill was triggered by a lack of oxygen.

The fish farmers lost an estimated P20 million to P30 million worth of fish.

Delos Reyes has been a member of Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ) for the past 10 years.

Iglesia Ni Cristo, a Nontrinitarian Christian faith, was founded by Felix Y. Manalo in the Philippines in 1913.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, its members made up 2.6 percent of the Philippine population in 2015, with an estimated global membership of 3,000,000.

Delos Reyes also accepts commissioned projects. Currently, she's doing one.

Aside from painting, she also loves gardening and handicraft-making.

To her, art is an enhancer. A culture that plays an immortal role that has survived the destructive cast of man through the ages.

"It's a very important part of society," she said. "Without it, life is not as lively as it is. Without it, life is not as colorful. Art should be used for the good of both the artist and society." 


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.