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Anoy Catague: Butuan’s ‘national artist’

By Ramon Jorge Sarabosing

The paintings are Anoy Catague’s s current works featured in “Merging currents,” a group exhibition of select Davao artists.

I know I would be biased. But I should be. After all, Anoy Catague and I have been together through thick and thin.

As he started to be recognize as a painter, I was behind him, believing in his potential (and he likewise was behind me).

We were buddies and colleagues supporting each other. Well, we joked, we probably had no choice. That was the mid-80’s.

It was Atty. Roan Libarios, the editor-in-chief of Mindanao Spectrum who brought us together. Catague- Anoy to all- was the editorial cartoonist and I, the feature writer.

Atty. Libarios believed in us but I bet he had no idea both of us would pursue our creative passions till the end.

When the paper folded years later, Anoy went to Davao to work with Kaliwat Theater Collective, a community based cultural institution engaged with tribal communities, farmers, fisher folk in partnership with the religious and academe.

He handled video/print documentation, production and set design. I moved to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mindanao Bureau under Carol Arguillas.)

There was a time when Anoy and I came together for commissioned advocacy projects, doing independent short films, he as cameraman and me as writer, director.

We were a 2-man indie movie production team organizing and guiding local community actors. (Indie cinema was not coined then, so looking back now, I’d like to believe we were local indie film pioneers in our own right.)

And Anoy never stop painting in between. After shooting and production set-ups and strike downs, before or after meals, before going to sleep or waking up, he was at it-at all times.

Eventually, he worked as a cameraman for a national TV network based in Davao. But again, painting remained his creative mistress.

Today, the single father to a young girl Mariana is one of the few Mindanaoan most featured and acknowledged painters.

It is not surprising why. His paintings depict the true and enigmatic Mindanao narrative. As one of his buyer said,” I don’t just hang his painting, I connect with it and celebrate its vibrance.”

It is undeniable many young generation of homegrown painters are in a way influenced by him. But Anoy humbly refuse to accept it, saying young painters now are more sensitive than ever.

In a sense, Anoy is unstoppable, painting even more prolifically for upcoming exhibits in more European countries next year after Belgium and Sweden.

Earlier, his works exhibited in Singapore and Australia.

But his dream venue has yet to be materialized, and in a way frustrated him a little but always dreaming of it. ” A homecoming exhibit in Butuan!, I’d love to do it home,” he says.

Now, it’s time for Butuanon shakers and movers to answer his call.

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