These Are the Sculptures for the Philippines Pavilion at the Dubai Expo

The art pieces will draw on both science and mythology.

The 2020 World Expo was supposed to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from October 2020 to April 2021, but COVID-19 pushed it back to this year. Now the Expo is scheduled to be held from October 2021 to March 2022. 

The Philippines Pavilion, designed by Budji + Royal Architecture and Design, was inspired by a coral reef or Bangkota. “The multi-level structure is built on the idea of connectivity and permeability, enabling visitors to experience the island nation and its resilient, creative people.”

Photo by DTI.

At least one interesting component of the country’s pavilion is the artwork. The Department of Trade and Industry, which leads the country’s participation at the Expo 2020 Dubai, has commissioned several artists and sculptures to present a “cosmopolitan profile of the Philippines” at the Expo. Four of the artists whose works will be presented in Dubai are sculptors Duddley Diaz and Dan Raralio, and multi-media artists Toym Imao and Riel Jaramillo Hilario.


“Employing their individual artistic languages, these artists will provide the Philippines’ Pavilion with a sequence of visual and physical experiences that draw on both updated scientific data and the mythological imagination of the Filipino,” the DTI said in a new release.

Photo by DTI.

Diaz has the honor of welcoming visitors to the pavilion with his art piece—a pregnant figure of the mythic Haliya—located at the entrance plaza. “Diaz’s well-known virtuosity with expressive massing is used in the pavilion to communicate a major message: confidence in Philippine culture, in the context of the Expo District on Sustainability.” 

Near the same entrance plaza is Dan Raralio’s “Mystiquecross”—an ambiguous fish-like figure taking form as an amalgam of old-tech shapes made to look even older with a verdigris finish. The fish carries “aloft the theme Diaz begins for the pavilion—the activations of the mythic imagination to speak to the future—confidently bringing together the ideas of metallic weight and animal buoyancy.”

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Meanwhile, Imao’s sculpture entitled “Confluence of Wings” carries themes of mythic flight and creatures of the mind. Located at the topmost level of an extended outdoor ramp wrapped around the pavilion core, the piece is an explosion of bird forms surrounded by columns and with a “roof” of birds in flight.

“’Confluence of Wings’ resurrects birds in Philippine mythology as symbol of elevated states of being,” the DTI says.

Photo by DTI.

Finally, the same bird symbology is reiterated in Riel Hilario Jaramillo’s “Limokon and Timamanukin,” which are half-human, half-avian creatures that will appear to accompany visitors in one midway passage, poised above ground as though waiting for take-off. “Birds—alternatively omen animals, or materializations of spirits in flight, in oral traditions from all over the Philippine archipelago—are in Jaramillo’s sculptures, the Filipino male and female avatars.”

Other Filipino visual artists whose works will be exhibited at the pavilion are Lee Paje, Baby and Coco Anne, Charlie Co, Dex Fernandez, Patrick Cabral; wildlife photographers Scott “Gutsy” Tuazon and Ivan Sarenas; choreographers Denisa Reyes and JM Cabiling, composer Teresa Barroso; and National Artist for Museum Ramon P. Santos.  

Photo by DTI.

For more information on the Philippine Pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai, visit the site.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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