Portraits of the Master by His Students: The Fernando Sena Tribute Exhibit

Fernando Sena is a figure of inspiration and guidance in the Philippine art world. Despite four decades of painting and teaching countless students, he retains an easygoing nature, full of cheerfulness and warmth. The love and respect of Sena’s students find expression in portraits of their master, now in an online exhibit. The portraits capture Fernando Sena in an array of moods and postures, ranging from pensive to euphoric—but always with his distinctive openness and generosity inspiring each of his students’ brushstrokes. 

Fernando sena
Julius Legaspi
Fernando Sena
Portrait by Alvin Montano “Nanding Sena”

Fernando Sena
Portrait by Naning Estrella
Fernando Sena
Portrait by Alex Sibug “Maestro Sena”

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Fernando Sena
Portrait by Grandier Gil Bella

Fernando Sena
Portrait by Maxi Ramos “ Maestro Nanding”
Fernando Sena
Portrait by Dr. Dante Lerma

The Father of the Philippine Art Workshop

As a teacher, the Fernando Sena first taught as a volunteer art mentor at the CMLI. His passion for his craft and how he extended this love of the art to his students helped him slowly establish his reputation. Soon, parents encouraged him to finally conduct classes of his own. Today, Sena provides free art workshops, especially to students from the metro’s most underserved communities. Many of his lessons cater to the youth that live within communities that experience poverty, especially students from Tondo, Antipolo, Taytay, and Carmona, to name a few. 

Photo courtesy of News.Abscbn.com

Many of his students consider him as a “father” in the field of art. One of his former students, Julius Legaspi, expressed his admiration, describing the master as a “tatay na iginagalang, sa kanyang simpleng pamumuhay at pakikikapwa tao. Mataas ang aming tingin lalo kaming kapwa artist at kanyang estudyante. Isang tatay na nag-aaruga sa kanyang mga anak sa larangan ng pagpipinta.” 

This is a part of his advocacy of bringing art to everyone with the willingness to learn. One of his goals is to give people from all walks of life the opportunity to express themselves through art. 

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Another student, Alvin Montano, added that Fernando Sena is an example of a great painter and mentor. “Ang value na ituro niya na tumatak sa akin ay iyong kababaang loob, at pagpipinta, udyok ng puso,”  he shared.

As a teacher, Sena insists on the students’ individuality and encourages their particular modes of expression. As his students develop their abilities, these lead them to assert their independence of style. He can spot brilliant talents in artists that hold promise of upholding the Filipino tradition. His reserved aesthetic serves as a secure jumping-off point for the many artist-students that have undergone his direction.

Mr. Fernando Sena for me is not just a mentor who is very dedicated to his craft but most of all a sincere friend to whom I owe my career as a painter,” says, Dr. Dante Lerma, a former student, an artist, and a practicing Medical Doctor. “For a visual artist, I believe that portraiture would be the best way to pay tribute to somebody whom we deeply respect and admire. To be able to capture one’s countenance the best way you can is to be able to tell his personal story in a very unique yet personal manner.”

Maxi V. Ramos, the head of the FB Sena Buenas Artes Group of Artists, said that “his love and passion for arts even go beyond helping. His being a father extends not only to his children but also to those who have learned to share this amazing gift of talent. He has touched the hearts of many people as he did to mine. I am now for years have been reaping the fruits of my passion. There is contentment of the soul with every painting I create. His teachings of words and visuals have been a continuing advocacy I hope to share to many, as well.”

Fernando Sena and the Simplicity of Life

Many of Fernando Sena’s paintings focus on ordinary settings, a pointed departure from the glamour depicted in the work of many other artists. He draws richness from poverty, which he freely identifies with, recounting his simple origins. His vision imbues mundane subjects with beauty and dignity. His works present common themes and are created to be thoroughly accessible to the untrained eye, because of their familiarity to the everyday plight of the Filipinos.  These works often depict subjects that the vast majority of observers can recognize and respond to. 

Visual artist Celeste Lecaroz pointed out that the master’s art and his choice of subjects “reflects his humble beginnings as well as his personal advocacy to call attention to the plight of the poor.”

Photo from Pinterest

He is famous for his “toys” series: colorful canvases featuring piles of beloved, well-worn toys, highlighting an appreciation of children’s innocence and ability to bring life to unremarkable settings through their imagination.

Fernando Belen Sena is best known for depicting themes that resonate with the ordinary Filipino: religious icons, pan de sal, the lowly barong- barong, a pile of assorted toys, the destitute, and scenes of a simple life,” writes visual artist Celeste Lecaroz.

Sena’s work also tells stories of optimism and longing. His work reinterprets the world as a place where faith exists as a subtle reassurance and consumerism as geared towards basic essentials, in a country where religious debates continue to divide people and inequality and corruption pervade society.  

The Artist and the Community

Fernando Sena
Portrait by Celeste Lecaroz

Fernando Sena is truly loyal to the community that fostered his goals and talent. Under Sena’s tutelage, his students have proven to be a loveable, inspiring bunch who exemplify camaraderie, and carry on his tradition of showing people how art can become a mode of expression and a way of connecting with others. In his studios and workshops, he continues to offers hospitality to local artists, students, and visitors who all share a deep desire to learn about art.

′′ Someone who thinks for the welfare of others in the field of Arts and Arts, he’s a big name for me. That’s Fernando B. Sena.”
-Mary Ann Venturina-Bulanadi

“Filipino MASTER in the Eyes of HIS Apprentice”
The Fernando B. Sena Tribute Online Art Exhibit
25 July- 25 September 2021 http://senaarts.com

Notes about the Writer

IDr. Mary Ann Venturina Bulanadi, PHd. Doctor of Philosophy,   Major in Development Studies, University of Santo Tomas UST Graduate School (2020). Masters in Cultural Heritage Studies at the UST, Graduate School, (2004). Diploma Course in Interior Design at the Philippine School of Interior Design  (1991)  and   Bachelor of Science in Architecture at the UST College of Architecture and Fine Arts  (1986).

Faculty Member of the Interior Design Department of the University of Santo Tomas, College of Fine Arts and Design (UST-CFAD).  Research Fellow at UST Research Center for Culture, Arts and Humanities (UST-RCCAH);   Special Lecturer in the Philippine School of Interior Design   (PSID);   Curator,  Bahay Nakpil Bautista, Quiapo.

Appointed as a Member of the Board of Trustees at the National Museum in 2010.   Currently appointed as Director for Research and Publication,  Council of Interior Design Educators (CIDE)  Head, Committee on Cultural Heritage,  Philippine Institute of Interior Designers  (PIID-CCH).

Had been a columnist for “All About INTERIORS”, Home & Property section of  Sunday Times newspaper, 2006-2008;   in  an ART in DESIGN  column at  My Home magazine,  2009-2013  and had been a contributor in the Arts and Cultural section of  Sunday Manila Standard.