Portrait of the Filipino as a Painter

 Painter Rod Pedralba (Photo courtesy of Rod Pedralba)

Painter Rod Pedralba (Photo courtesy of Rod Pedralba)

Surigao City is the capital of Surigao del Norte on Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines. Marked by rolling hills, a very special topographic feature of the city are the more than two dozen islands and islets. They are separated from the mainland by the Hinatuan Passage, which connects Mindanao Sea to the Pacific Ocean. This is the setting that encouraged the imagination of Rod Pedralba, a visual artist based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Pedralba always aspires to project his Filipino identity in his artworks. Being in another country further intensified his search of what is Filipino. “I miss the Philippines a lot,” he says. “But whenever I paint, I feel like my mind and spirit are in the Philippines.”

Being a member of the Dimasalang III International Artist Group, which is composed of Filipino-Canadian artists, also has helped Pedralba crystalize his search of Filipino identity.

A turning point in Pebralba’s art career was meeting Sofronio Y. Mendoza or SYM, the group’s founder. He attended his classes in the early ‘80s with other artists, studying a myriad of subjects, including theories of colors, negative and positive space, and formal and informal balance of composition. “SYM always emphasized the importance of the basics of drawing,” he remembers, “as well as having distinctive image .”

Pedralba absorbed whatever SYM taught him, but he eventually learned to take risks and form his artistic style. Full of symbolism, it is a combination of realism and infused with the essence of cubism, resulting in different perspectives and fragmented and geometrical shapes, forms, and patterns.

The influence of architecture is also apparent. He has successfully incorporated architectural elements into his artworks, foremost of which is the structure. His images are skillfully laid out, seemingly following a plan. In addition, there is a sense of height like a building.


Pedralba always aspires to project his Filipino identity in his artworks. Being in another country further intensified his search of what is Filipino.

Sandie Gillis, an arts advocate and board director of the Dimasalang III International Artist Group, describes Pedralba: “He’s a hardworking and prolific artist whose real passion is art. In his earlier years, he painted wildlife, landscapes, and travel experiences. Most recently, he painted tributes to the masters of art.” Gillis has observed the influence of SYM in Pedralba’s artworks Although Pedralba has developed his distinct style. “The cubism-realism approach is very SYM, but Rod Pedralba has taken it to a new heights, finding a style that sets him apart from other artists.”

Aside from SYM, Pedralba also learned from studying the art of 19th and 20th century masters, such as Robert Bateman, Pablo Picasso, the Impressionists, and the Group of Seven. He spent countless hours studying paintings in museums, as well as poring over art books. Also, he has joined numerous juried art shows. In 1989, he was featured in the international magazine Wildlife Art, which was a huge accomplishment.

Having acknowledged what he has learned from the masters of art, it is not surprising then that one of his favorite artworks is the Tribute to Picasso. “I like the composition,” he explains “because it combines the symbolism of sarimanok (a mythic bird of the Maranao people from Mindanao) , the carabao (Philippine water buffalo) , and the works of Picasso from the Blue Period to the Rose Period.”

 "A Tribute to Pablo Picasso" By Rod Pedralba, 2015, Oil on Linen, 32" x 40"

"A Tribute to Pablo Picasso" By Rod Pedralba, 2015, Oil on Linen, 32" x 40"

His travels have also been the subject of his artworks. Venice, Italy is memorable because he painted it based on his trip with his wife, Elizabeth, to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

 "Venice" By Rod Pedralba, 2006, Acrylic on canvas, 24" x 36"

"Venice" By Rod Pedralba, 2006, Acrylic on canvas, 24" x 36"

Pedralba injected a strong message on the environment in The World Today and Tomorrow. “I put different species,” he states, “reminding the world that we should treasure and protect what we have.”

 "The World Today and Tomorrow" By Rod Pedralba, 2003, Acrylic on Canvas, 40" x 40"

"The World Today and Tomorrow" By Rod Pedralba, 2003, Acrylic on Canvas, 40" x 40"

What inspires him? Nature, nostalgic buildings, travels, museums, market scenes in the Philippines and even classic cars! He virtually finds something good in his dreams and everyday existence.

Art was something Rod Pedralba learned to do easily at a young age. Although Surigao City was busy, he managed to find peace and quiet to do his art. He always experienced flow, that is, time stood still because he got so engrossed in doing his artwork. In grade school, whenever his teachers needed something drawn, they turned to him. Little did he know that art would be his lifelong passion, if not his signature identity.

“Being able to do art is a gift,” he says. “I’m deeply honored and delighted to be able to share it with the world!”

Rod Pedralba can be reached at rpedralba@rodpedralba.com.

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 Rey E. de la Cruz

Rey E. de la Cruz

Rey E. de la Cruz, Ed.D., writes from Chicagoland when he is not loving the arts and traveling. He is the author of the children’s book, Ballesteros on My Mind: My Hometown in the Philippines, which also has Ilocano, Spanish, and Tagalog versions.


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