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Dengcoy Miel and the anointing of the damned

By WILSON LEE FLORES, The Philippine Star Published Oct 30, 2023 5:00 am

I recently discovered on Facebook that editorial cartoonist and illustrator Prudencio “Dengcoy” Miel has an ongoing art exhibit until Nov. 8 intriguingly titled The Anointing of the Damned and Other Paintings at Super Duper Gallery in Quezon City. Based now in Singapore, the multi-awarded Catbalogan, Samar-born artist is one of Southeast Asia’s most talented contemporary artist

In the gallery show, his 30 diverse, well-crafted acrylic-on-canvas paintings are animated by fun, sardonic, sometimes whimsical, sometimes thought-provoking imagery, and an abundance of vivid and passionate colors. There are surrealist, realist and even abstract works done in Dengcoy’s distinctively bewitching style: full of jocose imagination, piquant ironies and subtle social commentary (the titles alone add a level of humor and commentary). Each painting is a delightful mix of masterful creativity, erudite satire, lighthearted irreverence, intellectually stimulating in its display of ingenious ideas and vibrant, wry humor.

Anointing of the Damned

The first time I encountered the name and amazing artistry of Dengcoy Miel was when I was a student in the late 1980s and writing almost weekly for the Philippine STAR. The editor then often used Dengcoy’s imaginative and witty cartoons, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

After he moved to Singapore in 1992, I was delighted to see his unique and perceptive editorial cartoons in the biggest English-language newspaper The Straits Times, or in his books during my trips to that city-state.

300 Years Sinasamba Ang Nakapakong Magnanakaw

Miel earned his fine arts degree from the University of the Philippines (UP) and his master’s in design from the University of New South Wales in Sydney. He received the Newspaper Illustration Award from the National Cartoonist Society (NCS) in the US in 2001 and two “Excellence in Editorial Cartooning” awards from the Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA). In 2010, he received the “Ani ng Dangal” Award for Visual Arts at Malacañang Palace.

Addition, Multiplication, Subtraction, SubDivision

A senior executive artist at Singapore’s The Straits Times, Miel’s works have also been published in Courrier International, The International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, The Washington Post, South China Morning Post, Newsweek, and others, including several books.

I recently interviewed Dengcoy Miel on his work, his hope for the Philippines, and his love of Steely Dan.

Andoksaurus Rex

PHILIPPINE STAR: How many art exhibits have you done in your career?

DENGCOY MIEL: I’ve lost count—I have been exhibiting my works even as a student at UP in the 1980s.

What or who inspires your art and editorial cartoons?

Bulong ng mga Ninuno

I am almost and always inspired by anything—a doodle on the sidewalk, a movie billboard, komiks, works done by others, especially the unsung ones—paying homage to their ideas, or their adventurous spirit. I am inspired by things unrealized or unfinished, again, especially by others, finding a continuance for them, a closure perhaps—to honor that and their memory. That’s why I like artists working along the fringes; they’re marginalized or largely working anonymously but their dedication to their art or craft is intact. The santo maker, the jeepney artists, karatula makers, the movie billboard artists who are now largely rendered frivolous by technology.

Artist Dengcoy Miel: “I like artists working along the fringes.”

I read that you love music. What are your favorite types of music and who are your favorite musicians?

My taste in music is largely random and eclectic, not always informed, almost pedestrian in scope and temperament. Obscure musicians with names that I couldn’t pronounce are on my so-called playlist, too. I do get by with OPM, the likes of nila Hajj Alejandro and ilk. Mga VST and Co, Juan De La Cruz, mga Kundiman, mga ganyan (like those), etc. My all-time fave though is Steely Dan, and that branches out from there all the way to Madness, The Specials, Elvis Costello, etc. Anything basta gusto ko (as long as I like them).

I try to view and interpret things differently from others without sacrificing clarity and the inventiveness of an idea—I guess that’s my strong suit.

What songs do you enjoy listening to while creating your paintings and cartoons? 

Any music works for me, but the stillness of the night somehow is always helpful for clarity.

Halik sa Buwan

How were you inspired to become an artist, and at what age?

I had been drawing even before I could write—mostly drawings of the moon, the Saturn V rocket ship, and the lunar vehicle.

Who are the painters and cartoonists here and abroad who you admire the most?

There’s a lot to mention—I am standing on their shoulders.


Your full name is Miel Prudencio Ma? Is your surname “Ma,” same as that of famous restaurateur Ma Mon Luk? Do you have immigrant roots?

The “Ma” is a short form of “Maria” as in “Wilfred Ma Guerrero.” My maternal and paternal roots both have the surname “Go.”

What’s behind your success as an award-winning international editorial cartoonist and top artist?

I try to view and interpret things differently from others without sacrificing clarity and the inventiveness of an idea—I guess that’s my strong suit.

The Bird Forest

In your current art exhibit, your works employ satire and social commentary. How do you assess the present state of the nation? What is your hope for the future of the Philippines?

After Amorsolo’s Vargas Museum Nude

There’s something beautifully sad and painful about what’s happening in the Philippines—it seems we are always and perpetually outsourcing effectiveness. We are comfortable with our anxieties and the tragedies of our age, as though if these are were taken away from us, we would cease to become meaningful. This is always a great resource for painting or poetry. And that’s what I can do in my own little way.

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Dengcoy Miel’s exhibit is at Super Duper Gallery in No. 8-A 11th Jamboree Street, Quezon City until Nov. 8.