Third Year Projects

Jian Von Esmane Bittersweet

2021, Chromogenic prints, 8.5″ x 11″

Death is a significant event in all cultures. But because of their beliefs, many Filipinos don’t view death as the end of life. Filipinos generally hold a wake known as “lamay” or “paglalamay,” a vigil that typically lasts for three to seven nights and may last longer if the bereaved family is waiting for a relative traveling from afar. After burial or cremation services, typical Filipino households stage a small altar for the dead at their houses, usually adorned by candles and flowers. When celebrating significant occasions, food is offered on the altar to include and remember departed loved ones.

With the sudden and unexpected passing of my father last October 2021, I wasn’t able to go home and be with my family to join and experience his wake and funeral services. I did, however, witness it in a new and unusual way via Zoom. I was there (digitally), but yet I really wasn’t (physically). I managed to be part of the experience, but I didn’t feel anything.The inception of Bittersweet comes from a place of sadness and joy, guilt and acceptance where death and love meet side by side artistically. Since there’s no right response to death, I would like to pay respect not only to my recently departed father but also to myself. There is always time to step back and take a moment to say goodbye. This series is inspired by the personal and sacred space of elaborate altars Filipino-Catholics usually stage inside the comfort of their homes but with a contemporary and personal (bittersweet) approach.