To start off 2021, I decided to feature one of Cagayan de Oro’s most popular, well-loved, and talented young artists: Emmanuel Mulawan.

I met Emman several years ago. I can’t remember exactly when and where we met, but I’ll never forget how amazed I was with his artistic skills. From then on, I became a fan and tried to follow all his creative undertakings. I featured him as a CDO personality back when I was still with Clix Cagayan de Oro, but I decided to do a follow-up because a lot of things have happened since then. Emman has become even better at his craft, and his artistry has “jumped out of the box” (for lack of a better term).

Taylor Swift by Emmanuel Mulawan

I asked Emman to answer several questions and share some of his experiences as an artist.

1. How were you as a child? Were you already painting or into the arts?

As a child, I was like any other kid, but instead of playing with toys, I held my crayons and drew a lot. I was not a sporty kid because of my asthma. This was why I spent most of my time reading books in the library and drawing in one corner. I also attended summer art classes hosted by my dad, and joined poster making contests during Nutrition Months and Linggo Ng Wika celebrations.

A young Emman with one of his early masterpieces.

2. Did you always want to be an artist or an architect?

In my early years, I had no thoughts of being an artist or architect. It was in high school when I started showing interest in becoming an artist. This was after being exposed to arts and craft making, set design, theatre, costume design, classic literature, and history. It was introduced to me (architecture) in my senior year. My dad wanted me to take architecture in college since there were no fine arts schools in CDO. Architecture is the only course that is somehow closely related to fine arts. Over the years, I have come to love architecture as much as fine arts.


3. What (and when) was your first major art project? The one that first put you in the spotlight?

My first major art project was in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. I stayed there for half a year to complete the task for Ranchers Steakhouse, which is owned by the good family of Mr. Irwin Bragat. I provided paintings for the wall as accents, did murals, and collaborated for their interior design. I also helped make plans for their future expansion and development. It was my big break and I will always be proud of that achievement.

4. What is/are your favorite artwork/s?

My favorite work is the one I made for a salon. The painting is entitled “La Trevi Fontana”. It’s a painting of the famous fountain in Rome, a late Baroque masterpiece designed by Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762. Legend has it that those who toss coins into its waters will return to Rome. It also gives people hope for a wish that never came true. It’s one of the most difficult paintings I have done, and a memorable one, as well, for I did it with a special person.

5. What is your dream project?

My dream project as an architect would be to design and build a classical church. As a visual artist, my dream is to be able to paint the ceilings a la Michelangelo.

Emman Mulawan

6. Who is Emman the person (not the artist)?

Emman is an ambivert (introvert-extrovert). I love being with people but I also love to spend some time alone. I also love vintage stuff. I prefer mountain resorts than going to the beach. I love watching the rain while having some coffee and listening to acoustic indie music. I want a museum date! Hahahaha! I super love dogs. I like playing with kids. I binge watch Disney movies and K dramas on Netflix.

7. Aside from painting, what else do you like to do? Any hobbies? Sports?

I like cooking Filipino dishes. I create random crafts. I want to try baking. I do cosplay and make my own costumes. I love playing badminton.

Emman as Peter Pan

8. Who are the artists you look up to?

Michelangelo, Claude Monet, Van Gogh, Fernando Amorsolo, Iwrin Mallari, Polinar, Peach.

9. Do you follow a routine when you paint? What about specific brands or items you prefer to use?

I usually paint early in the morning, like at 3:00 am or mid-afternoon if I am making portraits. I usually have a cup of coffee by my side. I listen to classical/instrumental music to create the mood. I prefer to be alone when working on my artwork.

When making murals, I prefer to work in the afternoon and often do overnights to complete the tasks. It still it depends on the client, though.

Emman at work

For murals, I use Davies Elastomeric  Paints. For portraits, I use Symbalion, Pebeo, and Pentel watercolors. I also use either Canson or Fabriano watercolor paper and Faber Castle Colored pencils and brushes.

10. How are you coping with the Covid-19 new normal?

Actually, it’s like nothing has really changed (except for the safety protocols, of course), since the nature of my work requires isolation or less people involvement. Also, I have more time with my personal art. Most of the time, my artworks are commercial/commissioned projects.

I don’t know how to say it without being misunderstood, but this pandemic is like a reset, like a big pause button. Somehow, it has helped me a lot. I got to rest and eat well. I used to work double time. Now, I have more time for my family, my dogs, and my personal needs.

11. What are your plans post-Covid-19? Any current or upcoming projects? An exhibit, perhaps?

I will continue to pursue my architecture course. I am near the graduation finish line!

I want to explore and try out digital arts (excited about it!).

My current projects are murals for dining establishments and resorts here in the city, and a condominium unit.

Emman was one of the top 3 winners of the 2019 World Costume Festival (Interntational League). The costumes he created were inspired by the Jeepney.

An exhibit would be great, but I still have a long way to go. I still have a lot to learn.

12. What message would you like to impart to aspiring artists, especially in these difficult times?

It may sound cliché, but it’s still true and good advice: BE YOURSELF. You’ll get inspiration from deep inside your soul, your value. Keep on practicing and harnessing your craft. Continue and commit to learning new things and accept criticisms.

Share your knowledge and be a blessing to others!

If you want to know more about Emman, or if you’re interested in his artworks, connect with him on Facebook: Manuel S. Mulawan.

Here are more photos of Emman’s masterpieces.

Emman turned over his painting of Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach when the beauty queen and advocate visited Cagayan de Oro for the opening of Uniqlo’s SM Downtown Premier branch.
Emman at the World Art Olympiad
One of his current paintings
Emman at work
The People’s Champ Manny Pacquiao by Emman Mulawan

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