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Davao City, Philippines

Isla Verde artist creates realistic animal sculptures from scrap

July 09, 2019 - Tuesday 9:07 PM by Kenneth Paul Senarillos

Article Banner Image LIFELIKE. Sherwin Guitchi holds his monitor lizard sculpture at his house in Barangay 23-C, Isla Verde, Boulevard, Davao City. KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS

DAVAO CITY -- Roxas Night Market is one of the go-to places of locals and tourists in downtown Davao.

Visitors can choose from various merchandise and services sold and offered at the market’s accessories, ukay-ukay, food, and massage sections.

To entice customers, vendors in the night market sell unique products.

Sherwin Guitchi is no exception.

While he sells typical products like refrigerator magnets, keychains, bracelets, anklets, and dream catchers, he also sells the unusual: snakes, monitor lizards, geckoes, toads, and even sea turtles.

His animal merchandise can definitely catch everyone’s attention — passersby invariably stop to take a second look.

The refined scales, accurate skin colors, sharp nails, and glossy eyes are almost too eerie to look at.  

But Sherwin’s products are all just replicas.

These uncanny and detailed sculptures are the result of his years of trial and error in a craft that he never thought he would do.

A resident of Barangay 23-C in Isla Verde, Boulevard, Davao City, Sherwin depended on being a construction worker to provide for the needs of his family until 2014.

A father of four, budgeting his meager income every week was always a struggle for him and his wife.

And when it looked like life could not get any harder for his family, their house in Isla Verde was burned to the ground by a massive fire in April 2014.

Wala gyuy nabilin bisag gamay,” Sherwin said. (There was really nothing left, not even a bit.)

During that time, Sherwin’s family and other fire victims were temporarily housed at the University of the Immaculate Conception (UIC) Gymnasium in Bonifacio, Davao City.

They stayed there for three months as they rebuilt their small house in Isla Verde.

Discovering art was Sherwin’s silver lining from the tragic event.

While at the evacuation center, he befriended Dindo Reden, a craftsman who created and sold souvenir items at Roxas Night Market.

Naa koy naka-ila na sige siya’g buhat ug mga burloloy. Nalingaw man ko’g sigeg tan-aw, ana dayon siya sa akoa na ‘unsa man kol, kursonada ka ani kay tuldoan tika’,” Sherwin said. (I met someone who made souvenir items. It was fun watching him. Finally he told me, “I could teach you if you are interested.”)

With literally nothing to lose, Sherwin obliged.

After a few months, he eventually mastered the craft of making bracelets, anklets, key chains, and dream catchers, and he has made money out of it.

SOUVENIRS. A montage of Sherwin's refrigerator magnets, dream catchers, and anklets. KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS

Daghan naman nag order-order sa akoa. Gina-deliver nako sa Roxas, sa San Pedro; pag walay manguha, ginasuroy nako diri sa balay-balay,” he said. (There were a lot of orders. I delivered the items to Roxas, San Pedro, and also peddled them house to house.)

Dindo also encouraged Sherwin to try bigger projects using different materials.

After a lot of misses, Sherwin became an expert on another craft — creating realistic animal sculptures from epoxy resin.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE. Sherwin uses epoxy resin for his creations. KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS

Gusto lang nako mo-upgrade. Kay daghan man pud nagahatag [ug advice] sa akoa. Ang storya nila, gina-apply nako; gina dungagan pud nako,” Sherwin said. (I just wanted to upgrade. There were a lot of advice from my friends, I applied them and sometimes added more to improve my work.)

With incomplete sculpting materials, Sherwin used his ingenuity to realize his projects within a limited budget.

Mamunit lang sa kilid-kilid; usahay mga anod diri sa may baybay. Nakapalit ko sa bakalan kanang ibaligya mana nila ug 100 ang isa ka-box na unya usahay naay mga bata, magdula-dula,  makit-an nako sakyan-sakyan ‘akoa na na bi, paliton nako nag baynte bi’,” he said.

(I picked some washed up polystyrene foam ashore. I also bought some  from junk shops for P100 per box. I saw kids playing with it by the sea, I talked to them and said “I will buy that for P20.")

BASE. A recycled polystyrene foam from a refrigerator which will be used for the animal sculpture's base. KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS

The process starts from drawing the desired animal to be sculpted on paper; molding the animal’s torso using the recycled polystyrene foam; forming the animal’s limbs using the epoxy resin solution; attaching the torso, limbs, and other parts of the animal’s body to form the overall structure; covering the attached structure with another epoxy resin solution; painting the sculpture with acrylics and ground charcoal; carving skin textures using recycled fish nets and or small steel TV antenna; and finally coating it with a maple varnish.

The tedious process could take anywhere from three to five days.

The secret to creating a beautiful artwork is one’s state of mind, according to Sherwin.

Ayaw pag huna-huna ug dautan samtang naa ka nagtrabaho," he said.
(Do not think bad thoughts while working.)

So, akong gibuhat, naa gyud koy sounds diri…puros mga love songs tanan. Habang gabuhat ko, ginakantahan nako siya [ang artwork ug] mga Journey—Open Arms, Nazareth—Love Hurts, halos tanan,” he added. (While creating my art, I play and sing love songs to them like Journey’s “Open Arms," Nazareth’s “Love Hurts," etc.)

For Sherwin, aside from practicing your craft,  you should explore other facets of it to improve your creative skills.

Explore lang pirmente kay para imong art magkadugay-magkadugay pareha rana sa gabas kung imong bairon, muhait-muhait gyud na siya. Ingon-ana pud ang utok,“  he said. (Keep on exploring because your art and your mind are like saws; the more you file them, the shaper they get.)

Sherwin sells his souvenir items and animal sculptures from P15 to P5,000
everyday at the Roxas Night Market in Davao City.

He hopes to get another spot in the next Roxas Night Market spot raffle in September this year to continue to sell his products.