Shell arts program celebrates life, legacy of Sonia Tejada

As a passionate advocate of the arts and a partner in nation-building, Pilipinas Shell has been supporting the local arts sector through its annual National Students Art Competition (NSAC), the longest of its kind in the country.

Sonia Tejada (right), or 'Mama Sons' to the NSAC community, poses with winning pieces during the 49th Shell NSAC.
The NSAC is the thriving platform and community it is today because of the various people who supported these young artists throughout their early years. One such figure is the late Sonia Tejada, fondly referred to as “Mama Sonia” or “Mama Sons,” who served as the NSAC Program Manager for 25 years and is one of the cornerstones of the program.

“Combining love and passion in any profession spells the difference in the outcome of whatever career one gets into. Ms. Sonia applied these key elements in managing the longest-running art competition in the country,” said Kenneth Esguerra, Senior Curator of the Ayala Museum, which is a long-term partner of the Shell NSAC program, annually exhibiting the competition’s winning pieces.

Tejada dedicated most of her life to Shell’s mission of empowering communities, particularly artists.

“Mama Sons had this vision that budding artists from the countryside should be recognized on a national level. She wanted to encourage more homegrown artists to develop their gifts,” shared James Amusa from Museo Iloilo, a close friend of Tejada in the art community.

“Eventually, local artists from all over the province started preparing for the Shell NSAC yearly because it was a stepping stone to becoming more confident in joining the arts scene on a national level,” Amusa added.

With her determination, NSAC became more than just a competition, according to Aprille Tijam, Senior Manager for Exhibitions and Collections at the Ayala Museum.

“While it is known that NSAC is aimed at fostering opportunities for students who would like to start an artistic career, the presence of Ms. Sonia as NSAC Program Manager made it more accessible and approachable. She was guided by very distinct Filipino traits—pakikisama at pag-aaruga,” Tijam said.

One of her last projects was putting together a coffee table book entitled ‘The Golden Voyage: 50 Years of Empowering Filipino Artistry,’ which shed light on the program’s history and the many characters, artists, and collaborators who defined the NSAC community.

“Despite her declining health, she exerted her energy and dedication in compiling and producing ‘The Golden Voyage,’” said Dopy Doplon, who designed the book with Tejada. “Tirelessly, she worked with the Shell team, documenting artworks and reaching out to previous winners to put the book together.”

Although Tejada passed away in April last year, she left behind a lasting legacy that will continue to make a positive impact on artists for years to come.

“The pandemic has presented new trials, but the NSAC and our dedicated team will continue Mama Sons’ vision of supporting artists and showing that there are still opportunities to thrive. Now, more than ever, art plays a significant role in sowing hope among Filipinos and being a platform to showcase young artists’ hopes and dreams for the future,” said Sankie Simbulan, Pilipinas Shell Country Social Performance and Social Investment Manager.

Topics: National Students Art Competition , Shell , James Amusa , Sonia Tejada
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