Prominent visual artist Fernando “Nanding” Belen Sena, was born on 30 March 1948 who came from a family of humble needs in Tondo, Manila. His passion and love for art and painting has emerged during his childhood when he would try to sketch the drawings in the comics and newspapers he was selling. Back then, he dreamed of finishing his studies to give free art workshops to the people in the depressed areas.
Sena’s journey as an artist started when he learned about the free summer art classes being offered by the Children’s Museum and Library, Inc. (CMLI). Showing off his potential to be a visual artist, he was granted a college scholarship, which allows him to obtain his degree in Fine Arts at the University of the East School of Fine Arts in 1972.
To pay back what God has given to him, the two-time winner of the Shell art competitions held in 1967 and 1971, respectively, volunteered to handle the CMLI summer and Saturday art classes for almost a decade. Later he fulfilled his dream of conducting several art workshops held in Tondo, Sapang Palay, Bohol, Carmona, and other under privileged areas in the Philippines where he shared his knowledge in art and painting for free.
For the painter and father of three—Oddin, Roald, and Christine—a painter serves two functions: personal, to paint to showcase masterpieces to the people; and social, to share knowledge in art and painting to the people. These workshops are part of his missionary work [apostolate?] and social function as an artist.
As I took a tour inside his house, a simple living Sena told me in realizing his personal function, he surrounded his house with paintings and has had his works on exhibit in such venues as Sining Kamalig, Gallery One, the National Library, the City Gallery, the Manila Hotel, and the Philamlife Lobby.
To continue his vocation, the 62-year old artist established Kabataang Tondo Art Group (KATAG) in 1975 with the help of Msgr. Celso Ditan, and Art Discovery and Learning Foundation, Inc. (ADLFI) aiming to discover more youngsters who have a potential to be a painter.
Pandesal, his trade mark; still life; nude; toys; images and statues; and houses in the squatters’ area are Sena’s favorite subjects in painting.
This realist painter has received numerous awards and recognitions. In 1979 he was cited as one of Ten Outstanding Manilans. For his tireless efforts in imparting his knowledge and talent as an artist to all who wish to learn and be taught by him, he has gained the reputation of being the “Father of Philippine Art Workshops”.
The 1995 awardee of the Araw ng Maynila’s Patnubay ng Sining strongly believes nothing will happen if an artist keeps his expertise to himself. “Walang mangyayari sa iyo kung ikaw lang ang uunlad. Kapag naging artist ka, ibahagi mo ang talento mo sa ibang tao depende sa kakayahan mo. Huwag mong solohin sa sarili mo ang mga talentong ibinigay sa iyo ng Panginoon.”