Eduardo Tubig Mutuc: Mastering Pinukpuk, the Art of Metal Embellishment
In Eduardo Tubig Mutuc's sublime art, metal sheets are transformed from its cold and steely state into awe-inspiring sacred objects that pay homage to the divine.
The National Living Treasure was born of humble origins in Apalit, Pampanga where he grew up with nine siblings and helped his farmer parents labor in the field. To help his family, Mutuc worked as a helper for a furniture store and was later mentored by Carlos Quiros to learn wood carving in the antique shop of the Lozano family.
A few years later, a friend taught him the art of silver plating, which entails imitating the gold and silver leaves seen on religious relics in Spanish colonial churches. This was the beginning of his learning the art of pinukpuk, which means "to pound" (pukpuk) a mallet on a chisel to form ornate designs on a metal sheet.
Mutuc left the furniture shop to pursue his newfound passion. Among his first commissions was from Monsieur Fidelis Limcauco who contacted him to make a tabernacle for a parish church in Fairview, Quezon City.
Mutuc's stamping technique is meticulous and intense. It's an aural experience itself as Mutuc's precise hands create a rhythm with every pound of the hammer and chisel. In the quietude of his process, time seems to stop till his masterpiece is done.
According to Mutuc, the entire process using the technique of pinukpuk is exacting. He starts with a detailed drawing on wood. The design is transferred to a block of wood that he chisels in detail. Then, the wood is covered with a metal sheet that he carefully pounds on with a mallet and chisel to let the design surface. Afterwards, the metal sheet is dipped in molten silver and subjected to further pounding.
More than just embellishments, Mutuc's pinukpuk pieces enrich the character of the total work that his metalworks accentuate—be it the glorious sunburst at the back of Christ on a crucifix or the ornate floral details of a candelabra. At the Manila FAME exhibition last Oct 2018, Mutuc lent his skills for a limited edition jewelry line with am Fern Fashion Accessories. The collaboration pays homage to Eduardo’s hometown, Surigao where Agsam is based. With the combination of the pukpuk technique and agsam fern plants as pendants, the collection created a dramatic contrast between Mutuc’s gleaming metal pieces and Agsam’s rustic look.
Mutuc profoundly understands the historical and cultural value of the pinukpuk. He is committed to continuing this beautiful tradition by mentoring young artisans in his hometown. And like the mentors who patiently encouraged him, Mutuc allows his students to have room for self-expression, to create in their contemporary context. That's how the art of pinukpuk will survive and become sustainable, he believes.