Isa Pilapil




Oil on pre-made wooden boxes with transparent acrylic lids


The Despair Series is a continuation of the Metaphysical Armor concept.

To ‘capture’ an idea I literally drew (or painted) using ‘nothing’. All the visual representations are illusions. Despair is an illusion. 






This series is also influenced by a Brimstone in Fire song that shares its namesake.

Music: Mikah Azurin, Alfredo Bunye & Christian Igna
Lyrics: Mikah Azurin
… Escape your brain and take control
life is not found safe at home
no one else can face your plight
so smash your cage and fly outside
Tear up the maps and walk past the edges
out to the zones where monsters will be
they’re waiting to teach you the wisdom you’re needing
so sit at their feet and learn how to see
Through the lies you sow to hide your blunders
the tricks that keep your pride intact
until you leave your fear behind
there’s no escape from despair


These works are part of a group exhibition called Regalo at Avellana Art Gallery. The wooden boxes were given to all participants to compose with.

Brimstone In Fire Glyph

This glyph was designed for our band, Brimstone in Fire.

The original design by Dondi Bunye, is literally the alchemical symbol for brimstone (sulfur) :

within the alchemical symbol for fire.


Below is the first attempt at the design, which I find quite crude in hindsight. The orientation of the letters is also Don’s idea, and it proved to be quite a challenge. It turns out that there is no accurate way to make text radiate and what-more, twist from a central point.

I decided to include this second picture of attempt number 2 which was botched from the start.  I don’t think I need to say what went wrong:

And finally the main picture above is the approved attempt no. 3

Here is our band’s website:



Oil on canvas

28 x 24″

This painting was created  for a local metal band’s album cover.

The image on the left was the original concept, however it never went past this underpainting stage because a better idea came to mind.

The female figure is a representation of the Biblical Eve after the “Fall” of mankind.  I wanted to explore the unseen implications behind that proverbial ‘forbidden fruit’.  The serpent, who prior to being punished allegedly had humanoid features, might as well have been a guardian of the Tree of Knowledge. Eve’s actions could have been a conscious choice.

There is no meaning in a life where one reaps fruits he did not sow.  

This is why there was discontent, even in Paradise.

*          *          *

Ouroboros Painting by Isa Pilapil

The image on the left is a small 1′ x 1′ oil painting created for the album’s compact disc.  It is a personal interpretation of the pre- “Fall” serpent.  This is the progenitor of my “Ouroboros”, a recurring theme in my works.




Here is how the two paintings in their final applications turned out:






Control Denied  “The Fragile Art of Existence” from the album The Fragile Art of Existence


Been fascinated with mythological creatures lately.  The Harpy’s face was painted in Photoshop with a Wacom Intuos 4 Pro tablet, whilst her body is from an image of an Egyptian Vulture.  I’d like this to be part of, if not the main subject of a future painting.

Behemoth “Arcana Hereticae” from the album The Apostasy


Dirty Little Sphinx

Oedipus and the Sphinx by Gustave MoreauThis started out as a pencil drawing, which was eventually digitally manipulated.  I’ve always been fascinated by sphinxes and intend to create a whole series based on the subject –if not strange mythological creatures at least. On the left is one of my favorite paintings: “Oedipus and the Sphinx” by Gustave Moreau.

“Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be?”

Noneuclid “The Digital Diaspora” from the album The Crawling Chaos



A result of my ventures in ‘digital painting’ using  Photoshop + a Wacom Intuos 4 Pro tablet.

The Ouroboros is a recurring theme in my work.  This version is an amalgamation of the tail-eating-serpent, and the Biblical machinator of ‘The Fall’.

Gen 3:14 “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou [art] cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.”

It  is now the logo of our recording studio:

Immolation “Majesty and Decay” from the album Majesty and Decay

Implanting the Mythos

Lady of EDSA Under Construction

Though created back in 2004, this work is the cover of the 4th issue of arguably the Philippines’ most reputable metal zine: In Dark Purity.  Though the gist of my rationale remains unwavering, back at that time I overlooked the possibility of Cultural Assimilation: “The process whereby a minority group gradually adapts to the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture and customs” (Wikipedia).

I would also like to include my reference picture: The Lady of EDSA under construction –which came from the now defunct TODAY Newspaper’s photo morgue.

Here is the original rationale:

If the Philippines’ mythological creatures such as the manananggal, the tikbalang, the aswang, etc. were truly indigenous, then how come their common deterrents are crucifixes, rosaries, holy water and the likes?

Theoretically speaking, one can only deduce that the introduction of these paranormal pseudo-human beasts came alongside another foreign, yet now overly assimilated concept –Western religion.

“Implanting the Mythos” the title of the work, is a borrowed term from another Western reference (to be expanded upon later). The title however is caustically applied – daresay an attempt in conscious assimilation of a foreign idea, in contrast to swallowing it –hook line and sinker –as the majority of our populace have done with Christianity.

One cannot help but recall one of Karl Marx’s most famous quotations about religion being the opium of the masses. It indeed is one of our society’s plagues. How can one revere a church that condones poverty and overpopulation by saying that every child is a gift from god?

* * *
The term mythos implanting originates from Frank Herbert, the writer of Dune –a series of books that can be deemed significant modern classics.

Dune as one may already know is a desert planet. Its people, though evolved to suit their surroundings lived sparingly in order to survive the parched landscape. And, inspite of physical and technological adaptations to conserve water, life on Dune was still of hardship and extreme prudence.

The missionaries in the story took advantage of the situation by propagandizing the idea that there would be an “off-world” savior, upon whose arrival would turn Dune into a verdant paradise. Before they left the planet, they told the people that the messiah would come specifically in the form of a boy and his mother.

The missionaries themselves did not believe in this “messiah”. Rather, it was a form of insurance for their belief system’s safety, if not propagation, lest any of them get trapped in Dune in the future. The story begins with the circumstances they foresaw, happening hundreds of years later.

This is why Frank Herbert specifically used the term “implanting”.

* * *
The success of any propaganda is based upon necessity. Perhaps the Philippines’ dogmatic grasp on Christianity stems from the implantation of such mythos as the manananggal etc. to plague society and arouse a need for the church.

In Dune, the missionaries’ job was much simpler because the need was already there. In the Philippines’ case, there was no need, so the missionaries had to create one – after all, it took 43 more years after Magellan set foot on our soil for the Philippines to be colonized.

It’s food for thought.

Immolation “Nailed to Gold” from the album Here in After

“As if they were tearing through my flesh, it was embedded in my mind
That Jesus died for me… How foolish can they be.”

Metaphysical Armor

Flow Issue 5.1This piece was borne from the works of Lucio Fontana whose most significant works rebelled against the two-dimensionality of the canvas.  Though he focused on hacks and perforations, I felt that his thesis could be further developed by adding more context into the space interplay.

The original artwork is a carefully hand-cut pencil sketch in my journal, which I’ve altered for web purposes. This work was also featured in issue 5.1 of a local publication called Flow whose staff accommodated the painstaking die-cutting involved to faithfully represent my idea.

*  *  *

People find solace through an entity that is not physically tangible — the “God” concept.

Flow Magazine Die-cutBecause of its nuances and diversity, spirituality is often a personal and uncomfortable subject. Yet, on a grander scale, the idea of a supreme being is accepted. Interestingly, even to contradict the existence of such a being gives one a rationale to lean on.

One cannot help but feel that this social hesitance is due to people being embarrassed to express faith in the other-worldly, or what cannot be proven to exist. But, despite these reservations, many continue to find strength, reassurance, and comfort in ‘it’.

Because of the subject’s sensitivity, it felt appropriate to use an object from Philippine popular culture to satirically represent it. The “barrel man” is a small statue found in souvenir shops and literally comprises  a man covered by a barrel –which upon removal reveals nudity and grossly enlarged genitalia. Similarly, faith is widely recognized, just not often discussed.

The barrel covers the statue’s nakedness, just as an invisible presence protects and helps us manage our experiences. This presence is concealed from others by our personal relationship with it, in spite of how much we rely on it to face the rest of the world. Through it we continue to find the strength to go on with our existence.

Atheist “Displacement” from the album Elements




Oil on canvas

18 x 24″

Please click on the images for a larger view.

This painting started out as a commissioned piece for a local metal magazine cover, with the ad nauseam theme “Women in Metal”.  In spite of my virtually misogynistic views on the subject, I approached the whole project tongue-in-cheek, and used it as a platform for social critique on why the XX chromosomes’ take on my favorite musical genre generally doesn’t cut it in spite of the rarae aves.

1. A Valkyrie Speaks With a Raven (1862). Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys

Speaking of birds, the illustration “A Valkyrie Speaks With a Raven” by Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (fig. 1) jump started the entire concept. I was drawn to the artist’s rendition of a ‘shield maiden’ being so androgenous, even masculine – And this was supposed to be a Romanticized and sensual symbol of macho death at that. With the arbeit macht frei approach, one reference lead to another until the idea was complete.

The more I read about valkyries, all these connections with the altruistic St. Michael the Archangel, who is also somewhat a warrior-Charon of souls came to light. However, St. Michael is an upgraded version, with his name literally translating to “who is like god”. But, despite having healing powers and ability to pass judgment he is still unlike the valkyrie, in not being able to choose who is going to die.

The armored, sword-wielding figure in the painting is a combination of these two mythological figures to express an opinionated view on the female gender. Her stance alludes to this famous statue of St. Michael by August Vogel (fig. 2), the ravens connect her with the valkyrie, whilst the armor and wings are characteristics of both. She personifies an ideal woman. One who strives for having no distinction from the opposite gender in terms of ability, and one who does not capitalize on sexuality for attention and power –just as I amalgamated the best traits of both.

2. Archangel St. Michael. Hamburg, Germany. By August Vogel

The nude reclining figure was intended to be a parody of the Rokeby Venus by Diego Velasquez (fig. 3), the leading Spanish artist of the Golden age. On a literal level, Velasquez’s painting personifies what I condemn about my gender – Using transient beauty, helplessness and eroticism as manipulative devices, or to put it more bluntly, as an excuse to disregard other means of personal development with an ‘end justifies the means’ mind-set. This initial impression was affirmed by the painting’s vandalism (fig. 4) in 1914 by Mary Richardson of the British Suffragette Movement, who hacked it with a butcher knife for the same reasons.

3. Rokeby Venus by Diego Velasquez

On the other hand, upon further examination (and referring with some ‘professional’ critiques), it turns out that the Rokeby Venus may well be a parody in itself. The reflection of her face on the mirror is deliberately inaccurate, being inconsistent with her body’s position. Her face is also oddly blurred, emphasizing this ‘pictorial departure’. There have also been remarks about Cupid’s face being forlorn, though dejected might be a more appropriate term, and a lot of speculation on the symbolic significance of the silk ribbons/fetters on the mirror. My take would be that these fetters, otherwise used by Cupid to bind lovers, were calculatingly left unraveled to emphasize how real love is detached from this self-absorbed beauty.

4. Rokeby Vandalism 1914

Naturally, I underwent a compositional crisis. Being the least inclined person to advocate contemporary feminism, I unfortunately perceived the painting the same way they did, and it felt like I had slapped myself, HARD. There’s a quotation by Socrates that goes “From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”, and inadvertently the painting embraced this whole new meaning. Did it suddenly represent how I’ve repressed all my womanly characteristics when I’ve been left with no other choice by being born female? Was a little empathy and forgiveness towards myself and gender in order? Is the real issue ‘self-absorbed beauty’ which is individual based and rather gender indifferent? Perhaps, –Though my stand regarding women in metal remains unperturbed.

*  *  *

Instead of explaining all the imagery, I would like to include my notes, so that the viewer may devise the other hidden meanings of this artwork.

The Raven is a symbol of prophecy, thought and secrets. Its cackle sounds like ‘CRAS’ which is the Latin word for tomorrow. Though they represent the dark side of the psyche in Jungian Psychology, other cultures such as the North American Indian, Greek, and Roman associate them with light, or metaphorically the ‘light of wisdom’. The Norse God Odin was always accompanied by two ravens: Hugin and Mugin, who he sent throughout the land to spy on events. Being talkative creatures, they were said to have been white, until Apollo turned them black as punishment for not being able to keep a secret.  This parallels with the Biblical story of Noah where bird he initially sent out to find land was a white raven. God had turned them black for this individual’s failure to complete the task.

The Greek Sphinx has the body of a lion, the head and breasts of a woman and the wings of a large bird. “Treacherous and merciless” , She kills and devours those who cannot answer her riddle: Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be?

The Tuberose is a night blooming flower that grows best in warm climates. It is prized for its sensual scent and is used in India for both weddings and funerals. It has medicinal qualities that promote relaxation, treats emotional blocks, impotence and frigidity. In France, young women were advised to avoid the tuberose’s scent in the evening, lest it incites amorous feelings and frivolous behavior.  In Victorian England, they were regarded as ominous because they were common in gravesites. Their fragrance was once thought to be able to kill a person under prolonged exposure. They also symbolize dangerous and forbidden pleasures.

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This painting has Mannerist elements and was created using the techniques of Flemish painter Peter Paul Reubens with a diluted warm grey imprimatura and underpainting in burnt umber. Certain elements utilize iridescent pigments which are not brought to justice by a digital photograph.

Powered by: Gorguts “Subtle Body” from the album Obscura