October 1, 2021 – Sofronio Ylanan Mendoza, better known by his initials S.Y.M., passed away peacefully on September 21, 2021. He was 87.

I want to pay tribute to a great artist, mentor and friend. It was an honour to co-write the biography of SYM with eminent author Alfredo Roces. SYM lived a life full of hope and promise for the future. He never stopped challenging himself to achieve his dream and to leave a legacy. The book’s title, “SYM: The Power of Struggle,” summarizes the artist’s life in overcoming the many struggles he experienced. His resilience and determination allowed SYM to reach the pinnacle of success.

In SYM’s paintings, we see all the “isms” in art from realism, impressionism, expressionism, neo-classical cubism and so on. An artists’ artist is what he is to me. Revered by the students, they referred to him as “Maestro” and “Master.” He was a well-read man who shared stories about the history and evolution of art, the great masters (past and present) and their works in great detail. He was passionate about his art—a true genius.

Co-founder of the Dimasalang Group, SYM led this group of artists for over half a century, 53 years to be exact. Last year, he reminded me, “Since we were fortunate to be given importance in Manila, and be part of the evolution of the history in Philippine art, my hope for the Dimasalang group is for its legacy to continue and prosper in the international scene.”

Most people will remember SYM as a great artist and inspiring teacher. And, we sometimes forget that he, too, was a much-loved husband to Ely and father of his seven children. SYM will be sorely missed. 

A wise philosopher in his own right, SYM shared some of his thoughts and quotes with me. To end, I want to share one on the ‘language of art’:

“To express with the whole force of my capacity, vitality and intensity of expressiveness. Bold and dynamic technique with profound intention to create and produce a work of art that is strong yet gentle to the human senses. In the end, it’s always my profound intention to create beauty which will stimulate not only our feelings but also widen our imagination.”


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