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SYM The Power of Struggle

“Lavishly illustrated, beautifully printed, this immensely readable biographical account of a seemingly ordinary man with an extraordinary talent is a "must" read for Filipinos and art lovers everywhere. . . His persona is your common man who experienced struggles in life, like every one of us. SYM was quoted 'You are what you paint and you paint who you are'.

Mel Tobias, Planet Philippines, 2010

SYM The Power of Struggle is an uplifting monograph on a Filipino-Canadian artist who beat the odds to pursue his passion for painting. . . The art biography coffee table book was printed in Canada. Alfredo Roces and co-author Sandie Gillis explore the fascinating life and masterful works of SYM. The book features 236 colorful pieces of SYM's paintings, studies and drawings.”

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Lifestyle Arts & Books, 2010

"There are Filipino artists who, early in their careers, have chanced upon a successful formula which assures them popularity and financial patronage; they then stick to this manner all through their prosaic lives. They don't grow intellectually, aesthetically, they rot in a rut. Not SYM who has evolved slowly, but determinedly. His work today is in that inchoate margin between abstract cubism and formalism–in these pictures, we can see objective forms collaged with geometrical patterns as if the real objects of his focus are viewed through prisms of pastel shades, suffusing them with an aura of permeability. What is SYM trying to say?

Whatever, we can see the signature of master craftsman and artist as Filipino who has jumped out of the box, bringing with him all the ethereal wonders of his beginnings."

F. Sionil Jose

National Artist for Literature

Foreword Excerpt from SYM The Power of Struggle

"Sym is a painter who follows his heart when he paints. In the 60s and 70s, at the height of the Modernist-abstract movement, he persisted with figurative painting in the tradition of the Filipino masters and now, after gaining acceptance in Manila and Vancouver, has chosen to move along cubistic lines rather than to complacently profit from a successful formula. The artist who has the integrity to listen to his inner voice, merits respect.”

Alfred Roces

Philippine Asian News Today, 2010

Remembering a Filipino Legend: SYM


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.”

Sandie Gillis

Canadian Filipino Net, 2021

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