Zamboanga Sibugay - The day I met Saudi Ahmad, one of "Mindanao's Greatest Living Painters"

On the 2nd of my 4-day Zamboanga Peninsula trip, Doc Wends, my host in Pagadian City told me we're going to Zamboanga Sibugay to visit a painter named Saudi Ahmad. I was asking myself, "Who is Saudi Ahmad? I am really clueless as to who he is. So, from Pagadian City, we took a bus bound for Zamboanga City and arrived in the town of Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay 3 hours later. From the bus terminal of Kabasalan, we took a "padyak" and told the driver to bring us to the house of Saudi Ahmad.

Saudi Ahmad, whose full name is Ibn Saud Salipyasin Ahmad (also referred to as Saud Ahmed) is dubbed as "one of Mindanao's greatest living painter". He had exhibited his masterpieces at the National Museum and Cultural Center of the Philippines as well as in different art galleries here and abroad. He has also been featured in several newspapers, magazines and coffee table books. Being the pride of Zamboanga Sibugay, the provincial government has been pushing for the conferment of a national artist award for him. Wow! I'm meeting a famous artist, and I'm so excited!

We arrived in Ahmad's house and met a lady who turned out to be his wife. We asked if we could meet Saudi Ahmad and take a look at his gallery. She told us that her husband is asleep. So we just sat at their receiving area hoping her husband will wake up. While having a chit-chat with her, a tall man appeared and introduced himself, he's Saudi Ahmad.

We're practically strangers, visiting their home without any appointment but the great artist gladly welcomed and accommodated us. He sat down and started to talk with us about himself and his art. He also entertained our questions and told us that he appreciates guests visiting their house to see how he works.

Most of his works are sold even before they are finished. Prominent businessmen and personalities are just some of his clients. Former First Lady Ming Ramos and Tingting Cojungco are just some of the known patrons of his paintings. Since most of his works were already sold, he was able to show us one of his old works. A painting of a Muslim woman. It was just WOW! I was amazed by the details of his painting and how it was meticulously done. Truly one of a kind!

He also showed us some photographs of his old works and the ones published on books. Islam is one of the major influences in his art. His works mostly depict the rich Muslim culture and traditions. I was really at awe by the details and intricateness of his works. Truly amazing!

He invited us on the 2nd floor of his house to see where he does his masterpieces. The 2nd floor is made of bamboo floor with huge windows where natural light comes in. It has a huge bed on one side, his work station on another side and a huge veranda at one end.

He then showed us how he does his paintings. He called his style subtraction. He painted a small part with brown water color then using a brush dipped and rinsed in water, he started to erase the paint creating lines and patterns. It is truly unbelievable how he creates intricate patterns and details with so much precision. No wonder it usually takes him months or even years to finish a painting. That's one of the striking characteristics of his works.

Here's a short video I took of him demonstrating to us how he paints.

He also showed us one of his on-going works. Ang ganda talaga! If time comes that I will be able to afford his paintings, I will surely buy one.

We spent about 4 hours at Saudi Ahmad's home appreciating and learning about his works. Truly he is a legendary painter and one of Mindanao's best visual artists.

I was not just amazed by his work but also his personality. He's very friendly, accommodating and hospitable. He definitely brings honor not only for himself but for his home province of Zamboanga Sibugay as well. To Saudi Ahmad, it's an honor and a rare privilege to meet you. Thank you for graciously welcoming us into your home. May Allah bless you more.

How to get to Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay

From Pagadian City: Go to the city terminal and take a bus bound for Zamboanga City. It will pass by the town of Kabasalan. At the town's bus terminal, take a padyak or tricycle and tell the driver to bring you to Saudi Ahmad's house/gallery. Travel time is about 3 hours from Pagadian.

From Zamboanga City: Take a bus bound for Pagadian, it passes by the town of Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay. From the bus stop/terminal, take a padyak or tricycle and tell the driver to bring you to Saudi Ahmad's house/gallery. Travel time is about 3.5 hours from Zamboanga City

This is part of my trip in Zamboanga Peninsula that happened in July 12-15, 2012. Zamboanga Sibugay is the 70th province on my list.

More photos on Pinoy AdvenTurista's Facebook Page, click here.


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Pinoy Adventurista is one of the Top Travel Blogs in the Philippines and the World. In 2013, he visited all the 81 provinces in the Philippines.