Manuel Rozal, or just Mang Manuel, is a 58 year-old widow, who continues to restore and work on rock statuettes for more than 20 years now.
It was in 1990 when Mang Manuel had his humble beginnings in the wood carving industry in Darangan, Binagonan,Rizal, where he was hired as a helper to cleaned the former artists’ working area. No one taught him how to carve, he just watched while the workers did their jobs. From watching, he learned how to carve, and he started to do it on his own. He started carving small figurines until he skillfully master it.
And so Mang Manuel was officially “inducted” into sculpturing.
While traditionally, carving meant using wood, the scarcity became an issue for local sculptors.
“Bigla kasi tumaas ang presyo ng kahoy, kaya humina ang negosyo at umalis ako (The price of the wood rapidly increased, and this led me to leave the industry),” Mang Manuel said.
But thinking fast, Mang Manuel thought of an alternative way to earn income. He tried to carve those idle stones in the neighborhood until he noticed that he already configured numbers of statues, images and figurines. His relatives admired his masterpieces and bought them right away.
And so commenced a monumental (pun intended) career.
Because of his relatives’ referrals, numerous orders came. “Hindi ko nga akalaing ganoon karami ang maging orders (I was surprised of the number of orders),” Mang Manuel said.
Statues of different shapes and sizes, sculptured at the mountain due to its unrestricted resources, were created. From animals like frogs, lions and elephants; to Sta. Claus, Buddha and Jesus Christ, Binangonan’s sculptured rocks and stones started to sell and were delivered into numerous customers who were fanatics of this kind of art. Mang Manuel’s more well-known buyers include Toni Gonzaga, Michael’s Restaurant, Balaw-Balaw Exotic Restaurant, among others.
“Isang beses nga, pumasyal ako sa Luneta, malapit sa Quirino Grandstand, at laking tuwa ko na makitang nakarating ang gawa kong ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ at nakalagay pa doon na walang pagbabago (One time, I visited Luneta, and went near Quirino Grandstand. I was pleasantly surprised to see my masterpiece, ‘The Three Wise Monkeys’, displayed there, and it was untouched),” he said.
Mang Manuel has been earning well from his chosen field (approximately P2 million), which helped him fund his children’s education. His son, a graduate of Electrical Engineering, is now working abroad; and his daughter, a graduate of Bachelor in Science in Business Administration, is currently working in Mandaluyong. Two others are studying computer course.
Mang Manuel is cognizant of life’s impermanence.
“Tulad ngayon na matanda na ako, gusto kong may susunod sa akin (Just like now that I am already old, I hope that someone will continue my legacy),” he said.
He already taught trainees in their barangay and, currently, he’s training for almost five months his niece Jaycee Ibanez, a 17-year-old, who stopped studying due to financial issues, and decided to learn sculpturing instead of doing nothing.
For Mang Manuel, sculpturing is a gift given by God. And since it makes use of what’s in nature, including woods and rocks, “the art of it is lasting, prevailing and lasting.”
“Dito umiikot ang buhay ko (This is where my life revolves),” he ended.