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In Memoriam: Jhon Lery M. Gorme (1996-2019), ProjectSaysay Volunteer

Jhon posing beside his artworks exhibited in May 2018 in a gallery in Makati.
'Saysay' (Value/Story), digital artwork by Jhon.  This was his Christmas gift to ProjectSaysay in 2016. Inspired by the character 'Sa' in the Tagalog Baybayin, Gorme reimagined the logo of pSaysay with the silhouettes of an ancient bayani (victorious warrior, now roughly translated as 'hero') mirroring a 19th-century bayani (the highest rank in the Katipunan), back-to-back with a manaol (Philippine eagle which is the origin of all the creatures on earth in the Negros epic) symbolizing origin, life and continuity tantamount to past, present and future. This letra-y-figura-like art should be christened as "Gormic artwork" or neo letras y figuras, the latter a genre vogue during the early 19th century.

Life is indeed swift and fleeting. So it is for ProjectSaysay volunteer Jhon Lery M. Gorme (b. 23 April 1996), a seafarer by profession but an artist by passion. Jhon left us on 21 January 2019 after succumbing to depression.

Yet in the brief 22 years that he lived, laughed, loved, and learned with his family and friends, Jhon no doubt left the earth better than when he had first set foot on it.

Jhon's life was not easy. Like many of us, he was torn between a profession and passion. Ultimately, Jhon chose art even if it meant fighting every day to make ends meet. To get by, Jhon worked more than five days a week at a restaurant while at the same time squeezing in precious minutes to visit an exhibition, to volunteer for causes he cared for, and to establish his startup graphic design company, Disenio Gorme. He was also a writer and maintained the blog site, South Bike. Actually, he wrote a short novel which he uploaded on Wattpad. It is entitled Fugitive (2013).

At the age of 17, Jhon joined a group exhibit, the Eksibisyong Bonifacio: ‘Sining Alay sa Supremo’ Group Exhibition at Bahay Nakpil-Bautista Museum, Quiapo, Manila in 2013. He also had an exhibit held just last year at the Prism Gallery, Makati.

What is more touching is that in his bionote archived in ProjectSaysay, Jhon declared that he owe to his mentors Corazon Jorca his skills in charcoal portraiture from 2005-2006, and to Prof. Patrick August Anthony S. Frias his photography and photo editing skills in 2008.

Jhon's stylized ProjectSaysay logo.

Jhon's remarkable talent did not go unnoticed with Escolta's The Heritage Collective exclusively distributing his designs. Jhon also actively volunteered for Kapitbahayan sa Kalye Bautista atbp. and Heritage Conservation Society – Youth apart from joining ProjectSaysay.

As a ProjectSaysay volunteer, Jhon developed remarkable designs with his unique visual branding. He took inspiration from the rich heritage of Cavite, Quezon, and Manila, where his family traces its roots from. Jhon was an expert at evoking nostalgia in his designs through his signature version of letras y figuras rendered in Baybayin. Jhon designed the visual collateral for National Literature Month and a series of materials to educate people on Philippine history, which he created in the fashion of children's books illustrations.

Jhon's signature in baybayin. Reading the database of ProjectSaysay's activities, Jhon had been a participant of ProjectSaysay's baybayin workshops in 2016. In his curriculum viate in ProjectSaysay, he declared that it was Prof. Reimon Cosare, a fellow of ProjectSaysay from Hibla Sanghabi, who influenced him in baybayin. He also participated in various activities of ProjectSaysay even before he officially joined the advocacy in 2018.

Jhon's swan song for ProjectSaysay was a series of digital posters featuring selected quotations by great Filipinos. Jhon was still supposed to illustrate a children's book.

Towards the end of 2018, we, his friends, noticed through his intermittent postings of artworks on social media this suicidal tendency. We also noticed his aloofness both on social media and in person. His mother would eventually find him lifeless in their Bacoor home.

Despite his untimely demise, Jhon's legacy in visual storytelling lives on. ProjectSaysay has lost a volunteer, a friend, and a brother. The Philippines has lost an artist, a genius, a citizen who deeply cared for the country.

It is ProjectSaysay's commitment to continue Jhon's work in the years to come to honor his contributions, to keep his memory alive, and his passion burning.

Jhon (far right) during a ProjectSaysay Creatives' Meeting at Museo ni Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite.

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