Born in Manila in 1967, Borlongan has been drawing and painting since childhood and his chemist father was his first teacher, but he formally began art lessons at the age of 11 under artist Fernando Sena, at the urging of his aunt. He later went on to obtain a degree at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, major in Painting.
While there, he was invited by Emmanuel Garibay to joy ABAY or Artista ng Bayan. His first project was a large-scale portrait for the funeral procession of the slain activist Lean Alejandro. For three years Borlongan did visual material for cause-oriented groups, until fellow artist Mark Justiniani convinced him to go back to painting. Together, they initiated the Jamming Ground Project.
Borlongan’s primary influence was Sena, and the first style Borlongan learned was to copy subjects realistically. He was more into techniques until high school, then got into theoretical and conceptual aspects at the UP. He continued to develop his own style as he was exposed to other artists and artworks. He found his niche in figurative art, which gives him a greater freedom of expression. He also makes an effort to inject local flavor in his work to reflect the urban life of today’s Filipino.
With his distinctive style, he has represented the country in various international art festivals and has had several solo exhibitions. He was an Artist-in-Residence in ARCUS Ibaraki Japan in 1996 and has works in the collections of the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum and the Singapore Art Museum. Over the years, Borlongan has received a number of awards, including 2nd Prize in the Oil Painting Category of the Metrobank National Painting Competition in 1988 and 1992, the Thirteen Artist Award from the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1994, Artist of the Month at the GSIS Museum of Art in 1997, and the Award for Continuing Excellence and Service from the Metrobank Foundation in 2004.
A true artist at heart, the Zambales-based Borlongan says that if he hadn’t become a painter or photographer, he might have become a musician. While in art school, he was guitarist for a punk-loving band called Is It Safe?, which used to play in a bar in Malate. Indeed, music is also a part of his life as a painter, as one of his rituals is to listen to music while he paints – Oasis, The Cure, The Beatles, Talking Heads, Ramones.
While the music world would surely have benefited from his contribution, it is fortunate for the art scene that he has become what he is – an artist who has brought a piece of Filipino culture to the world.