Of forensic artists & other painters

Ligaya ‘Jing’ Banawan, NBI forensic artist, with her guitar mixed media art

A janitor, a carpenter, a medico-legal doctor, an agent, a photographer, and a couple of forensic artists—all employees of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). All with their paintings on the wall at the first floor hallway of the NBI office in Taft Avenue, Manila.

Last month, the NBI held its annual painting and mixed media exhibit with the twin themes: “The Future” and “Excellence in Service of the NBI.”

Now on its 9th year, the exhibit was conceptualized by two of the agency’s forensic artists: Ligaya ‘Jing’ Banawan and Lloyd Orosa.

“We started the exhibit featuring the works of NBI employees and personnel. It was sponsored by the Gender and Development Office and it was timed for the women’s month,” Banawan said.

Over the years, she said the exhibit broadened its scope of participants and invited painters from different artist organizations outside of the NBI to join the exhibit. “We even have the works of the spouses of NBI jail inmates.”


Banawan, 50, has been employed in the NBI for 31 years. She started as a casual artist in 1986, while still a student of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines (UP).

It is a career path that has led her to put science in her art and art in her science.

“I learned the basics in Fine Arts. You cannot draw a face unless you know the methods, like using line drawings, different shades, different shadows, different colors using the color wheel. But an NBI artist has to have forensic knowledge. We do the sketching of the suspects. Let’s say there is a rape case. The victim will be brought to us. We let the victim describe the face (of the rapist). We make an artist’s sketch based on his or her memories,” she said.

Banawan added that NBI artists make recommendations, depending on the state of the victim’s mind. “If the victim is traumatized, we need to ask the psychologist in our behavioral science division if the victim is of good mind already.”


After graduating in 1989, Banawan continued her studies, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology. She also has a law degree and a masters degree in Public Administration.

Today, Banawan is a full-fledged forensic artist whose everyday work brings to mind scenes from that famous television series, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

“We do forensic investigations. We determine cause of death, positioning of the body, and time of death, to name a few. It’s a different system because our work is more like the work done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),” she said.

Banawan stressed, however, that in spite of their busy schedule, NBI forensic artists still find time to engage in artistic pursuits.“Instead of going around, visiting other divisions, we stay in our room. We don’t waste time. If we have one or two hours of free time while waiting for another case, we paint. At home, after dinner, while talking to the children or while watching TV, I paint. It’s my inspiration in life,” she said.

Banawan is into mixed media, combining oil and acrylic with bits and pieces of material found in the environment like old wood or an old guitar.


More than 200 paintings were featured in this year’s NBI painting exhibit. Prices varied depending on the size, year, and status of the artist.

“The Beauty of the Past” by deceased painter Perdigon Vocalan

Banawan pointed to “The Beauty of the Past,” a four feet by eight feet oil on canvas painting by deceased painter Perdigon Vocalan which carried the price tag of P1.7 million.

Another painting by noted Cebuano portrait painter Jun Impas went for P400,000.

Every year, a percentage of the proceeds gets donated to a charitable cause. For a long time, it was the Children’s Joy Foundation, an institution that addressed the needs of abandoned children.

“This year all the artists volunteered to donate 20% of their sold paintings to the rehabilitation of Marawi,” Banawan said.

She added that the NBI also helps other artists in need. “We help them sell their work. Our foundation is camaraderie, not just good art. Yung pakikisama [camaraderie] is very important because this is our life, this is our talent, this is our work.” G





Psyche Roxas-Mendoza
Psyche Roxas-Mendoza
Editor-in-Chief of Philippines Graphic


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