After World War II, the Ateneo de Manila transferred from war-ravaged Manila to the Loyola Heights, in Marikina (now Quezon City); the Jesuits sought Anastacio Tanchauco Caedo (1907-1990) to realize their vision of a grand yet very contemplative campus with his sculptures. After his death, the Jesuits once again were in search of another artist, who would add upon the collection of public art found throughout the school.
In 1997, the parents of the graduating high school class wanted to leave a monument as their legacy to their alma mater. They commissioned the young sculptor Juan Sajid Imao, to create an image of the young José Rizal (1861 –1896), the Philippine National Hero and alumnus of the Ateneo Municipal de Manila batch 1877. And this commissioned piece near the Ateneo High School cafeteria started the continuing relation between Imao and the Ateneo de Manila.
Juan Sajid is the second to the youngest son of Abdulmari Asia Imao (1936-2014), the first Moslem National Artist of the Philippines. Bing, as we would fondly call him, would go on to take up sculpture at the UP (University of the Philippines) CFA (College of Fine Arts), just like his father.
Early on in his career, Imao was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), which would slowly diminish his eyesight. Although this blindness would mean the death of any artist, Sajid took this as a challenge to continue making sculptures.
Due to his perseverance, Bing was awarded the TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men) in 2001, just like his father who was given the same honor in 1968. This made them one of the few father and son teams ever to receive the same distinction. In 2006 he was also given the TOYP (Ten Outstanding Young Persons) of the World prize.
Imao’s works go beyond the realistic likeness of his subjects; rather he would like to have the viewer engage with his art. One of the best examples of this interactive art is his 2003-04 “Time with the Saints”, found in the Ateneo Grade School rock garden. The sculpture is a sundial, with the twelve Jesuit saints (Xavier, Kostka, Gonzaga, Regis, De Britto, Claver, Campion, Canisius, Bellarmine, Berchamans, Brebeuf, and Pignatelli) are stationed as the 12 hours of the day. The student kneels at the base of the sculpture, and rests his arms on a certain point in which they become the gnomon that will cast a shadow on the sundial and give the time.
Another noticeable work of Imao is the 2001 monument to Luis Francisco ‘Moro’ Lorenzo (1928-97), the Ateneo sports hero. In his statue, it is noted that Lorenzo seems to be passing the basketball at the viewer, a symbol of continuing the legacy of athletic excellence in the Ateneo.
At the Church of the Gesù, Imao pushes his messages further, with his 2004 Crucifix that features a Jesus with his head held high, a break away from the death of Christ and an allusion to his resurrection.
Aside from his commissions for the Ateneo de Manila, Juan Sajid continues to produce monuments all over the Philippines, and around the world. This is a testimony not just to his skill and courage amidst a debilitating disease, but also for his love for his family to which is his inspiration to carry on.