The late Riel Hilario’s work at the Philippine Pavilion introduces avian-human creatures.


Sculptor of Philippine Pavilion Expo 2020 Dubai dies from Covid-19


DUBAI – Filipino artist Riel Hilario, whose sculptures are featured in the Philippine Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai, died of Covid-19, his sister confirmed to on Sunday (August 8). He was 44.

Hilario died shortly before midnight on August 4 at Lucban MMG Hospital, and his remains were cremated on August 5, said Daisy Hilario, one of his three siblings.

Riel Hilario is survived by his 15-year-old daughter. His wife died last April 27 due to Covid-19.

The wake is ongoing at the family residence in Antipolo City, Philippines. Daisy said the family has yet to decide on the date and place of burial.

“I will miss his late-night calls that would eventually turn into a long chat where we would talk about anything and everything,” Daisy recalled.

She described her oldest brother as a talented artist who was the “pride of our family” and never failed to encourage his nephews and nieces to embrace their passion for art.

“I am very thankful and forever grateful for his love to me and to my kids. For spoiling us. For encouraging my kids to continue their passion for arts. I will miss him calling me ‘My Dear Twin Sister’. I love him very much,” Daisy told

Hilario’s work at the Philippine Pavilion introduces avian-human creatures as symbols of the “humane cultural power of the Filipino”.

“When he first told me about the Philippine Pavilion at Expo 2020, he showed me his piece and how it will be made. He was like a child, bragging, and said, ‘Ano, ano, bilib ka na sa kuya mo, no?’ while lightly punching my arm,” Daisy told

“Since I am not artistically inclined, I actually didn’t understand anything. But one thing is for sure, seeing his name Riel Hilario makes me feel so very proud of him. He is the pride of our family,” she said.

For his work at the Philippine Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai, Hilario created sculptures of human bird hybrids called Limokon and Timamanukin.

The creatures, poised as though waiting for take-off and suspended off the ground, appear to accompany visitors in one passage of the Philippine Pavilion.

His sculptures will be available for viewing when Expo 2020 opens to the public from October 1 until March 31. Here’s a preview in this virtual walkthrough of the Philippine Pavilion:

Hilario, who is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, is a fan of aesthetic ideas from the Philippines’ cultural and artistic traditions.

He closely studied Ifugao and other woodworking traditions from different parts of the Philippines.

Tributes pour in for Riel Hilario

News of Hilario’s death sent tributes pouring in on social media.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which leads the Philippine participation at Expo 2020 in Dubai, extended condolences to the Hilario family.

“It is with great sorrow that the Philippines must bid farewell to our talented sculptor, Riel Hilario. His work at the Philippines Pavilion which introduces avian-human creatures will forever be powerful symbols of possibility and humane cultural power for the Filipino. We extend our condolences to Riel’s family and friends. He will be remembered as much as he will be missed. Fly high, and continue with your journey, Riel!” DTI said in a statement on the Philippine Pavilion Expo 2020 Facebook page.

Friends, fans and colleagues also took to social media to share their tribute to the Filipino artist.

“I’m so sorry to hear the news, Riel. We learned so much from you. Your art and convictions will outlive you. Rest in power,” Quino Reyes wrote.

“A big loss in the art community. Thank you, sir. Rest in peace,” said Brenda Bayaua Rodriguez. PIA/MFD/Expat Media

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