Ely Santiago was an artist who honed his craft through diligent experimentation and mastery of different media and materials. He was known for his acrylic paintings where he utilized self made etching materials which he used to supplement his brushes in creating texture and detail in his renditions of bahay kubo houses, and portraits of ordinary folk. He was also a caricaturist known to capture the essence of his subject in a few masterful strokes with whatever material he has on hand – cigarette foil, table napkins, walls, etc. His commercial caricatures of persons and families done in watercolor adorned homes in the city. He experimented with terracotta and made sculptures ranging from the whimsical to serious portraiture. His wit and humor was evident in his cartoons and comic strips, most notably “Coffee Cats” which was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
He was an active member and former president of the Arts Association of Bacolod, an organization he loved, fought for and was devoted to.
He was one of the founders and was responsible for giving the name “MassKara” to the festival that made Bacolod a known tourist destination.