Bencab's soulful and skillful depiction of social issues, especially those most relevant to Filipinos around the world, is believed by many to be the foundation of his success. In creating art as social commentary, Bencab has painted a wide variety of subjects; his most famous one being sabel, the scavenging madwoman who wandered the streets of his childhood. The women and men of Filipino history were also depicted in his works, particularly those who lived in, and fought against, the Spanish occupation and to the often out of place and somewhat disheartened 20th century Filipino migrants who dreamed of bigger and better opportunities in their adopted homelands. And finally, the theme of urbanization moved Bencab to paint the people of the Cordilleras, in the mountains of the northern Philippines. With sensitivity and sympathy, Bencab draws attention to their fight to balance an ancient culture with modern technology.
"When Bencab found his subject in the Filipino, all his draftsmanly talents brought direction and coherence to his art, transforming it into an authentic vision, invoked by the artist's hand, heart and mind. From his canvases emerged the image of the Filipino - past and present - realized and idealized in an incandescent manner. The colour that Bencab abjured was compensated for by the colour he found in the character of his subject: a people with a gentle lifestyle, subjected to savage wars; a people forged in the smithy of geography, history, culture and religion. Heroic is the transformation of the lowly indio in the Filipino of today." (Krip Yuson and Cid Reyes Bencab, Mantes Publishing, Inc., Manila, 2002 p. 260.)