Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year Thoughts

A new year is about to begin. Another year is to be added to our chronological age but the experiences somehow make us stay young- the happy ones, I guess. The bad ones are not really bad, I think, as long as we reflect on the the lessons we have learned. I hope I don't sound too righteous and who cares! Life is what we make it and as I often hear, "when God closes a door, He opens a better one for us." Happy new year, everyone!

Yearend Reflection

2007 is almost over and as I start reviewing what transpired in the 365 days of life, I felt that I was a mere witness to many lives of other people. As I met my former students, staff, and colleagues, I realize how good God has been to all of us. Arem looked renewed and happier with his new job at the office of the Dasmarinas vice mayor, Ram is enjoying his OJT at Fudge Magazine, Royce is getting married on January 15, Julius and Deejay, who are now both in Singapore will have their church wedding come December 2008, Michelle is now filled with so much joy with her new baby, Mark has come home for a vacation, Margery and Jane have been helping me out test market my glutathione soaps and lotions, my niece Ana has turned 18, Anthony has celebrated his nth birthday, the 3rd English Camp of Phoenix One Knowledge Institute is all systems go, and more...It is not that I have been stagnant. I have realized how I got so hooked with the academe that I failed to acknowledge that there may be something else out there for me since being an academician was not what I really wanted. It has been a year now since I resigned from my almost 14 year stint and I still look forward to what is in stored for me in the art and PR world. I was born during the Year of the Rabbit which people say will be lucky in 2008. Well, just like my brother-in-law, I always hope for the best.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Poor Country

Several foreign lawmakers are in town to visit impoverished sites in the Philippines and check on the status of poverty. They must be kidding! It’s already evident. Study the obvious? In this province where I was born and raised, shanties were unheard of. Now, they have mushroomed on every unfenced vacant lot, mountain slopes, along riverbanks and coastlines. The last thing a lot of people want to hear from them is to keep on echoing that we have a problem with poverty. We know. We know. We know. They could have just done what the Royal Family of Monaco and a rich young Englishman quietly did for our poor. Shame on our own lawmakers who have been receiving millions of pork barrel disguised as Countryside Development Fund. The fund, it seemed, has not reached the countryside. But I still hope whatever these foreign lawmakers report (and I pray they find something new) won’t fell on deaf ears of our government leaders and the rest of the world who perceive this country of 7,107 islands (low tide) and with over 100 ethno-linguistic groups as a dumping ground of their surplus junks.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Remembering the Dead

I have not fully understood the meaning of Halloween though I have read about its Irish origin. Here in these 7,107 islands of the Philippines we celebrate it alongside All Saints Day and All Souls Day. An American legacy that we have to live with and with that trick or treat phenomenon, Halloween has provided great marketing opts for businesses that have children as their market. It's fun though. The same with All Saints Day when you see people jack up prices of flowers and candles. People don't seem to mind over the prices for it's a time for family reunions in memorial and eternal parks, a euphemism for cemeteries. The day brings throngs of people together to lay flowers, light candles and eat a lot. It's a huge reunion!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Choosing the Best Gift as an Expression of Our Love

It’s the holiday season and for sure, many of us are now preoccupied with choosing what to give people closest to our heart. With all the offers, ads and invitation to buy stuff on the web, the search somehow becomes complicated.

Selecting gifts need not be complex chore. That is, if we have a dash of creativity, ample preparation, understanding the degree of our relationship with and enough knowledge on the background of our recipients.

Creativity brings wonder. A lot of ideas are available on the web on how to save money and even spent none at all on getting a gift. The best gifts are actually not the ones that cost the most. If you have special skills like carving, drawing, painting, taking photographs or baking, create a piece. For sure many of our friends will cherish gifts done with our effort and own time. And of course, they have to be something they will surely like.

As we always say, time is the essence. We spend time on a lot of things and it wouldn’t hurt if we spent a little for planning or preparing a list and a friends’ wish list. Aside from saving time, we easily project how much we need to prepare and identify what we need to prioritize.

As we choose, it’s also wise to consider how close we are to the recipient. We don’t simply buy our boss an expensive gift or else the act might be misconstrued in the work place. For our family members, we definitely know what they like best and asking them won’t hurt either. Imagine if you give your nephews a mug every year. Others prepare a wish list with a ceiling on the price of the items.

To many of us, money to spend on buying the perfect gift may be an issue. But to be creative in times of financial trouble may do the trick. After all, gift giving is about what our receiver would love to have and more importantly, it is not an obligation but an expression of our love.

Showcase planes: Heirlooms to be cherished

The first time I entered the office of Showcase Airplane Co., what instantly struck me was the sight of plane replicas rested on a waxed wood table. At first glance, they seem to be made of resin, hard plastic, or metal.

With the glossy lacquer finish and intricate curves, I’d never suspect that they are made of wood, Philippine mahogany, as a matter of a fact. And these are the desktop model planes hand-carved by many craftsmen of Angeles City, Pampanga, in the Philippines, the former home of Clark Air Base.

With my one and a half stint as copy writer and PR staff of Showcase, I realized that only craftsmen with decades of experience in intricately carving wood blocks into planes, 30 years to be exact, can make such an imposing work of art. A company like Mastercraft Collection , the US-registered business of Showcase, and other entrepreneurs take pride in these men loyal to their craft.

Just before the end of the Vietnam War, wood carving is already a flourishing trade in the Pampanga province. Most businesses had also been doing custom-made wall plaques and name plates for American service men of Clark Air Base. Lito Hallare, founder of Showcase was one of those who saw the potential of the trade so bored in New York, he went home to Angeles City and left a 7-year career stint in advertising. He tested the waters and produced toy planes.

When the American servicemen’s passion shifted to replicating the aircraft they have piloted and loved, the business evolved into plane modeling initially using Narra wood as material.

It soon created an industry that provided three square meals for thousands of local craftsmen and that sent generations of children to school. As I delved into how each model is made, I gradually understood what goes on when one starts to create a model plane not only as a work of art but as a source of income for a family- scale drawing done by an artist or modeler, hand-carving based on the scale with kiln-dried mahogany as material, sanding until the piece is smooth, hand painting with concern on accuracy and details, and lacquer coating and finishing. Though I never had the chance to visit the factory and witness first-hand how each is done, the complexity was enough to make me at awe.

As I frequently touch these models when each is measured for our online specifications and as I wrote about their place in aviation history, I always imagined the degree of talent, and the amount of effort and time that gave birth to each model. So each piece is not just a product. It is a masterpiece and an heirloom that deserve to be cherished.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Proud to be an Imuseño

Last night, October 6, 2007, I received an award as Outstanding Imuseño (Gen. Juan S. Castañeda Award) in the field of Arts together with a host of others in various fields by the Imus Municipal Tourism Council. I was hesitant at first to accept such an award because I felt that I have not accomplished much. I think the major reason was I caught their attention when I won third place in's Show Me Your Hometown Photo Contest last month. I even wrote an entry here about my actual experience in going through the preparation for the contest.

I actually drew attention of the world's artists and photographers to my hometown. The impressions and queries about Imus, made me feel fortunate to have been raised and born here. Also among the awardees is Christian Tamondong, my former student in high school who has made a name in visual arts and who I am so proud of. When I learned that he is in the list, I guess, I thought, its high time that I receive one. Another good reason, I thought, would have been that three of today's Imus municipal councilors were my former students- Jem Yulo-Guinto, Jenalyn Topacio, and Onie Cantimbuhan ( please check out the picture; I'm so proud of these guys!). And the happier I was when I learned that Dr. Corazon Ocampo, one of my former college paper advisers, will receive the award Adopted Daughter of Imus together with Senator Chiz Escudero as Adopted Son of Imus.

It was indeed a proud moment for many of us Imuseños. I personally feel that with such an award, it will make me more inspired to work for the common good as I work harder in my chosen field. I hope the rest of the recipients of the Gawad Parangal which is held annually to celebrate the founding anniversary of Imus, share the same sentiments. This year, Imus is celebrating its 232nd anniversary. Thanks to the screening committee consisting of Dr. Dante Papa, Obie Castañeda, Dr. Arlene Abella-Saunar, Emoy Francisco and Miong Aguinaldo for the recognition.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Christian Tamondong and his Whimsy’s Park

Kindergarten doodles, distorted toy images, dripping paints in nursery room colors, and things from childhood are what one immediately notices in Christian Tamondong’s works in his one-man show billed Whimsy’s Park at Gallery Nine in Mega Mall few years ago.

“There is character,” said a viewer. And she was right.

Tamondong refuses to look at others work when preparing for a show. Any thing may catch his fancy. He, however, admits Francesco Clemente, whose explicit works Filipinos may not readily accept, tops his list of artists he admires. In a way, Clemente has influenced him. But for inspiration, he draws it from Basquiat, a black graffiti artist.His fascination for these artists has helped him come up with a theme that veers away from a local flavor which he quickly dismisses as colonial mentality.

For Whimsy’s Park, it is simply about childhood sentiments and memories. “Picnic”, the centerpiece of the show, reflects a “salo-salo”- a gathering in a park amidst differences, he fondly relates. The prominent fresh paint drips are essential in allowing a sense of freedom that Christian always sees in children when obsessed with colors. His colors, evident in anyone’s childhood, bring one to a time warp making him feel a juvenile once more.When asked if Whimsy’s Park is his childhood, he kept mum. Again, he referred to it as anyone’s childhood but with a smile, he lamented on how fast a community is devoured by urbanization that there is almost no Green left.
There is a feeling of relief with this second solo exhibit since he was able to convey his repressed sentiments. They were both joyous and melancholic since he believes “an artist has no stable emotions; he can be happy for a moment then down for the next.”

His first show at the Drawing Room is simply expressive for he simply wants people to know him as an artist continuously experimenting with style and everything. “My whimsical, somewhat cartoonish work, springs from my fascination with colors and shapes. I simply aim to capture life’s truth and fancy – calm and chaos, love and hate, thus imparting fun and humor.” The ambiance of the Boulevard, public plazas and game arcades are where he gets them.

A character he truly is. At first glance, one mistakes Tamondong for a band player – cool and hipped. He started out as a greeting card artist and later found himself winning in the centennial and millennium PLDT-DPC Visual Art National Competitions and the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) Annual Art Competition. These feats, however, were not the only parts of the equation that made him an artist. With additional dedication and discipline, Tamondong views his art on canvas as a continuing process and it doesn’t stop at Whimsy’s Park.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

New Ball Game

I finally had the chance to create a new journal entry in I have been so busy with my new job as copy writer and PR/marketing staff for a company that manufactures desktop model planes and ships and marketing is online!

I have done a lot of press releases for ground marketing and came up with a lot of PR strategies but this one is different since marketing has to be done via the world wide web. I am now relearning what I have earned from my many years of exposure to PR. It's an entirely new ball game.

Sending those press releases to ezine mags, press release distribution centers, and preparing and submitting blog entries to search engines to draw traffic to our storefront [link] are amazing experiences. And I'm beginning to get the hang of it .

Imus is Home

Imus. This is my hometown. I was born and raised here. And I still live here. Though it has been confronted by problems like any burgeoning town, it has lived through them probably due to the resiliency of its town folks. It is this aspect that I thought would work best in pictures.

As I got off a purple tricycle in the morning of August 24, I was surprised to see students and teachers of Del Pilar Academy led by their principal Priscilla Moriones (a close friend of mine, by the way) doing a clean-up of the General Licerio Topacio Park. It was part of a project led by the new local government, I learned.

So I went on to work and take pictures under the 34 degree-Celsius heat and realized how different things were. Life in my hometown during my college days (the late 80s), seem simpler and more quiet. I missed the well pruned pine trees where, under one of which, our circle of friends would spend long hours of chatting about issues involving Marcos.

I had a hard time taking shots of the old Municipal Hall for so many vehicles of many forms, including one Toyota Eclipse, kept on zooming in front the ancient structure which now is the public library. It has a terrace or balcony overlooking the Gen.Topacio Park. That terrace has been witness to many fleeting youthful bliss. The building also has a ball-room-like area where mini-programs, rehearsals, and exhibits were held. That was where I met Nida Blanca, Lino Brocka, and saw a young and playful Gretchen Barreto playing along the wide wooden staircase. They were, I recalled, having a break during a shooting of a film. The hall was also a silent witness to the short-lived revival of traditional or conventional art in Imus. Simon Saulog, the 1940s Filipino master of the Madonna, taught us hobbyists, the fine rudiments of pencil sketching, pastel and oil painting on that very place as the gray-haired and dashing Mayor Jamir would occasionally visit us. It was so sacred to many of us, then.

I literally shook my brain and told myself: It’s 2007 ! So off I went to take a shot of the next building. It is the new municipal building with glass that shone like solar panels!

I moved to the Cathedral only to find out that I need a new set of batteries for my Olympus digicam. Darn! So off I go to the nearest mall for the batteries (Yes, ladies and gents. The Mall. We have five nearby big shopping malls.)

On my way back, I couldn't help but stop by McDonald's newest second store but not to have a bite of a quarter pounder but to take pics of its colorful facade. How could one forget Sharon’s “love ko ‘to” line, a localized tagline of McDonalds’worldwide “I’m lovin it” image campaign. Talk about marketing and packaging! The store design always comes in handy. Foreigners, I have observed, rave about the fashionable McDonalds stores here in this part of the world though it has been perceived as a symbol of modernization and globalization by many. And Imus has not been spared.

Back to the town plaza, there were two teachers redoing the markers of the historic plaza which has not been done by anyone else for decades. I was so moved that I instantly took a shot. I crossed the street and headed for the Imus Cathedral. Thank God, the parking lot, right in front of the Cathedral was empty! So I shoot from a distance and knelt to give it a panoramic effect and I later found out that a street kid in red was right before my camera. Not bad, I told myself as I view the composition of the image on my handy camera. It was strange but the kid seemed to have appeared from nowhere.

Next stop was the children's playground where I used to play as a kid after a Sunday mass. This is also where I have dropped countless numbers of local ice cream on cone. It has now been reduced to several square feet. The school kids didn't even mind my taking pictures of them for there seemed to be so much joy all over the place.

There are still so much to take pictures of- the historic sites of battles of the revolution against the Spanish Conquistadores whose legacy is still evident in our way of life, the hispanic and turn-of-the-century houses of the prominent families, the old arsenal of the Hacienda de Imus under the Recollect friars, the few remaining rice fields, and the river we have been trying to save. They certainly wouldn't fit in one 16 x 20 collage for a photo contest sponsored by TThealer and Lady Alice of Oz. It was billed “Show Me Your Hometown Photo Contest” where among 24 entries, I placed third. A photographer-artist from Rousse, Bulgaria was first and another one from Buenos Aires, Argentina, second.

Of course, the elation was overwhelming and the adulation I received from the global community of artists is incomparable but the most valuable is realizing how fortunate I am to have been born and raised in Imus. On that Saturday, August 24, I have witnessed people value and cherish the legacy of the past. And despite the problems, ready to embrace what the future holds. Yes, this is Imus and it’s my hometown. ###

An Artist's Dream and the Maestro

"Look, ma! He can draw!"

I am certain I was barely six years old when I heard my Kuya Boy blurted out those words to my mom. With a blue ballpen, I went on to finish drawing little Audrey from a comic book on sheets of pad paper with gusto. I just smiled back at my mom and brother who were then so delighted at what I was doing on the pasimano.

Since then, people have raved about my so-called talent and it was the only thing I really love doing when I was in grade school. My projects in arts were always displayed on classroom bulletin boards. And I did make a name for being a little artist.

For the child in me who always finds refuge in a lot of playing and doodling, it spelled happiness. It was all I have; my only world!

Everyone thought I'd be an artist that I'd set my mind on taking fine arts in college. But most parents believe there's no money in painting; mine is no exception.

My world crumbled. It was the end. I could not be a painter! It was so revolting

that I had to kick my poor sheepdog named Shaolin to release the angst.

I just could not recall how I recovered or maybe I have just given up. I pursued my second option -becoming a writer and an educator much to the displeasure of many of my elders. Somehow, I did become a writer and I thought that was it. But the artist in me kept creeping into my system.

At a time I thought I have abandoned dreaming of becoming an artist, I met Simon Saulog.

It was in 1983 and I was president of our town's Painters' Club. We held exhibit dubbed Lapis, Papel atbp. with former Imus Mayor Jose Jamir as guest.

Mayor Jamir's attendance was with good tidings. He invited us to represent the young generation of artists of Imus in an exhibit that will honor a master painter, Simon Saulog.

A master painter from Imus?

We were all intrigued for that was the first time we heard his name. All we know about the Saulogs is a bus line plying the Cavite-Lawton route in Manila. So Mayor Jamir arranged a meeting so we could meet Saulog in the municipal hall.

And so we came and there was the maestro in his thick glasses; very quiet. He burst into a boyish smile when he saw us enter the mayor's office. It was like he could smell artists from afar. In a matter of minutes, we felt like we have known him for ages.

That meeting was to be a turning point not only of my life but .my friends as well. He was so proud of what we were doing that he volunteered to coach us for free. And later, he became our adviser when we moved on to be a socio-civic organization called the Malayang Sining.

For a year, we held sessions with the maestro at the municipal hall every Sunday.Being with Saulog was like a long educational journey, not a trip. The successive visits to Mabini and Ermita in Manila, especially the old Palermo gallery along UN Avenue were exhilarating.

His experiences during the pre-war Philippine art especially the "battle royale" between modernists and conventionalists, the Huks and the NPAs, his contemporaries at the UP College of Fine Arts, politics of that time, were good enough for screenplays. We were caught in a time warp. Listening to him was leafing through the pages of a journal turning yellow.

It was then that we realize the magnanimity of our dear maestro. It was then that we realized how a man like him could fade into obscurity.

I personally could not forget how embarrassed he was when we went to the National Museum to show us one of his earliest works; only to learn that it was nowhere to be found in the museum. We left the museum with the maestro's deafening silence.

I could not forget how his eyes were when he learned that there was a move to make Legaspi, one of his contemporaries, national artist; when he came across published articles praising Anita Magsaysay-Ho. He could not forget her.

And there were so many questions in my young mind then. I couldn't believe that he almost lived the life of a pauper. But the answer came from him. He believed that money is "bulaklak lang ng buhay". He did not use his passion to make money. So my parents were right, after all, I thought. But I was mesmerized by his canvasses. They all have the touch of a master. They were gems. To my young eyes, they were bedazzling that I went on to dream.

Something must be done (not about my dream), we thought. He was after all the acclaimed Filipino painter of the Madonnas of the 1950s! And the Malayang Sining saw my pen as an instrument. I was tasked to write about the life of our maestro. The journey into his personal life began in 1986 and it has not ceased, though our maestro bade this world farewell in 1995. He may not have seen the fruits of our labor as young artists then, but we have always had the seeds he planted in our hearts.

Truly, God has a reason for everything. I realized why I felt so helpless in helping him during those times. I have always thought of giving up on a lot of things. And one of them is Saulog's biography. Then, I could not fathom why. It was not the right season.God was to create more time and people to lend me a hand through my colleagues at the Institutional Communication Office of De La Salle University-Dasmarinas (DLSU-D), Philippines.

DLSU-D is celebrating its silver jubilee and part of the celebration is feting a prominent Caviteno in the person of Simon Saulog. A compact disc on the life and works of the maestro, authored by myself, was launched in a three-week exhibit opened by the Hon. Helena Benitez and held at the Museo De La Salle.

The event was a product of collaborative work for a deserving man like our maestro. It is about the man himself; his humanity; his greatness.

I may not have lived a colorful life like him but Saulog remains an inspiration to me.

Now, I can almost hear my older brother saying: "Look, ma! My brother is an artist!" .

-Published, Philippine Panorama
February 9, 2003

A Master Dying In Oblivion

Simon Saulog.

He was once called the master of the Filipino Madonnas of the 50s. Mentored by Filipino masters Amorsolo and De La Rosa, Saulog became a popular student artist at the old UP College of Fine Arts and later became a perennial winner in various Art Association of the Philippines contests.

I fondly called him Tata Simon, an expression of respect to elders among barrio folks like me. His name echoed as I stumbled on a digital shot of one of his Madonnas in my PC files. As I was manipulating the shot with Photoshop to give it a modern flair, I began to recall moments with him during my college days. How we first met and how he later became our mentor and adviser in our art group we put up for young hobbyists of the town of Imus in 1984.

I never knew that a master painter of his magnitude existed in my hometown. The excitement and curiousity led to my writing about him and documenting practically what he did then.

I soon learned how he bade the "asphalt jungle" of Manila farewell and he started concentrating on his palette in our rustic hometown. He went on to create canvases that stood out because of the somewhat sepia shades and amazing highlight techniques.

I have wished to learn the technique but failed. The degree of patience is overwhelming. Layers and layers of oil paint are what he gradually and painstakingly did. And this is the artist that modernists once mocked as calendar artist!

I was witness to many of his incomparable labors and to his failing health.

He left this cruel world without fuzz. I doubt if art students of this generation know him. Local art books never mention him. Oh, there was one with "Simon" mispelled as "Simeon".

Simon Saulog died in oblivion like many artists but the stories in his paintings will live on.