He was covered in tattoos, the kind that you see inked on half-naked men in prison. He was also quite old, perhaps as old as my own father who’s turning 79 this year. The tattoos are so faded on his leathery skin that they seemed more like smudges of black grease.
“Son, do you know where I could take the jeep to Moriones?” he asked me in a soft scratchy voice. “I seem to be lost.”
“Naku, Lolo that’s far from here. This is
“Is that so ‘Toy? Could you just point me where I could take the jeep going to Moriones? I haven’t been out for so long, so many things have changed,” he said in an apologetic tone.
From the short distance from my place to the corner where he can take a ride on a Divisoria-bound jeep, I learned that the old man was recently released from prison in Muntinlupa. Half-understanding what he was telling me during that slow pace to the corner, I found out that he used to live in Tondo before prison and is hoping to find some living relatives in his old street.
“Here we are Lolo. This is where you could take a jeep to Divisoria. You would know your way from there, yes?” I gently asked him.
He did not respond anymore but rather was looking at the jeeps passing by. He was picking out from the vehicles’ signboards his ride through glazed eyes.
“Lolo, do you have money?” I gently tapped him on the shoulder and gently asked him.
He turned his head, looked at me with his glassy eyes and looked back again towards the coming jeeps.
I dug into my pockets, took out most of the money with me and gently squeezed his arm.
“Lolo, take this. You will need it,” I told him. He looked at my hand holding a few bills and I could see the hesitation in his eyes. I took his hand and placed the bills in his palm.
"Naku, thank you ‘Toy. Thank you. May God bless you. Salamat sa tulong mo", he thanked me profusely, grabbing hold of my arm as if something in him broke.
When I saw a coming vehicle with a Divisoria signboard, I flagged it down and helped him get into it.
As I held him while he took his step up the vehicle, I heard him say, “I hope they remember me.”
II. THE ARTIST
I received in my mail a few weeks ago a small package from Filipina-American Evelyn Resella. A doting grandmother, she's one of those great people I have met here in cyberspace. What's more interesting is that she is also an painter.
Her works have always reminded me of Grandma Moses who started painting during her senior years (I believe she was already 72). Grandma Moses, an icon in American art, began painting when she had arthritis and shifted from crochet to painting on hard cardboard.
Evelyn's works have this nostalgic feel in them of a life she left behind here in the Philippines and of that she's been living for the past four decades in the U.S. She paints of fiestas, haranas, the Filipino-American life in California, her travels in the Caribbean and in Hawaii and her family. It's a lot of ideas and subjects for a painter to do. But one thing is very noticeable in her paintings, and it is that one gets a sense of a joie du vivre of a life fully lived.
Extensively colorful like a typical Pinoy fiesta, her canvasses explode with a wide-eyed wonderment in her colors and figures. There's a certain feeling of joy to see images painted with fond memories flowing from every corner. She has canvasses where she paints of bucolic sceneries mishmashed with other very Filipino themes - tinikling, planting rice, jeepenys. Like Moses, all her works are drawn from her earlier experiences, during the times when life was simpler and she, unabashedly, wanes nostalgic in her works.
I am glad I have known this artist. She's currently building up her collection to number 65... the age she had her first one-woman show in California. And perhaps someday, she'll be the Filipino-American equivalent of Grandma Moses.