Monday, May 19, 2008

IT JUST FEELS GOOD

Sheila keeps on reading these articles about the quake in China and the bank killings in Laguna that one time I had to tell her that she's becoming an alarmist. My friend Andre would say, "if it's your time, it's your time." And I know Ben won't be caught dead in a massacre without looking scrubbed."Even in death, one must always look good", would most definitely be his spoken mantra.

What I would say to these would be "there are more important things for me right now than killings, deaths and massacres", like trying to get a copy of today's edition of Manila Times before it runs out from Bong - the ever-reliable, friendly Chinoy down the street selling dailies and race track results.

"Bosing, alam ko na kung bakit ka nandito. Heto, nakita ko ulit na nakasulat ka dito sa dyaryo oh," said he in his toothy smile paired with his slit eyes when he grins. "Nagtabi na ako ng kopya mo."

I thanked him as he gave me a bit soggy copy of the paper. "Sori ha. Natapunan ng kape," he said. I tried giving him the money for it but he refused saying I should keep my money dry instead.

I slowly leafed through the pages careful not to tear the wet sheets. Then I saw the article in the Lifestyle section. There it was... two of my works and some words thrown in about it.

Call me corny or what, but it still feels good to be written about.

______

I got a text message from Sheila saying, "We don't have that paper in the office. Buy one and show me later."

Well love... here it is... :-)

Oh. And uhm, Thank You Rome. You rock dude. Hehehe...

A PANGEA FILM




Profoundly simple. I love it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

ELSA - THE CAT LADY

The Cat Lady
14" x 20"
pen and ink on paper


Libertad is home to a denizen of “cart people”. I call them that because, well, their homes and all of their earthly possessions are in their mobile homes – their carts. That’s where they eat, sleep, do their laundry, even make their babies. Heck, they practically do everything on four wheels.


Elsa, the Cat Lady, is one of them.
_________

Elsa was in the hospital. That’s why you haven’t seen her for a while. Her husband beats her for not taking care of him as well as she takes care of her cats. One night, he just came to her cart and stabbed her. It was a good thing the other cart people immediately took her to Pasay General or else she will bleed to death, said Manang, my ever reliable source of local gossip, when I asked her about Elsa (The Cat Lady). You see, I haven’t seen the Cat Lady for quite some time and when I saw her tonight, it was good to see something familiar again.

She has a husband? I didn’t know that, I told Manang in surprise as I was picking out the hottest balut she is selling in her basket.

Yes. In fact he’s that guy who sells coconuts from another cart parked every night in front of Banco de Oro, she told me as she motioned with her finger towards the direction of the bank.

Oooh… you mean that short pudgy guy who walks with a limp and has this femle companion who smokes like a chimney?? I asked Manang.

Yeah. That’s Elsa’s husband. The woman who smokes a lot, that’s his mistress, Manang explained further.

He has a mistress?!? And their carts are just a few meters away from each other and he beats up his wife?! I exclaimed to her while a thought bubble of abused wives, punching husbands and lecherous mistresses popped into my head. This seems like a script from a Bollywood movie done in Pasay version.

Does Elsa have any children? I asked Manang.

Ah none. Her cats are her children, she says.

I handed Manang the payment for her hot balut and thanked her for updating me with the latest gossip. Next Time Manang, update me with the latest gossip again, I told her as I was turning away.

I took my little paperbag of balut(s) and crossed the street back to my apartment. As I neared my place, there was Elsa in her cart at her usual spot beside my gate. I see her wearing a straw hat, a flowery blouse and a necklace with old worn plastic beads. Perhaps, things she had picked up from somebody else’s trash heap.

Hi sir, she greeted me with her sheepish smile. Long time no see po. Look at Muning oh. She can do her tricks. Look oh, she can stand on her hind legs, she proclaimed proudly as she held her fat cat on its forepaws and made the creature dance on her lap. I wonder what the cat was thinking as she held it and made it dance to some imaginary ditty.

Sir, if you have empty bottles again ha? Don’t forget me, she reminded me flashing me her toothy smile.

Ah yes, of course. Well, good night then, I said.

Good night sir, she said.

As I was closing the gate behind me, I glanced back at her. I thought I saw her grimace in pain.

Or perhaps, it was just me thinking.

_____________

Artwork part of "STORIES FROM MY WINDOW" exhibit on May 11 to 23, 2006 at KAIDA Gallery.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

THE WALKING MAN

The Walking Man
14" x 20"
pen and ink on paper


His name is Carlos Celdran. I like to call him The Walking Man. Were it not for what he does for a living one can easily mistake him for being an Alice in Wonderland madhatter wannabe that simply went wrong.

I first came across him during one sunny mid-afternoon a few years back as I was coming down from my usual haunt at the walls of Intramuros. That was back when I would hang out at the ramparts of the walled city to draw or be inspired. Of course, nothing came out of it except getting some afternoon sleep in the shade of a big mango tree behind Padre Blanco's Gardens of the San Agustin church.

I was walking towards the front of the old Agustinian church when I saw one of the strangest sites I’ve seen in that walled city. A short man with aquiline nose, a toothy smile and with a haughty air about him was wearing a barong Tagalog with the sleeves folded up. With a top hat on his head, he was holding a radio in one hand blaring out some queer music (at least to my ears at that time) and a flag on the other. Several people were gathered around him – a few caucasians and some, well, obviously touristy-looking Pinoys. He was in an animated delivery of words that were spewing from his mouth like a hundred per second and was talking on a microphone clipped to his head connected to a speaker attached to his waist.

“Hmmm… a street performer perhaps,” was the first thought that popped into my head. When I got closer, I realized that the guy looked familiar. I remember this guy from the college of fine arts. No, I don’t know him back then but he was a familiar face that hung around in the main lobby of the college (back when it was on top of The Main Library) or in front of the classrooms with his friends. I never knew his name then. I just know that he was, like the others and me, a student of that college.

As I stood there watching with amusement, he plucked out a big black book from a black bag dangling on his side. He did it with such aplomb and in the same manner that a seasoned magician would pluck a rabbit from his hat. And when he opened his big black book, he turned to a page and showed a vintage picture of the church’s fa├žade with WWII soldiers kneeling in front of it.

Aah, a tour guide! So that’s what he’s up to. He’s a tour guide with a top hat and a funny way of wearing a barong.

On that lazy sunny afternoon, it was pretty interesting to see an old familiar face in a new setting.

I stayed on for a few minutes and when he motioned the small group to enter the church’s museum, I walked away. I didn’t have any money to pay if I were to join that group at that time. Besides, I wasn’t even sure if it was a paid tour.

I just promised myself that one day, I’d take that tour with The Walking Man.

…and eventually, I did. It was delightful.



Monday, May 12, 2008

ARIEL


Ariel (The Fish Vendor)
pen and ink on paper

14” x 20”


“Why can’t you just stay put?!! Instead of going out with those good-for-nothing friends of yours every night to God-knows-where you guys go to?!!” I could hear a young man’s shrill voice scraping through the loud racket made by the lone tricycle knifing through the silence of this Black Saturday night.

“WHY NOT?! Those are good friends of mine! I have known them way before I knew you. Besides, what’s wrong if I hang out with them?! Hah!!” screamed back a familiar female’s voice.

Like the curious cat I am, I looked out of my window trying to find the source of the heated exchange. Glancing from left to right, I saw the couple standing a few feet from the corner of Park Avenue and Libertad where Manang Alice the balut vendor holds her reign. The agitated female voice belonged to Nene. She was standing there with her arms on her waist and bearing her rather hefty frame in a fighting stance in front of Ariel, the guy who’s responsible for my early morning fish and her rather timid, mouse-like boyfriend.

Pointing a freshly red-coated finger at him, she continues, “And besides when you come home every night, I can’t stand the smell of fish on you body. Even your penis smells of fish!”

________________

“I heard you and Nene fighting again last night,” I chided Ariel as I handed him the money for the kilo of talakitok I bought from him for Mama Ching’s Easter lunch.

“Yeah. Sorry man. Everyone in the street could hear us,” he said while avoiding my gaze as he handed me the fish.

“It’s okay I guess. Though Christ was dead, you guys managed to wake up some Philistines around,” I said jokingly, though I doubt if it did come across as a joke.

He kept his head low and was silent as he fumbled in his pocket for the change. He pulled out a bunch of bills and counted the money he was going to give me. Just then, I noticed a tear dropped on his hand that was full of fish scales. I suppose he can’t help the tears from flowing. He lifted his arm, wiped his face with the back of his hand, sniffed and rubbed it on the back of his shorts.

Handing me my change and his head still bowed, he mumbled, “I can’t control her. She just goes out whenever and wherever she wants to with her friends. She doesn’t even take care of our baby.”

I took the change from him and slipped it in my pocket.

“Hey man. Cheer up. It’s Easter. Christ is alive today. Go out with your kids and do some egg-hunting,” I said cheerfully, gave him a wide grin and tapped him on the shoulder.

He just gave me a weak smile.

I walked the short distance home from the market to my place bearing Mama Ching’s fish. I told myself, I must remember to give her a small drawing I thought would go well as an Easter greeting together with this scaly prize.

When I got up my stairs, I slipped my hand in my pocket to bring out the change I got from Ariel. I took it out and counted the money and realized he gave me 200 pesos more then the actual amount I gave him for the fish.

“Damn. This guy has to cheer up or he’ll lose his business,” I sighed, then went down my steps to return the excess change to him.

_______________

Artwork part of "STORIES FROM MY WINDOW" exhibit on May 11, 2006 at KAIDA Gallery.



Friday, May 9, 2008

A WOMAN NAMED NENE

NENE
pen and ink on paper

14 " x 20"


“So, what do you think? Isn’t my handbag pretty? I got it for 250 pesos at the ukay-ukay,” says Nene. “It goes well with my shoes manash. Say mo?!” and she giggled in delight.

“Ateng!! Taray mo!” shrieked her she-male companion in an irritatingly brain-numbing voice.

While listening to the two talk about fashion accessories beside me at the other table while I was having a Big Mac, I can’t help but flash a grin as I took a bite of my early dinner.

“Kuya,” Nene addressed me, “Am I not gorgeous with my handbag? Look oh.” I turned my head towards her as she showed me the most garish-looking purple and yellow faux Chanel (or is it Prada?) tiny bag I have ever laid my eyes on. It had a faded golden strap that screams “Look at me. Am I pretty?” The bag looked more like it was from some uber-fashionista Korean’s closet from the 80’s that found its way into the bins of those ukay-ukay shops. I remember a conversation with Vicky where she told me that the items sold in these shops came in container vans shipped from Taiwan or Shanghai. Apparently, there are these syndicates that dig up graves and steal the items buried with the corpses, clean them and sell at secondhand shops.

“Yeah,” and I smiled at her in reply.

“You have taste Kuya”, she said and gave me a toothy smile.

___________

TANGNA MOOH! After you use me you’re not going to pay me?!! Hayup kang bakla ka!” Nene was screaming her lungs out limping and barefoot, holding her heeled sandals in one hand and the purple-and-yellow handbag in the other. I could see her walking towards Toto’s Videoke gnashing her teeth and ready for a fight that night.

“Give me back my money you faggot!” she continued with her wild wailing and screaming towards the videoke, as one-by-one the usual hangers-on along Libertad started to gather and see what the commotion was all about – including me.

“Her bakla companion Shaina spent all of Nene’s money buying beer and pulutan for some boys at Toto’s videoke,” Manang pointed her lips towards the place as I was buying cigarettes from her.

“Her money?” I asked.

“Yeah. That’s the money she earns prostituting herself while her husband is asleep. Her husband went into the videoke looking for Shaina.”

Just then, a loud crashing of bottles was heard from that place. It was followed by a loud thud and all eyes turned towards it. A man was shouting from inside, a woman was shrieking and like a bar room brawl scene from an American cowboy movie, a man (well, a man in female’s clothes) sprawled out of the doorway onto the sidewalk with a nasty gash on his upper lip. Following on his heels was Ariel – Nene’s husband – fuming mad.

“You thief! You give back my wife’s money or I’ll twist your balls into your mouth!” he demanded. Like the hero that he is, Ariel picked up Shaina by the collar of his blouse and started to threaten him.

“Fuck you and your wife!” Shaina screamed back at him. “She owes me more than the 700 pesos I spent tonight. She owes me all her clothes and money for all the guys I pimped for her while you were sleeping or selling fish in the market! She’s a WHORE!” Shaina glared and screamed defiantly at Ariel’s face.

Silence.

Still holding on to Shaina, Ariel looked at Nene and she stood there fixed like in a trance, holding her sandals and the ugly 250-peso ukay-ukay bag. Her screaming stopped.

And like a silent wave, the small crowd of people that gathered around to witness the debacle started to whisper to each other.

“Tsk… tsk… tsk. Ariel just found out the truth about his whore of a wife,” Manang told me in a hushed voice as if to seal the story.

Ariel loosened his grip on Shaina’s collar and started to let go. He patted the she-male on the shoulder, turned his back away, walked through the crowd and down the street without even glancing back.

Meanwhile, Nene was left behind. Still holding her sandals and bag, she approached Shaina and said, “Puta ka.”

She walked away in the other direction.

______________

Artwork part of "STORIES FROM MY WINDOW" exhibit on May 11, 2006 at KAIDA Gallery.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

BAREFOOT MICKEY

The Barefoot Sweeper
pen and ink on paper
14” x 20”

It must have been near midnight when I got out of the jeepney to walk from Taft Avenue to my apartment along my street. I kept on glancing at the sky. I figured any minute from now the rain would pour. Even in the darkness of Pasay, there’s this ominous smell in the air that overhead the clouds are pregnant with it.

I noticed that there are hardly any people out tonight. Strange. I find it odd, even for this strip of the city to be devoid of souls scurrying about. I passed by several of the usual makeshift eateries lining the street and they were closed, not doing business tonight. The benches and tables that would usually sit some of the men hauling meat to the market nearby were stacked up on the grey walls. Neither was there any meat truck parked along the road. I only saw a lone dog scratching for scraps on the heaped up trash beside a dimming lamp post. Even the old man who’d be sleeping right now on his folded up boxes in front of Ablaza Pawnshop was not in his usual “bedspace”.

Eerily quiet.

It’s still a good 40 meters until I reach my place and I already felt the first drop of rain on my face. It’s about to pour. I quicken my steps almost at a jog. Then in the dark I saw a dark figure holding a broomstick in front of my gate as I was nearing it.

It was Mang Bhoy.

“Hey Mang Bhoy. Good evening. A storm’s coming and you’re still out?” I greeted him as I got nearer.

“Yeah. Just heading back to the office to give back my broom. You just got home? Gimmick huh?” he asked.

“Nah. Work. Good thing I got here right on time before the rain poured,” I replied. There was a loud thunderclap and a strong gust of wind blew that almost took off Mang Bhoy’s wide brimmed. Just then, a bright flash of lightning tore through the night sky and I saw as bright as day something emblazoned on his shirt. It’s the familiar silhouette of Mickey Mouse.

“Hey man. I love your shirt. Mickey Mouse. I bet it’s your son’s,” I cracked a joke at his rather cute shirt.

“Yeah, it is. I had to do my laundry today and none of my shirts were dry so I borrowed this from my son,” he exclaimed as he pointed at Mickey Mouse. “In turn I had to wash my rubber shoes so he can use them tomorrow for his basketball tryouts at school.” It was only then that I noticed he was wiggling the toes on his naked feet.

There was another flash of lightning and he saw me staring at his rather grimy feet. “It’s going to rain. Whatever dirt’s in my feet will be washed off anyway,” he said as if he read my thoughts. I just smiled back.

I turned around to put my keys into my lock when inspiration hit me. I called behind to Mang Bhoy and said, “Hey, Mang Bhoy. I think I have another pair of shoes I don’t use. Maybe we have the same size. Could you wait a while?” I told him.

I hurriedly went inside my door and made it up to the stairs. Halfway through the third floor of my place I heard a loud downpour crashing on the roof. It sounded like it was some giant’s water bucket with its whole content being tipped above me. The rain finally came.

I rummaged through my broom closet, hauling out half of its contents. After a few more seconds of digging, I finally found them. It’s an old pair of Adidas that haven’t seen the light of day for a long time and which I only used for half a dozen times before I placed it in the farthest corner of the closet.

I hurriedly went down the stairs bearing the shoes. It was already pouring outside and Mang Bhoy was already standing beneath the gate’s awning to keep himself dry. “Naku. Am really sorry it took me quite a while. Here they are. I hope they fit you,” apologetically, I handed him the pair.

In that dark rainy night, I saw how his face lit up when he got hold of the shoes. “This is too much. Thank you. Thank you,” he said.

“It’s okay. I don’t use them anyway,” I told him. When I was about to close to the gate, he beckoned me.

“Uhm, brod,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Maybe you might have a spare umbrella too that you’re not using."

He smiled sheepishly.

______________

Artwork part of "STORIES FROM MY WINDOW" exhibit on May 11, 2006 at KAIDA Gallery.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

STORIES FROM MY WINDOW


I would like to invite YOU (yes, you) on May 11, Sunday at 6:00 p.m. at KAIDA GALLERY for an exhibit opening, mine.

For directions, click here.

It's my second exhibit for this year and I've done 15 works in pen and ink on paper. If you visit this blog, I guess you'll be familiar by now that I do these drawings and write short; short stories about what I draw or paint that is no more than two pages. (A pretty economical length for a blog really.)

This exhibit would also be the last images I will be producing here in Pasay City. On June 30th, I am moving to another location. It's not really that distant, but it does feel like an ocean away from the street I have begun to call home in the past five years. What will come out of my imagination once I've moved, only Batman knows.... really.

I call this exhibit "STORIES FROM MY WINDOW" because literally, all images I have done for this show were of people I see from my third floor window. (I figured that's why Manang Alice - the balut vendor and her ilk, call me "Ang Lalaki sa Bintana" or the Man at the Window.)

Some of the individuals I have drawn are people I have known here on Libertad. Some I have only seen once walking along the street, no different from the rest of humanity I see passing by everyday. But one thing is definite, each person has left an indelible mark in my memory.

I do hope you can come - in body or in spirit.

The exhibit runs from May 11 to May 23rd of this year.

Cheers!

Friday, May 2, 2008

TWO THINGS

I will make this short and sweet.

I did two things today which I believe are pretty momentous.



1. PLONING

I watched it. Finally. I have been raving about it in a past posting here and I ended up being right about the giddiness I felt when I saw the trailer.

I will say it loud and clear. IT IS A GOOD MOVIE.

For quite some time (several years in fact), I haven't watched a commercially released movie that didn't make me feel as if I lost a few of my brain cells or made me catatonic after I got out of the cinema. Other than the few indie films I have seen like Maximo and Kubrador being some of my favorites, methinks I can only describe mainstream Filipino movies as simply a waste of money.

Ang lambot ng Ploning, ang tahimik pero mainit at nakakapaso. Kapag di ka umiyak, di mo naiintindihan ang konsepto ng pag-ibig. (It's a soft movie, quiet but it seers with its emotions. If you didn't cry, you don't understand the concept of love.)

quote by Anonymous (I got this from the movie's website)

Yes, the movie has it shortfalls. It has that "indie" appeal in it - unpolished and has that small-ness in it. It's not the big-budgeted Hollywood'ish or Regal movie type. But what it lacked in it's small-ness, it made up for everything with it's simplicity.

It is "quiet" and stirring movie. I didn't see any histrionics nor heard any brain-numbing, tacky dialogues. Wholly, it has a story that makes you ask and lets you fill in some of the details. It even has a slightly open ending. And for a long time, I have finally been able to watch a local big screen movie that didn't treat me like a 10-year old. There was a lack of over-patronizing details. For that alone, I felt good about the movie.

... and Juday. Now I know why I got so giddy. She's an excellent actress. When I saw her play Ploning, I forgot the actress and only saw the quiet dignity of a woman in Cuyo, Palawan. I wasn't simply watching an actress who is excellent in her craft but I cried, wept and hoped with a woman whose story was essayed on film. When she spoke with Siloy, I felt Ploning's pain. When her past was unraveled as Seling read the documents Ploning kept, I felt her quiet strength. Judy Ann Santos sbecame Ploning. Ploning became Juday.

Watch the movie. I am not getting anything out of this except the satisfaction that I found a beautifuk story of a splendid woman portrayed by an actress who has my unflinching admiration.

p.s. Gina Pareno and the little boy that played the character of Digo, they are gems of Philippine cinema.



2. MY NEXT EXHIBIT

I finally finished the poster for my next exhibit.

Yes, I am having my next exhibit this May 11, 2008 at KAIDA GALLERY.

It's a small gallery at the Second Level of GFO Building, 122 Kamuning Road, Quezon City. It is near the corner with EDSA. If you're heading north along EDSA, it's on the left side and about 4 to 5 building down the road. It's hard to miss. There's an Allied bank below it.

I'll tell more about it on the next post.

;-)