Sunday, December 30, 2007


A Boy and His Notebook
10" x 14"
acrylic on cavas

“Why don’t you just relax instead of straining your noggin reading that reviewer. Ikaw rin, blood will ooze from your nose.”

“Eh Tito Dan, some of these math questions here might come up in the test,” Wiggy insisted

“It’s stock knowledge. It’ll eventually pour out of your brain if it has to.”

I was looking at how my nephew was slumped at the backseat of the car reading his reviewer and intently absorbing some mathematical formulas and science facts in his reviewer that might be in the entrance exams for the state science high school.

He’s turning 13 soon, the same age as I was when I started reading Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude while hiding in the bathroom thinking it was a porn novel tucked underneath my older brother’s bed.

It was also the same age when I burned a favorite t-shirt during a religious retreat organized by my school conducted by a Belgian priest who pronounces Titanic with a long “eee”. Emblazoned on the front of that shirt was the face of a grinning man with horns, but if you look at it closely, it’s actually formed by a bunch of writhing naked women. Wearing that shirt, a gift from my older brother, made me feel cool and part of that glorified breed of “rebels”.

I was also growing hair in the wrong places and wondered why James was already using veto. It would always leave a white, gooey deposit in his armpits after PhysEd class. He also had a funny odor that Ronald started calling him “Mang Ador”. The name stuck on him way until high school.

It was in our last year in grade school that my friends and I were caught cutting class because we were playing with our water pistols near the school’s premises. Our class adviser caught us in the middle of our wild water shootout. As punishment for our truancy, he confiscated our water pistols and had all of us stand for the rest of the day beside each column on the fourth floor of our school building. Regardless of the punishment, we still had fun. Someone produced a spitball, took shots at each other and we just giggled the whole afternoon away.

“Tito Dan, did you take the exams at this school?” asked Deus, Wiggy’s younger brother.

“Nope, I took the one in Manila.”

“Did you pass that one?”

“Nope. Like your dad, I went on to the same high school that I took my grade school studies in.”


“So Deus, you’ll be taking the same entrance exams next year too?” I asked him.

“Maybe,” he shrugged.

“Why maybe?”

“For now, I’ll just be Kuya’s spiritual mentor,” he declared.


“Tol, Wiggy passed. He’s going on to the next qualifying exams,” my brother told me in a text message.

“Told you. I always knew your son can ace it. Let’s hope he passes the second one,” I responded.

“Basta, I still am the proudest father,” even in text message he beams with pride.

“And I am a very proud uncle,” I answered.

Damn, I also feel old.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


15" x 15"
pen and ink on acid-free paper

The Merman is based on a poem given to me eons years ago by Noel Giuvani Ramiscal - a poet, a lawyer and childhood friend.

Way back in our U.P. days he gave me that poem on a sheet of stenographer's notebook. Unfortunately, I've lost it amongst my pile of books and scraps.

I could remember though that it was about waiting for his time as he sits on a rocky outcrop. Waiting for the time when his own purpose is revealed to him while he sits still as the waves around him buffets the rock he's on.

How the poem ended, well, time wasn't kind enough for me to remember. This is the only thing that is left of it, an old drawing that I did again.



I've copied here one of my favorite poems from his book "NOELSES", published in 2005 by the UST Publishing House


"satan is only a bad linguistic habit"
B. Rusell

i travel from one
antimony to another
christ has his wounds
and resurrection
satan has his horns and promises

i have words
to propel me
through the darkness
of love and death

but my faith owns no name

Friday, December 28, 2007


32" x 40"
acrylic on canvas

In some African societies “It takes a village…” would translate in some proverbs like in Lunyoro (Banyoro) where it says 'Omwana takulila nju emoi,' whose literal translation is 'A child does not grow up only in a single home.' In Kihaya (Bahaya) there is a saying, 'Omwana taba womoi,' which translates as 'A child belongs not to one parent or home.' In Kijita (Wajita) there is a proverb which says 'Omwana ni wa bhone,' meaning regardless of a child's biological parent(s) its upbringing belongs to the community. In Kiswahili the proverb 'Asiyefunzwa na mamae hufunzwa na ulimwengu' approximates to the same."

- source Wikipedia


Sitting on the floor facing an old mirror I still have to hang on the bathroom wall, I found myself one night talking to my own reflection.

“I’ve always been having a problem with the title of this thing. It’s like I am re-doing a Hillary Clinton all over again,” I was telling my alter ego as I was wrapping it up in bubble wrap that night I took it down my wall to finally set it aside for the show on January. “It’s scary. It’ll be the first time that this work will be seen by others. When I say “others” I mean people I actually don’t know what their last names are or those who’ve never been to my apartment.”

“You know what? I think it’s just right. I mean, so what if it’s like you took it from some First Lady’s book title? She took it too from some African proverb you know. You’ve checked Wikipedia and there it was. Have you ever thought that when you did it, it is actually about people building and taking care of something that will, well, grow?” my self replied to me from the mirror.

After a pregnant pause, I find myself agreeing with me, “Well, you have a point there. I did it because what I am doing right now is basically building up a small thing with other people in a “community” of shared beliefs and eventually when “it” grows, well, we just hope that it’ll benefit other communities as well.”

“There you go. Now you’re agreeing with me,”
my alter ego in the mirror said as I finished putting on the final tape on the wrap.

When that was done I stood up, took the wrapped painting and slid it behind the dinner table. It will be staying there until the time Delan and his crew will take it to the gallery for the exhibit.

I then walked the short distance to my kitchen to heat a kettle of water. I deftly took a mug from the cupboard, took a teaspoon of sugar and some coffee then I took a seat while I waited for the water to boil. It was fairly still outside my window. I could only hear a tricycle’s puttering engine pass by followed by the meowing of another horny cat on the roof. The usual traffic of jeeps and cars couldn’t be heard now. It is evening and it’s late.

When the kettle whistled, I closed the gas. I poured the hot water into my mug and stirred the coffee and sugar. I took a careful sip of my hot black caffeine in a mug and with it walked towards the front of the mirror.

“I’m afraid. I hope people will be nice when they see my works on January,” I told my alter ego.

And he replied, “It’ll be okay. Either you’ll make it as an artist or you’ll end up never being able to afford the coffee you’re drinking right now.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


11" x 15"
pen and ink on paper

“Yes, I work naked. No clothes on. Nothing. In fact, I think I am the only one I know who works in his birthday suit at ten in the morning.”

I told Vicky as I was taking some careful sips from the hot coffee she gave me while I was hanging around in the clinic during that cold, wet morning while the rest of the city was being battered by a super typhoon.

“Hindi ka ba nilalamig pag hinahayaan mong nakasabit yung pututuy mo habang nagpipinta ka o nagdo-drawing? (Don’t you get cold when your thing’s hanging out while you paint or draw?)

“Of course I don’t get cold. I simply don’t open the windows.”

There are a lot of things that I like with what I do aside from the fact that I don’t have to worry about any clothing allowance or the right office attire. However, ever since I started to pick up the brush and pencils to work as a painter (I hate using the word artist. It’s too sweeping a word) there are some annoying sides to it. And I am not talking here of the lack of money in my pockets. People, when they so much as hear in a whisper that I am an “artist”, start to ask me certain questions.

Though I never bothered to rank them, the three most common ones are as follow:

How come you don’t have long hair?

My younger brother and I grew up with our mother as our haircutter. In order to save on trips to the barber, she’d use the salad bowl as a haircutter’s template. At a time when the Beatles were already out of vogue, we sported their cut. There’d be times I’d have to tie my hair with rubber bands and I’ll be walking around with a small tree on my head. As I grow older, I promised myself that someday I will do something about that hairstyle. And so I did.

My first trip to a real barber involved an old man at the corner two blocks down the road from our house who could barely see. He was wearing what seemed to be magnifying glasses that made his eyes look unnaturally large behind the lens. He did my hair and I ended up being a butt of jokes amongst my classmates the next day. It was quite clean haircut. No unnerving bangs that made my forehead itch and no more hair tree that sprouted on my head, but the back of my neck looked like it was a surveyor’s map of Kennon Road.

A week later, having had enough of my classmates calling me hair names, I went with a cousin and had an over-all buzz cut.

That hairstyle stuck with me ever since.

Do you do drugs? Hey man, do you have some weed on you?

I don’t do drugs. The only drugs I ever did “hit” were the occasional paracetamol whenever I feel a fever coming in, or those over-the-counter drugs with TV advertisements any ordinary sick person would take.

There were only two occasions I ever did get “buzzed” from drugs and one of them, being the worst, involved Sinutab.

It was a Sunday morning and I was having a pretty nasty cold. Not wanting to be bothered by a heavily stuffed nose and a pounding headache I rummaged through my bathroom’s first aid kit and found some Sinutab capsules I kept handy. I plopped one in with a glass of water. As insurance that my cold virus be immediately dissipated, I thought, why not plop a second one? After I did, I looked at the packet and it was only then I realized that each capsule I swallowed was 500 milligrams each. Wow, I’m sure with that dosage it’d bring in an instant cold cure.

It did bring in some wonder and an almost fatal one.

A few minutes later, while walking to church, I started feeling dizzy. My legs were wobbly and I couldn’t look straight. I knew that with that huge dosage, I’d better take careful steps. Looking down on the sidewalk, I made sure I avoided possible cracks or anything that would make me trip or fall over in my drugged state when my eyes came across the base of a pole. Still looking downwards, I made a side step when, bam! My head hit something really hard that I immediately saw stars and twittering birdies. The pole I avoided turned out to be one of two bases of a big metal sheet signboard of the church. I walked right smack into it.

I immediately picked myself up and looked around to see if anyone saw my embarrassing episode. Luckily, I thought, nobody witnessed it.

Already in church, in the middle of the homily, I was still trying to fight off my dizziness with my head propped on my arm when a little girl of around five beside me kept peeking at my face. I tried to ignore her by keeping my face turned towards the altar but she was pretty persistent on examining my face. So I decided to sit up straight, turn towards her and smiled. It was then that the woman beside the child grabbed her and hurriedly moved away to another pew. I thought that was odd. Odder still was I noticed that some of the people on my pew were looking, no, staring at my direction. But I shrugged it off. I still have my dizziness to tend to and a mass I was determined to finish.

When it was time for communion, I stood up, took a spot on the line that ended at the priest giving the host and tried hard to control my dizzy, wobbly state. When my turn came and the priest mumbled “Body of Christ”, he stopped mid-air in giving me the host.

His brow took on that questioning look and he asked, “Are you alright son?”


“I said are you alright?” he repeated. It was only then I noticed that the altar boys, the woman at the lectern, the priest, the people who came before me… they were all staring at me and had that concerned, questioning look you see on the faces of the pious.

“May nakaaway po ba kayo? (Did you get into a fight?),” asked the smallest of the altar boys beside the priest.

“Huh?” was all I can mutter. I thought my clothes were sullied or something for the kid to ask me that when I noticed drops of blood on my shoes. My eyes trailed upwards my shirt and I saw bloodstains on it. It was only then I thought of my head hitting the metal signboard. I touched my forehead and when I looked at my hands, it was covered with blood. It has been oozing down my forehead the whole time!

I felt the strength drain from my legs at the sight of all the blood that several men had to help me towards the front pew. It was an embarrassing moment I had to endure when several “manangs” kept on fussing about me, fanning me with their abanikos asking me all sorts of questions that in my Sinutab-drugged state I could hardly even comprehend. A few minutes after the end of the mass with a horrid bandage on my forehead somebody miraculously produced from I don’t-know-where, a lot of good-luck-to-yous and take-cares from the nice people at church, I managed to hail a cab at the church steps and went home.

I immediately went to bed in my apartment and snored away my drugged state.

How come you don’t wear weird clothes?

I don’t like “weird” clothes. When people say “weird” clothes, it’s usually an all-black ensemble like you’re a leftover from some eighties goth revival or your whole wardrobe consists of ukay-ukay fashion. Though I have nothing against people who buy from ukay-ukay, I just can’t bear the thought of wearing something that used to hang on the shoulders of somebody else. There are a lot of these outlets along Libertad and if I were an ukay-ukay fanatic, I wouldn’t have to go far.

I once heard from Vicky that in Taiwan or China, they bury their dead with his/her most expensive togs when they were living. She goes on to say that there’s this group who’d buy the dead man’s clothes (or steal them from their graves) many of them designer brands, put them in a crate and ship it in container vans that find their way into these ukay-ukay outlets. I don’t exactly cherish the thought of wearing some dead guy’s rags even if they’re Gucci or Armani.

I do like cool t-shirts but not to a point that I’d wear them for days without washing. I also eschew angst-ridden statements and with a political bent on t-shirt designs. I don’t like the Mao or Lenin or Che Guevara patterns. I’d rather let them be as what they really are – long dead and not on my body.

I am not a fashionista. I couldn’t care less about what’s in season or what’s not. I am not wafer-thin nor am I built like a clotheshorse, so I simply stick to the basics – a clean, comfortably fitting shirt, jeans and clean shoes. And someday, when I am really able to afford it, I would like my closet to be filled with Wasp-y wardrobe of white shirts, khakis and nice loafers - nothing fancy, just plain, simple and neat.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

OBLATION NATION - Painting Competition

To celebrate the centennial of the University of the Philippines, CANVAS is partnering with the UP College of Fine Arts Alumni Foundation Inc. (CFAAFI), and is sponsoring its first Oblation Nation Art Competition.

The competition is inspired by the UP's Oblation - but we are not necessarily looking for an artistic interpretation of this famous icon. The Oblation stands for something that transcends UP, UP students or even the image of the Oblation itself - the selfless offering of one's self for his or her country.

For this reason, the competition is open to all Filipino students, not just UP students.

The Oblation was made by Professor Guillermo E. Tolentino with the help of Anastacio T. Caedo, his student apprentice. According to a book tribute to Guillermo Tolentino, it was Anastacio Caedo, not Fernando Poe Sr., who served as the model for the sculpture.

The idea for the Oblation was first conceived during presidency of Rafael Palma, who was the one to commission Tolentino to make the sculpture. Palma requested that the statue would be based on the second verse of Jose Rizal's Mi Ultimo Adios;

In fields of battle, deliriously fighting, Others give you their lives, without doubt, without regret; Where there’s cypress, laurel or lily, On a plank or open field, in combat or cruel martyrdom, If the home or country asks, it's all the same--it matters not.

The concrete sculpture painted to look like bronze (the sculpture was cast in Bronze much later, in 1950), measures 3.5 meters in height, symbolizing the 350 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines. The sculpture is replete with references of selfless dedication and service to the nation, and as Tolentino himself describes it:

The completely nude figure of a young man with outstretched arms and open hands, with tilted head, closed eyes and parted lips murmuring a prayer, with breast forward in the act of offering himself, is my interpretation of that sublime stanza. It symbolizes all the unknown heroes who fell during the night.

The statue stands on a rustic base, a stylized rugged shape of the Philippine archipelago, lined with big and small hard rocks, each of which represents an island.

The “katakataka” (wonder plant) whose roots are tightly implanted on Philippine soil, is the link that binds the symbolized figure to the allegorical Philippine Group. “Katakataka” is really a wonder plant. It is called siempre vivo (always alive) in Spanish. A leaf or a piece of it thrown anywhere will sprout into a young plant. Hence, it symbolizes the deep-rooted patriotism in the heart of our heroes. Such patriotism continually and forever grows anywhere in the Philippines.

We want to see this spirit and intent behind the Oblation in contemporary art. We hope you do too, and that you will join the competition.

For competition rules, check out