Wednesday, December 24, 2008


copyright by abs-cbn, 2008


I will never make a good photojournalist.


I don't have a camera.

When I had one, I would either lose it, drop it, forget the batteries, talk too much on occasions when I had to take pictures and forget that I am supposed to do that; and worse, totally neglect the darned contraption. The only camera I had was only around for a few weeks until I lost it, and that was years ago before the advent of digital technology.

So, every time there's some sort of happening where I am involved, I tap someone's shoulder and ask for his email with the gentle reminder, "Can I steal some of your photos for my blog?"

Now THAT is what I just did. I have stolen somebody else's photos and pasted them here on my blog with some annotations.

Here goes...

This is BIG. Yeah, his name is BIG - just finished from La Salle Benilde and hopes to enroll in art school. He helped Simon put up my works on Halo's walls.

They call him that because a few years ago, he resembled a barge and I kid you not. He's lost a lot of weight since turning vegan and now he's cool enough to wear those pj's that can house a family of pigeons if he'd stand still and spread his legs.

This is SIMON - the friend of BIG.

He took the pains of planning how to hang my works on the wall and doing it with his friend BIG. I owe him big time. He too was huge in a former life. If BIG was a barge, Simon was a walrus. He also turned vegan and has been wearing his size 38 pants on a waifish frame.

...and this is Halo Restaurant. It's like a little secret that you eventually tell all your friends who are into organic food. No frills. No pinky finger flying off from every lift of a glass. And nothing matches. Everything's on a budget and yet came out pretty hip. And yes, you can put your feet up while eating on unmatched chairs.

When I first saw the place from the outside, it reminded me of the window displays of Barney's Department store in NYC. It's hippie without the peace signs and pretty local. Compare...
Here's a picture of Halo's young entrepreneurial owner HALMEN (the one in yellow). She's 25, taking up a law degree (she aims to become a criminal lawyer someday) AND she runs the restaurant. (and I am trying to convince her to pose for my painting of Eve.) Right beside her in the picture is Sandy and her husband Benjie. They run that cool place called Reading Room.

This is Simon and some of his friends doing a gig on the second floor where people sat on the floor as they do their guitar rifts. They did some fusion jazz rock tunes and... sigh, the only thing missing is some sticks of weed. Not that I am encouraging but it sure felt like it that night. :-)

... though I don't remember this guitarist's name, I like him. He's got four big earrings on each ear and reminds me of those head-hunting tribes in Papua New Guinea. I was glued to watching his fingers caressing the guitar strings. He was practically making love to his instrument.
That's me clinging to a bottle of Aussie merlot given by BooJim (did I spell this right Sandy?) the kind and wonderful overlord of the whole Cubao X.

And the child asked,"Auntie Sandy, will you ever be cutting up a pig's head soon?"

This is again me seated at the best place at ANY buffet party. Yeah, beside the food. Notice the almost empty containers beside me. Hehehehe...

... and of course, Sheila's kids - Patrick and Paolo sitting at the best place where kids could sit when they're bored in adult parties; at a bench outside with their ears plugged on to their PSP's.

Oh, and notice that small gallery behind them? That's MONUMENTO (beside HALO Restaurant) owned and run by the sculptor Sajid Imao and his wife. Pass by there during the day and you'll their resident artist of the month making his/her work inside that space. You could actually stand there and just watch. Pretty cool concept for a gallery.

There are a lot of people I'd like to thank - the CANVAS people- Gigo, his wife Alyssa and their kids and friends Aurora and husband. There's Adib who owns Chicken Bacolod in Greenbelt. There's Clarice who came despite a bad cold (get well soon!), Sandy and Benjie, Gene of Poland Hopia (note: DROP BY his hopia shop in CUBAO X. It's the FUNKIEST Hopia Shop in the whole country), Mark of BPI who came with a friend, Sheila and her kids (who's always there when needs be), Abet (the production designer of the movie BALER. Watch it! Though, I have to admit, I'm more predisposed to watch ISKUL BUKOL) and his friends, Rome and his beautiful wife Jing, Simon, Big and of course... Halmen.


Note: I stole these photos from THE READING ROOM, HALO RESTAURANT and RAFE'S blogs.

And before I forget, I'd like to make a shoutout....


For the DADDIES OF THE WORLD... Rock on with these caroling fathers.
(dang! my fingers can't stop snapping to that Toto tune)

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Don't ask me what "BABANAM-KEWALAM-BABAH" means but these half-naked tattooed men just simply struck a deep chord with their music.

Listen, watch and shout WHOA!!!

After scratching your head and thinking how these men are just simply pushing the adrenaline with their beat, here's another...

I took the liberty of transcribing the lyrics of this second song.

Sa gitna ng kahirapan matira ang matibay. (2x)
At sa pagsubok ng buhay lalabas ang iyong tunay na kulay (2x)
Tunay na kulay (2x)
Ang tunay na kulay
Lalabas ang iyong tunay na kulay

Sa likod ng mga ulap nakatago ang liwanag (2x)
Sa pagsubok ng buhay lalabas ang iyong tunay na kulay
Tunay na kulay (2x)
Ang tunay na kulay
Lalabas ang iyong tunay na kulay

Tunay na kulay (3x)
Lalabas ang iyong tunay na kulay

For those who don't read Filipino, I thought of putting it in English.

In the midst of poverty, the strong remains
And in the trials of living, your true colors will show
True colors
The true colors
Your true colors will show

Behind the clouds, the light is hidden
And in the trials of life, your true colors will show
True colors
The true colors
Your true colors will show

The true colors
Your true colors will show


Powerful. Just simply powerful. One of these days, I'd have a tattoo like these guys have.
That would be my New year's resolution.

I find the beat of this band really... funky. :-) Although, as Marga pointed out below in her comment, I have no idea that they're "Ananda Marga". In fact, I am totally clueless about the Ananda Marga. The only thing I know is that they are vegans and I like those veggie desserts.

Enlighten me. :-)


La Madre Universal
17" x 24"
pen and ink on paper

This evening I will be heading off to Cubao for the opening of the small exhibit of some of my works. I was looking at the pen and ink work - LA MADRE UNIVERSAL (which is already hanging right now at HALO RESTAURANT) I realized, while staring at this image, that she's really about my own mother and not just any other woman... a woman who raised us, has full of life and, well, a woman who just simply isn't the "cookie-cutter" type molded to be like the typical mother.

Funny though, this made me remember a conversation we had a few weeks ago.

“I have something to tell you. This morning I finally decided to use the sauna,” she began excitedly as I pulled up a chair to sit on.

“Great. You liked it huh?” I said as I was fumbling for a handkerchief in my pant pocket to wipe my sweat-stained forehead. The heat and humidity outside was so oppressive that it was a relief to sit in this air-conditioned room with her.

“Oh yes, definitely. The steam and the nice heat were simply relaxing and soothing even. I had no idea it could be that nice,” she said as she reached into her bag and whipped out a roll of tissue. “Here, wipe your sweat. You shouldn’t go around without a handkerchief or a towel. You know how sweaty you can get.”

“Thanks. So…?” I asked as I unrolled a long strip of the soft 2-ply with flower patterns.

“Well, so there I was sitting in the sauna. Sweat was pouring down all over my body and I felt as if all the pores on my skin were opening,” she said as her voice lowered to almost a whisper. “And you know what,” she leaned further and cusped her hand to her mouth, “Since there was no one around, I took off my towel!” and she giggled.

“No you did NOT,” I exclaimed.

“Yes I did,” she beamed triumphantly. “And I leaned back and closed my eyes.”

“BUT,” she added, “I didn’t hear the door open. And before I knew it, I heard the fitness instructor’s voice beside me exclaiming, ‘Mrs. T, for a woman your age you have full breasts!’”

“I was aghast to hear someone beside me. When I opened my eyes I was surprised that she didn’t have a towel on to cover her own CHEST!” she exclaimed. “And you know what? She has SMALL breasts! Like prunes!” she slapped her thigh and laughed.

“Then the other ladies started to come in, so I pulled up my towel. Then the instructor said, “Mrs. T., for a woman in her early fifties, it’s a good thing you keep yourself active.’”

“Right then I heard Marissa’s voice from the other side of the room exclaiming, ‘What do you mean ‘early fifties’? Linda’s already sixty nine.’ Hahaha! You wouldn’t believe how the instructor almost screamed in surprise!”

My mother started telling me about how all the other women were so surprised to know that she is the oldest in their group and that she’s already nearing seventy. We sat there, me wiping my sweat and she telling me about the other women in her exercise group, when I noticed her cupping her breasts.

“Do you think I should have a bust lift?” she asked.

“Mother, you have breasts that a woman half your age would die for,” I said.

“Thank you son,” and she giggled.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


So, it's official. I finally made a small poster about it.
(Pinoycentric wrote about it too.)

On the 20th of this month December, I'd be putting on exhibit several of my pen and ink works on paper you see here in my blog. I count around 15 of these framed works on paper and two new paintings that will be hanging at HALO RESTAURANT which is located inside Cubao EXPO. It will be nothing fancy. Just a simple exhibition and I believe Halmen has invited a band to play. The whole affair will begin at 7:30 until... well, the wee hours.

Halo Restaurant is a tiny two-floor restaurant right smack in the bohemian enclave of Cubao X. They serve comfort organic and healthy food, nothing too hoighty-toity but definitely delectable; and they have a sugar-free menu. NONE of their furnishings match and if you're a huge person such as yours truly, well, you might as well learn how to sit on only one of your butt cheeks. Other than that, it's a marvelous place to come back to again and again.

For directions to Cubao X click here.

Hope to see you there!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I got an email from Sandy of The Reading Room (it's a quaint little shop in Cubao X which carries these wonderfully quirky things) and she asked me if I'm interested in hanging a few pieces at HALO Restaurant. I figured that I love Cubao X so much when I did that art fair thing in October that I immediately said, "Yeah sure babe".

So, I got to be introduced to Halmen, the wonderful lady who owns the restaurant. We talked and she showed me her place's walls (which I immediately felt very comfortable with considering my huge buttocks don't exactly fit well on the tiny seats meant for smaller frames); and on Saturday, December 20th... I'll be hanging some of my smaller works on paper and maybe a couple of paintings in that lovely, quirky and soulfully intimate restaurant.

I am still figuring out exactly which of the smaller pieces I'd hang in Halo Restaurant since I am in the middle of doing some huge works for another bigger exhibit next year (this one's going to be pretty exciting). However, digging through my works I thought I might as well let this one go and have it hang properly on another person's wall. It's about three of my four nephews.

I'll be posting in a few days more details about the exhibit on the 20th. In the meantime, I am re-posting this old one below.

33.5 X 24.5 cm
pen and ink on acid-free paper


“Hello”, the gruff voice of a young teenager answered at the other end of the line.

“Who’s this?” I asked.


“Wiggy? Is that really you?”


“Yes it’s me Tito Dan.”

“Goodness, you sound very different. You sound grown.”

“I’ll get Daddy.”

He’s eleven and a half years old and already he sounds different and grown. It was only a couple of years back when he and his younger brother Deus would jump me by surprise from behind the door every time I go inside my brother’s apartment. Though, I am a big and strong person, it can take its toll on my back to have two urchins clinging on to me like two wriggling chimpanzees

“Nirarayuma ako kay Zach pag nagpapakarga siya sa likod ko.” (I’m getting arthritic whenever Zach hangs on to my back.) I once heard him complain of his baby brother.

I smiled. Now it’s his turn to have a small chimp cling on to him.


“TITO SHREEEK!”, shrieked my ten-year old nephew Deus.

“Will you quit screaming into my ear? You can speak in a normal tone you know.”

“You promised the Game Boy Advance II. Have you already bought it?”

“It’s still a month away from Christmas. I promised you’ll get it on that day, did I not?”

“Yeah, but did you remember? I want a black one with casing. Get the Advance II because it has a much better colored screen. It has better graphics, better sounds. And get me those games like Harry Potter or Superfriends edition, or you can get the WWF wrestling games or Super Mario.”


“Yes Tito Shrek?”

“Quit calling me Tito SHREK and you’ll get your Gameboy Advance II – a day before Christmas.”

“Yes, Tito Dan”, and I saw a sweet cherub-like smile flash on my nephew’s face.

A week after Christmas, my brother called to tell me that Deus has already reached level four on The Fantastic 4 game on his brand new black Gameboy Advance II with its sleek black casing.

“Cool”, I gladly remarked.

A few minutes later, I received a text message from Deus and it read, ”Thank you so much for the Gameboy Advance II. I truly enjoy it. You’re cool TITO SHREK.”


I have been doing a series of little bald fat boys and so far, I have done more than thirty of these small works. Some of them are small paintings while the others are pen and ink drawings on paper – all of these were inspired by a little child. His name is Zachary.

A little bundle of one year of padded flesh that trundles along the floor like a drunken Japanese midget every time he hears his favorite purple dinosaur’s tune, Zach, as we fondly call him, carries more attention upon him than a firecracker popping early in the morning. He laughs. He giggles. He wiggles his buttocks with wanton delight, making us adults around him prod him more in his antics. He’s simply adorably cute as all babies are.

One time, my brother’s wife was berating Zach’s older brother Deus for a mischief he’s done. Being badgered by his mother, the latter was avoiding her gaze and turned the other way. Zach, with legs spread apart like a sumo wrestler stepping into the ring, walked towards his brother, turned Deus’ face towards him, pointed his finger at him and started to berate him in his baby googly talk. At that moment, a mother’s anger turned into laughter.

The day I gave my brother two of the paintings of the bald fat boys was the day that Zach knew who inspired the works.

“Tol, tignan mo si Zach.” (Bro, look at Zach), said my brother as he pointed towards his son trudging towards the hanging works.

“Kanina pa niya ginagawa yan. Hinahalikan niya mga painting mo nung mga batang kalbo. Hehehe, alam nga niyang siya yun” (He keeps on doing that.. He kisses the paintings of the bald boys. He knows they’re him.)

Zach gingerly reached up to the hanging paintings, touched them and kissed the image.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Being part of CANVAS.PH, we're committed to spreading Pinoy Art and Culture, through events, exhibits, working with institutions and individuals, and through the books we publish. We've been doing this for almost five years now too.

Recently, we just released a new gem of a book called MESSAGE IN THE SAND. It's the story of a young boy who did his own part to save a little piece of his world. It's a very handsomely bound book using big typefaces that even your little ones can easily read. The little detail that am sure the little ones who'll be reading this book would enjoy is the little box I placed where the small owner can write his/her name on the first page. It's written by Charmaine Aserappa and the fantastic images done by Roel Obemio. It's a keeper of a book that generations of children will enjoy.

... and talking about saving the environment, I found this parrot. He's got his own message for all of us showing how wonderful the natural world is.

Here's Einstein:

Sunday, December 7, 2008


"One of them could have just simply said "thank you" instead of just trooping inside. I shouldn't have opened the door and wasted my effort," I confided to Sheila as I took my seat at the table in the restaurant.

"Oh, you're pissed. What's the matter?" she asked.

"It's that troop of fat-assed ladies over there that just came in," I told her as I pointed to her the three women and a kid at the far end of the room. " I was heading for the door in front of them. I could have just went in but instead I held the door open for them to let them pass through first. Guess what?? Not one of them even said "Thank You". Even doormen whose job it is to open doors for people are given those two simple words. I'm NOT even an employee of these restaurant," incensed, I took a french fry and plopped it in my mumbling mouth.

"Hayaan mo na. (Let it go)," she quipped as the burgers were laid on the table by the waiter.

I looked at George (the waiter) and said, "Thank you."


I figured I'd say THANK YOU for all those who have read what I wrote here, looked at the pictures in my blog and have typed down a word or two. The lives we all lead might be busy. The times might have changed. The digital world have somehow changed the kinds of interactions we have with one another. But I still think, nay, I still believe we'd have to say a simple THANK YOU to one another.

It's a good reminder of our own human-ness. :-)



p.s. Thank Goodness. Pacquiao won. WOOHOOOOO!!!!
14" x 20"
pen and ink on paper

Thursday, December 4, 2008


14” x 20”
pen and ink on paper

Remember Yellow?

I knew I'd see him again after several months since I last saw him being beaten with an umbrella by another hapless victim of his skirt pulling. This time, he was at his usual post in front of the Mcdonald's at Taft Avenue but I doubt if I can still call him that moniker.

"Pssst... bosing. Bili ka ng bandila (buy a flag),” he poked me with a tiny flag on a stick as I was standing there reading the headlines on a news stand.

“Oh, may gulong ka na pala. Tagal mong nawala ah (I see you have new wheels. You’ve been gone for a while),” I said with a start. I also noticed that he didn’t have his yellow umbrella and his lifeless leg dangling from a string wound around his neck anymore.

“Oo bosing. Pinutol na nila dyan sa Pasay Gen mga paa ko. Patay na daw eh. Ngayon katulad ko na talaga si Gloria (Yeah boss. They finally cut off my legs at the hospital. Now I am as tall as Gloria),” he answered while pointing with his free hand the two stumps that were once his legs.

I couldn’t help but laugh a bit at the way he compared himself with our diminutive president. Come to think of it, they are both short now that he’s sitting on a small wheeled contraption with shiny wheels.

“Tulad din ni Gloria, may bandila din ako. Bili ka na bosing. Araw ng Kalayaan naman ngayon eh (And like Gloria, I too have a flag. Buy one. Today’s Independence Day anyway),” he said as he egged me to get his flag.

I did buy one from him for twenty five pesos and stuck it on my gate when I got home.

The next day, when I went down to buy pandesal from Quirino Bakery across the street, my tiny flag was gone… and so was Yellow.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


11" x 17"
pen and ink on paper


With my hands trembling, I slowly tore off the top of the thick white envelope I got in the mail. It had the university’s logo on the upper left and my name neatly typed across the middle. A couple of days before, two of my friends in high school who took the same exam as I did already received the same envelope. But theirs wasn't as thick as mine and I also found out that the letter inside their envelopes contained the sad news that they didn't make the cut. "Well there's still UST and FEU," said Honesto when he read his.

That night, my mother was still at our neighbor’s house - Aling Josie - exchanging gossip. I was alone at home and staring at the neatly torn top of the thick envelope. "Did I pass? Or did the person who closed my envelope simply placed in thicker wads of paper which would eventually contain the same thing - that I failed."

I gingerly took out the sheets of paper stuffed inside and slowly unfolded one of them. And there it was, the words typed neatly with an electric typewriter on an immaculate white sheet monogrammed with the university’s logo, "you successfully passed...".


I rushed to our next door neighbor and looked for my mother. I told her the news and immediately told her, "I passed it. But is it okay if I go instead to Ateneo?"

"But I thought you preferred that one?" she wondered.

"I know. But now you know that I passed. Besides I am qualified for that full scholarship in Ateneo and take up B.A. English," I told her thinking with the conviction of a young man who believes he can conquer the world.

"Hay naku. Bahala ka. As long as you make sure we can afford the tuition fees," she told me with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Go home and cook the rice for dinner.”

While I was heading back home I passed by the gate of my uncle Tito Sinforoso and his wife Tita Caring.

"Pssst. Psst!!" I heard and turned my head to see Tomas ushering me to come closer.

"Daddy's calling you upstairs to his study," he told me as I came closer. Although, Tito Sinforoso and Tita Caring never had children, they had their wards that they raised. Tomas, was one of them. A child of one of the patients at the National Mental Hospital where Tito Sinforoso and Tita Caring worked until their retirement, I've always found it odd to hear him call my uncle as "daddy".

"Why?" I asked Tomas. "I don't know. He saw you passing by from his window and just told me to call you to him," he said with a shrug of his shoulders.

"Okay," was all I said as I followed him through the gate and down the narrow corridor leading to the main door. I followed him up the wooden flight of stairs with the shiny, polished mahogany banister. I took a mental note that when I come down later I'll slide down from it.

Upon reaching the top, he lifted his right hand and motioned me to wait. He turned to the big black narra door with the shiny brass doorknob. He knocked once and turned it.

"Daddy, he's here," he announced.

"Come in," a low voice came from behind the door. "Go in," Tomas said. When I stepped inside the room I heard him closing the door behind me and the knob clicking.

I have only been to Tito Sinforoso's study twice in my entire young life. The first time, I was playing hide-and-seek with Tomas and three other kids. I hid behind one of the big shelves. It was a good hiding spot except that I shrieked in pain and terror when my foot was caught on a mousetrap, prematurely giving away where I was hiding. The second time I was there was when I sneaked inside when nobody was around and "borrowed" a book that caught my fancy. It was a handsome volume of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. I swore I would return it after reading but I never did.

I stood there in front of his large wooden table which was at the far end of the room surrounded by walls of shelves brimming with books. He was sitting behind it on a high backed wooden swivel chair, the kind they had in the fifties, wearing a crisply ironed white short-sleeved shirt. Come to think of it, I’ve only seen him wearing that kind of shirt when he was alive.

He has white hair cut very short. In fact, it was cut so short it reminds me of Apolinario Mabini, the Great Plebian's photo from one of my school books. It made him look scholarly and old, especially since he wears those black horn-rimmed glasses.

“Sit down,” he said in his soft voice as he raised a hand to gesture me towards the small wooden chair beneath a lamp with a shade made of capiz that gave out an eerie yellowish glow.

“I see you already received your admission letter,” he told me as his eyes gazed on the envelope I had in my hand. “And it seems that from the look of how thick it is, you already received your other documents to enroll there, haven’t you?” he further added.

“Yes sir,” I meekly replied.

“Your mother told me that you also passed P.N.C. (Philippine Normal College now a University), La Salle, UST and Ateneo. I also hear that you topped the exams in the former, is that right?” he inquired. “You know your cousin Linda is a librarian there and she already has a spot for you when you visit her at the library.” (My cousin Linda is the chief librarian in PNC. The moment she heard I topped the exams she already trumpeted that I’ll either be a teacher or a doctor someday. I hear she’s already readied a table just for me in the library.)

He took the black horn-rimmed glasses from the bridge of his nose, blew on it until it fogged and wiped it with a white handkerchief from his breast pocket. He put back his glasses again and neatly folded his kerchief. “So, have you made a decision to which school you’re going to for college?” he asked as he slid his kerchief back into his breast pocket.

“I will enroll in Ateneo. I figured I can go there with the scholarship I got. Besides Tito, they have a good program and some of my former classmates from grade school also passed,” I told him firmly. Of course, it wasn’t really the program nor the other kids I know who are going there. It’s the idea that I’ll be heading for a more exclusive and private Catholic university where every thing I've been comfortable and familiar with will be several notches higher.

“I see. The Jesuits are known for good education,” he said as he leaned back on his swivel chair. He paused for a few seconds in deep thought as I stared down on my toenails thinking I need to cut them soon. They’ve grown too long. I was in this reverie when he sat straight on his chair, making it creak.

“If you so choose to go and enroll in THAT university (he turned his gaze on the envelope in my hand), you won’t be studying inside a classroom. There will be a bigger world out there for you - a much bigger world than you could ever think of,” he told me as he looked me straight in the eye. For a moment, I thought I saw a glint in his eyes, a sort of sparkle that I have never seen in this old scholar of an uncle.

It was right then when I heard my mother calling from below.

“Your mother’s calling you. It is already getting late. You should go now,” he said.

“Yes, sir. I will think about it.”

I stood up when I heard my mother calling my name again and hurriedly went to the door. I gently closed it behind me and took some quick strides toward the steps. I held on to the banister and had the urge to slide down… but I stopped. I smiled at myself and thought, “I’ll do it next time.”

That night, after dinner when I’ve already put the dishes aside and was alone at the table, I opened the envelope again and took out several of the forms. I took a pen from my father’s pant pocket and proceeded to write my name on the form 5 sent by U.P.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Blue Sky
painting - 36" x 36", acrylic on canvas
drawing - 11" x 17", pen and ink on paper

“Hay naku. You actually made the drawing into a painting?!" exclaimed Andre when he saw the finished piece while fiddling through his bag for a cigarette.

"Well, might as well do it. It's already time to put it on canvas you know," I told him.

"Sigh... that painting just reminds me of the past," he added with a grimace as he flicked a lighter to light the cigarette he stuck between his lips.

"Look at it this way. You're still alive and "growing"... well, more like around the waist," I joked.

"HMPH!", was all he said as he raised an eyebrow and puffed a long trail of smoke out the window.


(I wrote this old post on February 24, 2007 for a pen and ink work of the same title above.)

"I AM TIRED OF MY LIFE” is an oft-repeated statement of someone I know dearly. It’s a statement that I can’t blame him for mentioning.

He lost his house twice. He lost a chance at romance. He lost a niece and almost lost his mother who is now groping for her sanity. Now he’s battling for his life in a hospital. There’s not much of a happy moment in between these tragedies, and no matter how much cheering up I or anyone can give him, his is a life full of it. One can even say it’s already his middle name or it’s an invasive twin attached to his side.

For the past few years, he’s been battling a tsunami of emotions predicated by a proportional seesawing of his weight. The last time he had a full and hearty laugh of joy is now but a distant memory for him. Months and days have been spent crying and cursing at the life he leads.

“When will this fucking hardship end? If this is God’s idea of a joke, then He’s much too cruel.”

I am left dumbfounded at the face of this person’s despair. I, who thinks life is hard enough trying to survive running after an elusive dream, merely has to look at this person just to humble myself.

“Do you know why the sky is blue?”

“Aside from a Yahoo commercial I have heard about why it’s blue, no, I don’t.”

“It’s His way of mocking people like me – prisoners of our own tragedies. It’s like you’re in a ten-by-ten foot prison cell with nothing but rough bricks and bars around you. Then there’s this small window above your head and the only thing you can see through it is a tiny piece of blue sky. That’s Him saying, “You can only see this, but you can’t touch it.”

A few weeks have passed. The operation saved his life and I got this message from him, “Am okay. Got out of the hospital and my mom’s doing better. I guess I won’t see you for a while until I get to sort things out. Take care.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Plet sent me this photo in the mail showing me where she's hung Nene in her home. It's staring right beside a huge painting of hers with Manet popping out of a balikbayan box.

She also calls her "Kikay". Hmmm, come to think of it, she is rather quite kikay.

Thanks Pletypus. She now has a proper home.

*Kikay - Tagalog slang word for flirtatious and flamboyant. (I hope I defined it right)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


(left) acrylic on canvas, 40" x 30";
(right) pen and ink on paper, 20" x 14"

(Both works can be viewed at 1/of Gallery)

(I entered this on Illustration Friday on their weekly contest with SIMILAR as a topic.)

Every day at 2 in the morning, like clock work, the section of the street in front of Libertad Market becomes alive with trucks and carts rolling in filled to the brim with the day’s supply of meat. Men would haul the carcasses of pigs and cows on their shoulders with their knives and cleavers dangling from their waists ready to cut the meat into sections once these are dumped on to the stalls. The air is filled with the sweet and dank smell of blood and sweat amidst the cacophony of shouts and yells from the men and women scurrying about preparing for the start of another market day.

It is during one of these early mornings when I found myself buying meat in the market. I buy them from this one particular vendor. I’ve known her only as Aling Emily. She’s hefty, smokes like a chimney and is as foul-mouthed as any of the big rough men who haul the meat from the trucks. I pass by her stall to see her daily supply and get my usual single kilo of pork.

Uy, suki! Maganda at sariwa karne ko ngayon. Galing ng Batangas. May karneng kabayo ako baka gusto mo? (My meat is good and fresh today. I even have horse meat from Batangas),” she waved her hand at me as I stopped by her stall.

“I’ll just have my usual. One kilo of pork. Liempo,” I said.

Ang aga mo yata ngayon ah. Ikaw ang buena mano ko. Oh heto, LIMANG KILO ng baboy para sa iyo (You’re early today. You’re my first customer. Five kilos of pork),” she said, and in one deft stroke, she sliced A HUGE SLAB from the mound of pig’s meat in front of her. She weighed it, placed it in a red plastic bag and handed the slab to me.

“That’s too much,” I remarked with surprise etched on my face.

Hay naku. Libre na yan. Pa-tenk yu ko na yan sa idrinowing mo na project ng anak ko. Perpek iskor daw siya (No, it’s free. It’s my thank you for drawing my daughter’s project. She got a perfect score)”

“Hah? Really?? Thanks. I should’ve ordered more,” I jokingly said.

Kung gusto mo, meron dito akong karne ng kabayo (If you like, I have here horsemeat),” she said while reaching for a mound of unfamiliar dark meat.

“It’s okay. This is already too much. I appreciate it a lot,” I said and proceeded to go to the other stalls.

Oh sige, sa susunod na magpapa-drawing anak ko, sabihin mo lang kung anong karne ang gusto mo (Next time my daughter has another drawing assignment, just tell me what choice of meat you like),” she called at me as another customer came to her stall.

I smiled while walking with the meat in hand and wondered when her daughter will have another drawing assignment.


“So, how would you know if you’re buying a *double dead meat?” I asked Vicky one morning while she opened up the clinic downstairs.

“The taste is different. It’s doesn’t taste fresh,” she said with authority.

“But how would you know if the taste is different, especially if you’re buying it from the meat stalls? You’ll poke your finger into the meat and lick it?” I jabbed her with mischievous sarcasm.

Libertad Market has been raided twice this year by the police. Some unscrupulous meat vendors were caught red-handed selling double dead meat. It was the second raid that I got to witness firsthand when a bunch of lawmen came swooping down through the stalls at dawn apprehending the vendors selling these items. They were cuffed and loaded into waiting police vans and the meat were hauled into another truck, declared as unfit for consumption and hopefully destroyed.

“So why all the trouble of selling this kind of meat anyway?” I further asked Vicky.

“Because they’re cheap,” she said.

“So you buy that stuff?” I asked.

! You can die from eating that or get some weird disease,” she said emphatically.

“But you do know how it tastes like, don’t you?” I followed up.

Of course,” she said.

Hmm, it made me wonder if there’s anything wrong with Vicky.


*Double Dead Meat refers to animals that died (usually of disease) hours or even days prior to being slaughtered. These are passed on in the market as freshly slaughtered. Libertad Market has been the scene of several raids. I found out from a policeman friend here in Pasay that the market and the nearby street of Villanueva has been raided more than 3x this year.

Double dead meat is also called "bocha" in street language.



I was reading a while ago that in medieval Europe, vertical stripe patterns are only worn by traders in the lower ranks like butchers. It's interesting that I remember Aling Emily the butcher wearing her long striped dress.

p.s. I wish I have a good digicam. The painting above beside the pen-and-ink version is a lot better than what you see here. In the words of Flosie who took the picture with her phonecam,"Koyah Dan, magatambok gani ang bayi nimo. Parang nga mag-jump day-ah sa painting."(Kuya Dan, she's so fat. The figure looks like she's gonna "jump" from the painting.) She's Ilongga and spells Emily as "E-m-E-l-y".

Monday, November 10, 2008



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 Pasay. Moriones is in Tondo,” I answered in surprise.

“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.”


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.


Thursday, October 23, 2008


A lot of people came for the opening of The Rocking for Juan Exhibit and it was simply marvelous. 7 Visual Artists with two paintings each paired off with 7 Musicians with two songs each.

The Painters - Plet Bolipata, Elmer Borlongan, Alfredo Esquillo, Karen Flores, Manny Garibay, Winner Jumalon and Mark Justiniani - had two paintings each hanging on the walls of the Ayala Museum.

I have my personal favorites (of course), but I'd have to say that Winner Jumalon's painting using two media and hung as a diptych was a site to behold. I love the idea that he had all these pictures from around him compiled and set up on a canvas like some sort of Kodak-dreamscape and on the second half of the diptych is a darkened painting of his house's doorway. It's a jumble of his life's images paired of with the entry to his house, presumably his mind. Ayluvit!

I wish I could get a better photo of this huge piece.
That's the diptych hanging on the wall of the Ayala Museum.

Winner Jumalon's
First part of the diptych, WALLS OF SPACES TO HOME
4 ft. x 8 ft.

I have to admit that it is also the first time I have seen Karen Flores' works up close. Coupled with the Lyrics of PERYODIKO, I figured that theirs is a partnership that spoke for the hope of what once was and what could. Staring at Karen's painting "Nang Dahil sa Iyo" I figured she "talks" of family and country - like it was a distant memory. When I heard Peryodiko sing their ditty, it drove the nail head on.

Nang Dahil sa Iyo, painting by Karen Flores
Ang Dahil sa Iyo'y Mabuhay, music by Peryodiko

They say that as an artist, we are in a unique position to capture thoughts and feelings of a people, a community or a country and put these in a form that can sway the imagination. Well, that night, my thoughts were indeed swayed.

The biting lyrics of Dong Abay's song God Bless Our Trip coupled with Elmer Borlongan's Batang Edsa opened my own eyes to that ubiquitous presence in our city streets - the children that tap on the car windows selling everything from cigarettes to jasmine leis. Abay's use of EDSA as a line in his chorus simply gave new meaning to that artery that slices the city into some sort of prayer that cuts through everyone's lives.

How Elmer paints the children is simply fascinating. I felt like while I am that car passenger looking at the children through from my aquarium window, and in my eyes, these children are other-worldly, disengaged from my own comfortable existence and their stories are definitely distant from mine. Yet, amazingly, I see them everyday, living and moving through the same street we both pass through every day.

Batang Edsa, painting by Elmer Borlongan
God Bless Our Trip, music by Dong Abay

The highlight of the evening was when two musicians played their music - Peryodiko and Cynthia Alexander. Peryodiko was a wonderful revelation. (Again, I just got out of a foxhole and this is the first time I heard of them. I took the photos from here and here.)

Cynthia Alexander playing her guitar. She brought the house down

...and this is Plet's painting for that song.

PERYODIKO doing their sets. I'd have to watch more of these guys. I particularly like the lead vocals for his unusual voice that reminds me of coconut farmers singing in my grandfather's fields before. I don't know why.

It was a great evening of music and art. Too bad though I didn't get to hear Up Dharma Down perform. (But I intend to hound them later tonight at their album launch at RCBC. Big Bald Guy running amuck just to listen to them singing! Nyehehehe) Too bad that I didn't get whoozy from alcohol and started slurring my speech or started hugging some freaked-out, unwary creature. The wine ran out.

Otherwise, it was a night that I wished you were there.



by Plet Bolipata
Acrylic, collage, acrylic emulsion and oil on canvas
5 ft. x 6 ft.

by Elmer Borlongan
oil on canvas
5 x 6 ft.

Two of my most favorite artists are mounting an exhibit tonight at the CCP. It's the husband and wife team of Emong and Plet.

Emong's works, as I've always seen it, have this dreamlike-quality in them. The figures, the bald men and children seem to spring out from a warped subconscious vision - beautifully disturbing and wakes you up from a deep slumber. I am awed. He shakes me to think and reminds me that there's more to life that just plain living.

Amazingly, his wife Plet, is his polar opposite. Hers is like a walk through a secret flowering garden kept behind a high wall. Her paintings always makes me remember of those times as a kid when I would get the kind of gift I want. These gifts would usually come in the plainest of wrappings that once opened brings me - the child - the greatest of joy. Plet's work is a child's gift.

Visit their works at the CCP. I guarantee you, when you leave, you'll be wearing a smile and a deeper meaning of what is beautiful.


Blue Hour
A Joint Exhibition by Plet C. Bolipata and Elmer M. Borlongan

at the Bulwagang Fernando Amorsolo, Cultural Center of the Philippines
from October 23 - November 23, 2008

"Blue Hour" is the title of the joint exhibition of visual artist-couple, Plet C. Bolipata and Elmer M. Borlongan. This is their second exhibit together since 2000 as an artist- couple with very strong individual artistic motivations.

In French literature, "blue hour" describes time of heightened emotion. It is in this context that Bolipata and Borlongan focus their creative energies in depicting subjects of human interest in various everyday situations, real or imagined. Their subjects, clothed or disrobed, are caught up in the present; in the moment of whatever it is they are doing, unmindful of a past or a future that lies ahead. They are simply in the moment, relishing and basking in the beauty of time ticking by. These images will remind the viewer that being fully present in the moment, no matter the circumstance, is what life is all about.

The exhibit will run from October 23 - November 23, 2008 p.m. at the Bulwagang Fernando Amorsolo (Small Gallery) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


48" x 96''
Acrylic on canvas
(To be filled in in a few months' time)

Its been six years and twenty day since I've moved here to Pasay City and I think it's already time to do this.

I just finished putting the white acrylic base for the 4 x 8 feet canvas for my next project. In the next few months, I'll be painting six years worth of life along this street. What will come out of it? I don't know. What will I paint? I don't know.

All I know is, it will be big and I've given my self until the end of 2008 to finish this.

Good luck to me. I hope I don't go nuts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


18" x 22"
pen and ink on paper

"Taong Grasa" or literally, Grease People. That's what they are called in the streets. Vagabonds, bums and homeless, they roam the city, endlessly walking along its lengths. Most of them have some sort of mental sickness. Too poor or have no relations who can take care of them and nurse them to mental health, they are left to fend for themselves and become daily fixtures of busy urban landscapes. Libertad is one such landscape for it has its share of taong grasa. Several of them have made the length of its street their home.

There's Basketball Guy who stands tall like a tree and walks on giraffe legs with long strides. His hair is a big mess of a mottled, grimy pile sitting on his unusually large head like a crazy bird's nest. It also smells of kerosene. Every time I pass by the corner of Luna you'd know he's there at his usual corner because of the strong pungent smell of his hair.

There's also Robot Man who is short and shaped like a big pear with almost white hair. I figure this guy is only in his fifties but maybe because of walking the streets for so long, he can already pass for a grandfather way past 65. He constantly mumbles when he walks that stretch where the lamp and furniture stores are. And he's got a peculiar way of walking too, for you see, he's the only person I have known who walks swinging his right arm together with his right leg, and vice versa - like a robot. Every few minutes of his walking, he'd stop and shouts a curse then resume his robotic walk. I'd giggle whenever an unwary passerby would be surprised by his sudden outburst.

There are several others that have come and gone along this street. There was Spit Boy, who if you made the mistake of being within two feet from him, you'll find yourself an unfortunate target of his saliva missiles. There was Naked Nene, who ran in her birthday suit along the whole stretch of Libertad accompanied by the hoots of horny men, and gasps of shocked women.

But one particular taong grasa stood out amongst all of them. And this is how she left an indelible mark in my memory.

I first saw a few days after I moved here. She had a big stomach which makes her look eternally pregnant, and the first time I saw her she wrapped around her waist an old plastic bag over her torn and disheveled "duster" (the loose dress favored by old women). Almost every night, I would find her slumped on the sidewalk near my gate playing with her headless doll - the kind made of cheap plastic sold in the then old market of Libertad. She was a big woman with big feet and eternally covered in soot and grime. Each night too, I'd spy her holding a small plastic bag of food, perhaps leftovers she managed to scrounge from the stalls of the market.

I call her Dog Lady.


When I went down to take out the garbage one night, I saw her sitting in the same spot beside the electric post a few feet from my gate. She was holding her plastic bag of food in one hand and the doll in the other. She was busy dipping her bare, grimy hand into her bag when an equally dirty and mangy dog came strutting towards her drawn by the smell of the food. When the creature was a couple of feet from her, she lifted her head and stared at the animal. Holding her gaze at the dog, they both remained fixed at each other's spot for a few seconds - woman and animal staring at each other. Then without warning, like a sudden clap, she gave a loud and hoarse bark at the dog making the latter scamper away in surprise leaving her alone with her dinner.

She was a fixture at my side of the street as familiar as the lamp post where she sits every night.

I got home late on an extremely humid summer night. It's the kind of night that makes one wish for rain to come to cool everything. Sticky. Sweaty. Sickeningly sweet smell of the oppressive heat, I can't even dare sit on my favorite leather chair and not leave a big puddle of sweat and oil while I remove my shoes. So I took them off and my shirt while I stood there in the middle of my apartment. Standing there half-naked, I could already feel all the sweat of my body forming beads all over my skin. I figured that if I scrape all the sweat, all my skin’s oil will come with it and I can collect all of it and save on my frying needs.

I took off the rest of my clothes, went to the windows to open all the shutters and let in whatever wind there was to cool my apartment. But alas, even with everything open, I fear there's no reprieve from the heat tonight. Only one solution presented itself - a long cold shower.

I took my time and it felt like I could spend the whole night under the shower and leave the heat of the evening behind. After almost an hour in the cold water I walked out to dry myself with a towel and just stood by the sink of my kitchen. As I while away my time patting myself dry, a soft breeze came from the far end of my apartment through the window. It was then that I suddenly smelled in the air something unusual. It was the sweet smell of rotting flesh. I figured an open garbage truck passed by again leaving in its wake the smell of its loaded refuse. Overwhelmed by the oppressive smell slowly building up, I wrapped my towel around my waist and walked towards my windows to close the shutters.

A few feet from my window, I heard a commotion from below the street. I looked out and saw some of the local neighborhood thugs and a couple of policemen gathering below. From where I was standing I couldn’t see what it was they were circling. One thing caught my attention though. Most of them were covering their noses with either a hand or kerchief.
I leaned further thinking whatever it was they were circling might also be the source of the foul stench.

As I leaned my elbows on the sill, it was then that I began to see her coming out from way below my windows. It was Dog Lady. She was barking, or more like shouting unintelligible words. Her bulging stomach was quivering from each shout, she was naked from the waist up. All her muscles were tense and locked like that of a trapped animal. She was coming towards the men flailing something in her arms that looked like a big, lumpy rag doll wrapped in a dirty sheet.

“Take her down!” screamed one of the policemen.

The men tried to come forward but retreated when she flung the rag doll. It was like this for a few seconds with her swinging wildly about and the small crowd inching away from her. They were all locked in this “dance” when I saw one of the men creep from behind her. With one fell swoop, he struck her from behind and I could hear a loud from the blow. She fell to the ground unconscious and the rag doll slipped from her hands.

As she lain on the street surrounded by the crowd, one of the policemen started giving instructions to immediately load her to the waiting white van marked DSWD. It took several of the men to lift her heavy unconscious body. They had to collectively heave her onto the floor of the van.

“Hey You! Get the baby!” commanded the other policeman to the man who gave Dog Lady the fatal blow.

When I heard him say this to the man, it was only then that my attention was drawn towards the big lumpy rag doll that Dog Lady was flailing a while back. When I turned my eyes towards the pile heaped on the street near the gutters, the sheet that covered the “doll” was flung back revealing the white corpse of a baby.

The man who the policeman barked at kicked back the sheet to cover the corpse. With one hand grasping the sheet and the other covering his nose, he lifted the whole pile, walked towards the white van and threw it in together with the unconscious woman.

I drew back from the window, sat on a chair and faced away from the scene that unfolded in the street below. I heard the van’s door close, its engine starting and a few undistinct voices barking some commands.

A few minutes later, I stood up. I looked out the window. Only a few of the men from the crowd remained and were talking with each other. A handful of people were milling about on the sidewalks as the jeeps and vehicles drove by along the street.

I then closed my windows.


A few days later, I saw a white open van rolling down Libertad. It had the local Pasay Police mark on the side and was driven by a couple of local Pasay traffic cops. It’s passengers at the back were Basketball Guy, Spit Boy and Robot Man who was shouting incessantly at the people the van passed by.