Friday, February 29, 2008


pen and ink with gold leaf on paper

dimensions unknown

I have been sitting here and browsing around some art articles online, specifically, advices on how to improve more of what I do. And then I bumped into this “Do or Die List for Artists”. It brought me to thinking, what sort of tips can I give? Hmm, reviewing my life, I think I can add some more into this:

Do or Die List for Artists:

- Be good to your landlady/lord. I remember reading in an interview that during the salad days of Pacita Abad and her husband, they’d give her works to their landlady for months when they can’t pay rent. My own landlady has a wall filled with my works. Maybe if she decides to exhibit them someday, it’ll be called “For Rent”.

- Have friends whose mothers/fathers/lovers love to cook. It helps during times when your own refrigerator only has a jug of water in it.

- Make sure you have a big window in your apartment or studio. My neighbors call me “Ang Lalaki sa Bintana”, I sit by my window when I find my mind in a slump. I get my “inspirations” from the street below which is alive 24/7. It also helps in saving on my electric bill.

- Have rich friends or friends who have rich friends. Art is expensive. Most of the time, well, always, only those with disposable income can really afford them. When exhibiting, invite all your friends and have them bring their checkbooks.

- Have lots of friends. They’re cushions when tough days come around.

- Be on the web. It expands your network, you'd learn what's happening out there, and you'd realize that your studio isn’t the only world that exists.

- Invest on the best quality art material. They’re quite expensive and punches a big hole on ones wallet. Think about it, collectors wouldn’t want to buy artworks that won’t last for just a few years. It’s like when you buy a t-shirt. If it’s the cheap kind, chances are after a few times of wearing, it’ll end up in a donation box or as a rag to wipe the oven top. I’d hate the thought that my drawings would end up as somebody’s place mat.

- When friends visit you, have them buy half-gallon ice creams. I find those ice cream containers useful for storing my various art material knick-knacks.

- You won’t be discovered. You’re not the next child prodigy. No gallery would just come knocking on your door and say, “Hey, we’re looking for the next big thing and it’s you.” It doesn’t happen that way. It only happens once in every 1 million. The rest of the 999,999 just simply have to work hard on it.

- And last, clip and clean your fingernails and toenails. Brush your hair. Take a regular bath and wear laundered clothes, not those t-shirts that would seem it can already walk on its own and stink like… like a sewer rat used it as toilet. I know exactly the feeling when one is into art and there’s so much passion involved in creating it that you forget everything around you except for that piece of yellow thing that doesn't seem right. You eventually get back to your senses and it’s no excuse to forget simple rules of hygiene. A bar of soap doesn't cost more than a few bucks.

Monday, February 25, 2008


11" x 15"
pen and ink on paper


“Yes, when I was pregnant with each one of you, your Tatay will come home early from work, do the laundry, cook and on his days off, he’ll clean the house. He’s always there,” said my mom as she was telling Mercy (my father’s nurse) to put on my father the new pair of shorts she bought for him from SM.

“I was his baby back then, aside from the three of you of course. Now, he has to be taken care of. He’s our baby now,” my mother declared. “Tatay naman, you’re shorts are on backwards. Come over here. Mercy, I’ll take over,” my mom called on my father the way she called me when I was five years old to adjust my pants if I wore it the wrong way.


Lalaki dapat ang masusunod palagi ah,” Toto declared defiantly halfway through the case of beer we were having in his house.

Itong asawa ko, sunod lang yan sa akin. Sabi ko talon, tatalon yan,” he punctuates triumphantly as he takes a swig from his bottle.

“Eh ikaw Neng, ano masasabi mo dun?” I asked his wife as Toto stood up to pee in their makeshift toilet.

“Hmph! Ganyan lang yan pag lasing. Nagyayabang kunyari. Pero, pag may konting sinat kahit isa sa mga anak niya, naku, asahan mo… nag-aabsent yan sa trabaho. Nung naratay ako sa pulmonya nang nakaraang taon, siya ang dakilang kusinero’t yaya ng mga anak niya at tuwang-tuwa pa yang naka-apron habang nagpiprito ng tilapia. Masarap magluto yang si Toto. Siya nagluto nyang pulutan nyo,” Neng beamed while I could hear the strong splatter on the toilet seat from Toto’s bladder.

“Kahit mahirap ang buhay, okay lang. Wala akong masasabi dyan sa asawa ko. Makulit kung minsan, pero sobrang bait at alam niya talaga mag-give-and-take baga,” said Neng as she started to clear some of empty bottles from the table.

Zipping up his pants, Toto approached the table and boomed, “At sexy pa ang misis ko! Walang sinabi si Angel Locsin!” And he gently took hold of Neng’s shoulder and kissed her on the cheek.

“AY! Ano ka ba?! Nakakahiya kay kumpare,” she blushed and gently slapped him on the wrist, while he gives out a hearty laugh.

“Hahaha, okay lang. Sweet nga eh, para pa rin kayong magsyota kahit labinlimang taon na kayong mag-asawa,”
I laughed as I took another swig of my beer. In my head I’m thinking I could be in the middle of a movie of two lovers – Pinoy version.


There are very rare occasions I consciously watch tv. The last time I did watch was that time when Trillanes stormed that big hotel and ended up earning a dunce cap for his stupid swashbuckling antic. Today, I have gladly turned it on for a yearly treat I get through the boob tube – the Oscars. I can’t wait to see the gowns, the jewelries, the men’s suits, the musicals numbers and the movies I am taking note of the next time I visit my friendly Muslim purveyor of pirated dvd's in Quiapo. It’s glitz, glamour, gleaming white-teeth, wide smiles, yelps and shrieks when so-and-so wins an award.

BUT…. there’s more than thirty minutes more before the live broadcast of the Oscars goes on. So, I wait, do some chores and… there’s this morning program on THAT local channel where I see a man winning a cell phone for bringing in the most unique souvenir from the EDSA I – People Power. What was it? It’s a piece of barbed wire in a frame marked “EDSA I – Feb. 25, 1986”.

I remember those few days in 1986. I was a freshman (you can now guess my age) in U.P. Everyone was hyped up for the days leading towards EDSA I. There were massive demonstrations, troop mobilizations, frantic poster making (yellow and red paint were in big demand), negotiations with jeepney drivers to bring us to the different sites for these rallies and the stern warning from my mother, “If I find out you’re joining those rallies, bullets hitting your head will be the least of your concerns.”

Well, despite my mother’s threat, I did join those rallies. I have my own memories from that time, like sitting in front of Channel 4 beside a group of pretty colegialas twiddling between what flower to give to which cute soldier in the phalanx before us and who’s going to be in charge with bringing in the sandwiches to those in the human chain on the front of our sea of humanity facing the guns of the military. I was busy with the task (with other arts students) of making more posters with the buckets of paints we brought with us, mindless of the guns of the snipers up in the TV station’s tower pointed at our group below. It was a time of bravery. A time of frantic movement. A time of youth, idealism and hope for change.

Sitting here, watching that man get his cellphone on TV for bringing in a souvenir from EDSA I made me think. Did anything really change since then? Are we a lot better off now than before? Is this what EDSA I is right now? A mere souvenir from the past where one can get a cellphone for free? Hmmm… maybe I’ve turned cynical. Maybe I have more doubts right now than before. Or maybe, I have learned that to have change, one simply has to do his own part, his own way to slowly affect those around them without having to stage another mass rally.

One thing is for sure, I can watch the Oscars later and then turn off the TV afterwards. There’s too much noise happening and sitting in silence here in my small space of a studio to paint is way much better.


Oh, and I have posted a design I did for

Check out what small thing we’re doing in this side of our galaxy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I copied and pasted below the text of a "poem" (I think Elizabeth Barett Browning will turn in her grave if she reads my lines) and the accompanying illustrations for a brochure I made for a good friend - Teddy the florist.

Apparently, Teddy loves what I did. He went on to tell me that he showed these illustrations and the text to some of his friends who gushed at my "Hallmark card moment".

I doubt if I can do these again. It's so.... saccharine-filled, it gave me a toothache.



She is born a hopeful promise,
the way the morning dew that
sits on a lily’s petal would say,
“it will be a beautiful day."

In the shade of the big tree
she’s the girl that swings with
her bundle of rhododendrons,
with the petals flying everywhere
and a blue bird sings its heartsong.

A young man’s heart skips a beat
or two as he gives her,
his lady love three red roses.
“Will you be my sweetheart?”
he asks, and her cheeks turn
crimson in delight.

Holding the bouquet of calla lilies
in her hands and smiling behind
her gossamer veil, she enchantingly
glides down the aisle to say, “I do.”

Now the woman blooms
into motherhood, and she gently smiles
at her daughter reaching to her
with a single white peony,
“Mama, I love you.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


pen-and-ink study
dimension unknown

“Literally meaning letters and figures, Letras ý Figuras were once considered novelty art. Considered an original Filipino art form, these were rendered using watercolor on brown paper. Upon close observation one would see the letters blend with the details of the painting. It depicts tableaus of men and women amid flora and fauna with various Philippine landscapes and city scenes as backdrop.

The capital letters of the patron's name were cleverly formed with everyday objects to provide support for the human figure in various activities. The skill of the artist can be seen in how naturally he could integrate the figure to form part of the letter.

With each letter only a few inches high, the art of the miniaturist came into play in the finely delineated figures of great variety and the exquisite details of their costumes. The other letters of the name, often on two or three levels, were situated in a lighter background of landscapes…"

- taken from


This is my rendition in the
Letras ý Figuras style. Though not miniaturized (goodness knows my figures are mostly voluminous, plump and literally big) this is my first foray into this form. This is the study of the actual painting which I will eventually finish in a few more days.

This thing actually reminds me of the hand signals made by those men who guide planes on the tarmac. Hmm, curious...

Sunday, February 17, 2008


So where are her ashes?, I asked Andre.

It's in a metallic jar sitting right now under my staircase. The ones they'd put the ashes in right after the body is cremated, he said.

What do you plan to do with it?, I followed up in between peeling the orange and scratching my nose.

Oh, I hope I can get a leave from the office and go to Baguio. You know, scatter the ashes along Kennon Road or something, he muttered with a sigh and was about to add to it when I cut him off, Nope, you do it. It'd be more poetic if you scatter her ashes alone. Besides, Baguio is too cold for me.


This was a conversation I remembered I had with my friend Andre right after the cremation of an old woman he found along Ayala Avenue in Makati, one of several homeless people that walk the city's streets. We pass them by everyday, on our way to work or meeting friends at the mall or catching the cab that somebody else might grab from us.

I actually see her every night while I take my cigarette break outside our company building. She'd be sitting across at the Minute Burger stand, her hands on lap and always wearing the same old shabby dress, Andre narrated.

Why did you approach her?

I don't know. I guess every night I see her, alone and... oh, I don't know. I just know that time I thought she needed someone to talk to, you know like the way we'd feel sometimes. Turns out I was right. She's been walking the streets for days and she can't tell me where she's from. The guy at the burger stand would give her scraps every night and she would sleep behind the stand when there's no customer. She's afraid the owner might see her and she'd be driven away.

So I asked her if she'd like a place to stay and a clean bed to sleep in. You know Dan, her face lit up.

What did you do, I asked.

I called up some friends at social service, people I knew from my past job, and I got hold of a hospice in Alabang. All I have to do was to take her there and they'd take care of everything.

So you took her after your shift?, I continued.

Yeah. On the ride going there I found out a bit more about her. You know that she speaks Spanish? And that she said she lived in a big house and yet she could not remember where. And she kept on saying how grand her life was and all... and yet, she could not remember where or even who her children are.

When I brought her to Alabang in the old people's home, I thought I'll try to find out more about her and who her relatives are.

But she died a few days later and now she's fertilizer in that box under your staircase, I quipped.



Daniel Goleman posted a question in his talk at the TED conference. Why is it that given so many opportunities to help others, sometimes we don't? He posits that this is the predicament in our lives that many of us don't help because our focus is on the wrong direction. That we tend to relegate people who are in need of help to the periphery of our vision - we ignore.

He ends his talk with a message that it only takes a simple act of noticing that help can be done and to be provided to those who need it.

There is still hope.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ben Dunlap on TED

One scandal after another. Political maneuverings. Interest groups forming rallies. Wowowee and bad writing. A lot of hullabaloo and a cacophony of voices trying to outdo each other. That's what our country, our city has become.

It has become so tiring I have tuned off my television months ago. And Like my tv, I also "tuned out". I chose not to read the papers (it's all full of lies anyway) and simply try to find new ways to be inspired by greater thinkers in a world that is bigger than Manila.

... and then I found this on It is Ben Dunlap's (a president of a small college in North Carolina) talk about justice, a life-long passion for learning and the simple truth of a Hungarian's belief that humans are fundamentally good.



Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Nobody likes death. Nobody looks forward to death,
but it happens, just because...

I was a child of five or six when I learned of death. It was through this show, Sesame Street, when I learned of it.

It is supposed to be a cheerful day in celebration of that fluttering sentiment of the heart, but I have been thinking of death and loss a lot. Happy Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Ako at Si Nanay
14" x 22"
pen and ink on paper

Sorting through some of my piles on a quiet Saturday evening, I unearthed a small book of poetry by a favorite Irish poet - Seamus Heaney, 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature. How time flies so fast that I have forgotten this tiny tome.

I thought I'd post a favorite poem from the book - short, crisp and beautiful - alongside a drawing I have that I dedicate to all mothers and infants I have known so far.


An August Night

His hands were warm and small and knowleadgeable.
When I saw them again last night, they were two ferrets,
Playing all by themselves in a moonlit field.

by Seamus Heaney
from his book "Seeing Things", 1991

Saturday, February 2, 2008


I think I regret being in the gallery today.

Christine* asked me to pass by and sign the certificates of authenticity that will accompany the paintings that were sold. She tells me that these will be picked up by their new owners in the next few days. (For every artist whose piece is sold, it's welcome news. There'll be money coming in to fill an otherwise long-empty pocket.)

When I arrived at the gallery, there was a young couple she was entertaining who were buying It Takes a Village. I went straight to the gallery's backroom, heard the whole transaction and in a few seconds the piece was sold.

"The man paid for it," she said with a grin. "He was pretty persistent in getting that piece and he convinced the woman who didn't want it at first. She couldn't say no anymore since he paid in cash."

A sudden pallor descended on me. Somehow, I didn't feel good.

"I don't feel good about it," I told Christine when the couple left. "I know it's just a painting, but I feel like I am losing someone again."

I walked towards the painting and watched as Christine placed a red dot** on her (the painting). I sat in front of It Takes a Village and looked at her for the last time.



*Christine insisted that I describe her as the voluptuous gallery manager. I have to give in to it. She's reading this blog.

**A red dot placed on an artwork in a gallery exhibit signifies that it's sold.