Monday, March 30, 2009


24" x 24"
acrylic on canvas
March 2009
(She will be part of an group exhibit entitled KRISTO for the Holy Week)


“Ahihihi, ikaw koh-ya yung artist sa Jacinto no? (You’re that artist living in Jacinto?)” she giggled as she recognized me buying while I was buying at a vendor’s cart beside the church.

“Yeah,” I answered, turned my head towards her and took the plastic cup filled to the brim with gulaman and sago.

“Nako koh-ya, i-drowing mo naman ako, yung seksi kong katawan (you draw me and my sexy body),” she offered and traced with her hand her rather shapely hips.

I smiled while my eyes followed the way she traced the curve of her body. “You come here on Wednesday for novena?” I asked her.

“Oo naman koh-ya. Malay mo baka swertehin at bigyan ako ni Lord ng mayamang jowa. (Yeah. Who knows I might be lucky and God might give me a rich lover),” she said and gave out a giggle.

“By the way, aren’t you Ariel’s wife, the guy who sells fish?” I asked.

“Hay nako, matagal nang wala yung malansang lalaki na yun sa buhay ko no (that smelly guy is already long gone from my life),” she said and the smile was gone from her face.

She looked at her watch and abruptly told me, “Nako koh-ya, male-late na ako sa club. Pag nagpunta ka, hanapin mo ako at bigyan kita ng discount (I’d be late for the club. If you go there, look for me and I’ll give you a discount),” and gave me a small card with the club’s name and number. “I-drowing mo ako ha? (Draw me huh?)”

Then she turned around and walked away, her hips swaying wildly.

*gulaman at sago – a dark syrupy, vanilla flavored drink with jello.


“Hey Brian! Saw you at the last pew. You come here every night?” I tapped him on the shoulder as he sat by the edge of the pond with the rippling fountain that has a statue of some female saint by the side of Baclaran church’s courtyard. I fished out a coin in my pocket and then I threw it into the murky shallow water. I thought I might win in the lotto that I never made a bet on, or perhaps Lady Luck would smile on me and I get a windfall of cold, hard cash the next day.

“Hey Kuya. Yeah. You know, novena night. How about you?” he looked up at me with a bit of a start. Gave me a weak smile and moved a little to his left. He gave me a bit more space to sit on that pond’s edge so I can avoid sitting on the wet part. I sat beside him, took out the bag of roasted peanuts in my shirt pocket and offered it to him. He opened his right palm and I poured some of the nuts.

A lot of people were walking by that night, pouring out of the church doors. Office ladies, men in slippers and backpacks, old women with their maids, ragged men and women with humped backs and rich women in their carefully coiffed hair… we watched them as they made a steady parade in front of us.

“Nice night eh? The moon’s full and the breeze… it’s just right,” I quipped while I was staring up at the dark sky with the bright cookie-cutter moon. I poured a few peanuts into my mouth and chewed, not even bothering to rub off the thin brown crust of each piece.

“Kuya… do you think He’ll forgive me?” Brian asked. I looked at him quizzically, wondering what his thoughts were. I saw in the bright moonlight his eyes that were beginning to glaze over as he stared at nowhere. Suddenly, I knew.

“HE always does. HE always will, and I guess HE already has,” I assured him.

A few more minutes passed. We sat there. I ran out of peanuts. The people, they just walked by, in and out of the church doors. And the water just kept pouring behind us from the fountain making its rhythmic rippling sound.

“I have to go now Kuya. I still have to go to the club tonight. You know. Big Night,” he said as he came out of his daze.

“Yeah, I’m heading off home too,” I said.


A few days ago, he helped his girlfriend abort the fetus in her womb. They were both 21 years old then. She’s a co-ed in a nearby college and he works as a stripper in one of the several all-male clubs in the city.

Several times I have seen him go to the Wednesday night novena praying to the Lady in the altar. Wednesdays are also the Big Night in the club where he dances, where “competitions” are held with prize money for the best performer. This was the one of those nights we’ve sat down to talk. It was late 2003.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Our PACIFIC RIM PARK PROJECT is definitely a go… 25 students from China, South Korea, the United States, Russia, Mexico and of course the Philippines are converging in Manila on May 3 and head off to Palawan on May 5. We will launch the park in Puerto Princesa on Saturday, May 30. We don’t know what it will look like yet, but we’re going to have a blast finding out!

To celebrate the opening, we’re finally realizing our OUTDOOR BANNER PROJECT on March 30. Just to give you a refresher, as part of CANVAS’ Looking for Juan program, we are organizing a group exhibit and are asking artists to produce original works on the theme of “What It Means to Be Filipino.” But we will also use the images to produce large tarpaulin banners that will then be exhibited in a public park or space (definitely now in Puerto Princesa on May 30, and in UP to line the Academic Oval with the banners in June just in time for opening of classes and Independence Day), so that people can also walk, enjoy and reflect upon them in a non-intimidating and relaxed environment.

After the end of the outdoor exhibit, we will take the banners and bring them to TrasheBolsas, a livelihood project that provides advice and assistance to poor local communities to transform used tarps into unique, strong, durable bags that would then be sold for charity. We’ve identified Padyak, a UP Mountaineers-led organization that promotes cycling and environmentalism in UP, as our main beneficiary for this project.

As for the original works, those that are submitted early or in time will be showcased on May 12 at the CCP. So far, participating artists include Daniel Aligaen, Mark Arcamo, Ral Arogante, Anton Balao, Plet Bolipata, Malyn Bonayog, Elmer Borlongan, Michael Cacnio, Buen Calubayan, Jef Carnay, Marika Constantino, Dansoy Coquilla, Don Dalmacio, Kawayan de Guia, Kidlat de Guia, Crisanto De Leon, Maan De Loyola, Farley del Rosario, Anthony Fermin, Tina Fernandez, Karen Flores, Emmanuel Garibay, Sajid Imao, Agang Maganda, Josue Mangrobang, Lotsu Manes, Roel Obemio, Jay Pacena II, Anthony Palomo, Jucar Raquepo, Iggy Rodriguez, Kirby Roxas, Mark Salvatus, Rodel Tapaya, Daniel Tayona, Wesley Valenzuela and some 20-30 students from the UP College of Fine Arts.

But we’re still inviting, waiting to hear and accepting more works from other artists and writers (so we can present their words on the Filipino identity on some of the banners as well), and those other works will be exhibited in various other venues in June as well. We hope to have gathered at least 100 participants by then.

It's all very very exciting!

* Submitted works by Josue Mangrobang, Daniel Aligaen, Mark Arcamo and Anton Balao.

If you're an artist and interested in joining, send an email to or log on here.


When Gigo called me to sit-in for him as jury in another thesis presentation of college kids, I was quizzical at first. Until he told me that it will be at my old alma mater - the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines, I immediately harped "sure". I thought it won't be a bad idea to visit my college after I left it since graduation and see the things that have or haven't changed - from the kids roaming its corridors, the old teachers, Mang Danny and Mang Boy (two administration guys who are the most sought after when the school year begins) and those huge tables at the studio arts building where everyone seemed to have carved his name, a drawing or nailed additional appendages. (I was disappointed a bit for that table wasn't there anymore)

When I arrived that morning, I immediately took a picture of the building...

... and I got lost. Apparently, since the last time I've been there, they've closed the front lobby doors and the road in front of it led to the Animal Clinic in the back! Shoots, I had to retrace my steps and find the college "entrance" at the back.

The minute I walked into the college building a flood of memories swamped my mind. I remember when one of my female classmates ran from our classroom screaming and banged into me head-on. She was mortified by the site of a lamb (yes, there was a flock of sheep in U.P. back then) peering into the window. There was also the time we laughed our heads off when we saw Gold being followed by Gretchen who kept on sniffing the former's shoulder as she walked. Gretchen's not human, she's a horse from the animal clinic that would sometimes roam the grounds of the the college, the same horse that would gallop along the hallway interrupting every class that's unfortunately being held that day. Or those days when they have nude sketching sessions in the main auditorium for anatomy classes. If the subject is a naked female model, the whole room will be filled with wide-eyed, eager college kids holding their sketchpads. And if you through scan the crowd, there would be some faces there that aren't even from the college.

Ahh, old college memories...

I met Totet de Jesus who ushered me to the room where the thesis presentations were to be done....

... and I met the three other people in the jury - Augie, Beth Parrocha and Ms. de Jesus. It was an interesting bunch; an excellent illustrator, an award-winning writer of children's stories, an editor-at-large and a cute book designer (me, hehehehe...)

There were more than a dozen students who presented their thesis projects for PUBLICATIONS FOR CHILDREN, and I'm showing some of them here.

Velissa Cardenas was the last one to show us her works. A story book series about heroes from Filipino epics and myths. We all agreed that her work was professionally put together.
Her illustrations were at par with the works of some of the best book illustrators I've seen and she laid out her pages quite neatly.

There are some small technical adjustments with her layout but otherwise, with a little bit more training, I might see much better things from this girl soon.

Oh, and what amazes me, like in every thesis presentation during that day, is the amount of research these guys and girls have put into finding the right problem to solve. There's a dearth of good children's books about our own myths and legends, and Velissa just made an excellent series about it.Ray Sunga's MAD LABS tickled me pink. He created a crazy, wacky and mad reading supplement for science subjects with a funny bungling scientist as its main character.
It looked like a mish-mash from a Discovery channel program (The other guys in the jury said so... me, I am not sure), Lane Smith and some European illustrator's style... but otherwise, it was a brave book that shows science can be fun... and crazy.I wish I had this when I was a kid.

Ma. Christina Sismundo's project was quite simple and elegant. It's one of those things when you'd say "Now, how come I didn't think of that?" She made a simple and small book of traditional folk songs she aptly titled SABAY-SABAY TAYO (Let's do it together). It's small, cheaply-made and can be widely distributed in public elementary schools...... the verses and stanzas are written on each page accompanied by cute illustrations. The second half of the book, the lyric sheets are written and nicely designed.
And it has a companion CD. She meant her project to be developed as a series of music books of the different cultures and languages in this country. Elegant. Simply elegant solution.

Clio Tantoco's book had us in stitches. She wrote and designed a book tracing the etymology of names of different places in the city and in the country.It adds a humorous way of instructing how certain places got its name. She accompanied it with journal-like illustration that makes every turn of a page an adventure. Brilliant.Romir Sucaldito's highly-targeted publication of a comic-book format English instructional for Koreans called SPEAK SMART was quite applauded. With the Philippines experiencing a deluge of Korean students learning English from our schools, the instructional material he designed is an excellent study supplement for English both for teachers and students. We all loved it, plus the fact that the kid looks like the spitting image of a popular local comic TV celebrity - Bitoy.I also like how Regina Salazar made a superb improvement on the lowly Math book. I do agree that math for every school age kid is interesting. The child's interest level lowers if the math materials presented are in a dull and monotonous manner. Her proposition, use CREATIVE TYPOGRAPHY IN MATH, which is laudable and exciting. I just hope a project like this is fully developed in the school system.If I were an 11-year old today and I get a hold of Jemimah Basilio's book IBA SI KUYA (Big brother is Different) I would say it's a cool kid's book about being Emo. I could fully relate to this 21st century revision of the Punk movement since I grew up in the 80's. But then again, I am not a kid and I am looking at her work as an adult... and I'd say it's pretty cool and funky. Plus the fact that this girl created magnificent illustrations for her book. Augie Rivera has an interest in her work. I figure he sees her potential for one of his stories.


It was a pretty tiring day of judging the works of all of these students, but it was worth it. The majority of them were very jittery during their individual presentations. One even cried when she heard the applause from all of us and some of the people in the "audience" for her excellent work. She even admitted that she thought she'd be penalized for being late in setting up her presentation (We didn't know she was late. We were busy smoking cigarettes outside in the hallway in between presentations when she went huffing and puffing into the room.) Another student sang a ditty before she began hers. Doing so, she made the point of her presentation more clear. I figured it also relaxed her.

But in toto, it was an exciting day. You can sense it in the air but as Beth Parrocha said,"It's exciting doing these thesis presentations. I (we) remember mine when I was still a student here. But I don't think it's something I'd like to go back to."

Hmmm, neither do I.

Note: Turns out all of us in the jury are alumni of U.P. When all the invited jury panelists from the other judging rooms were ushered for lunch in the faculty hall, it was like a mini-reunion of alumni from different batches. I felt old. Hahahaha...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


18" x 40",
pen and ink on paper,

, how long have you been buying art?" I asked Kerwin while walking to his office at the end of the hall.

"I've been buying these since I was in college," he replied as he ushered me through the door. "I'd save up my allowance and go through the galleries and check out the paintings. There's one particular artist whose work I really saved up for. His painting was the very first one I got. The orange one we passed."

"You mean the one hanging at your office lobby? THAT'S your first artwork? Man, his works cost an arm and a leg now, and you SAVED UP for it when you were in college? "

"Yup, and I worked hard for it, getting some odd jobs here and there. Besides, his works were still dirt cheap back then. Instead of hanging out, drinking beer and watching movies, I saved a bit and now I have THAT on my wall... and a host of other things too."

"You sure have a fortune here."

(Kerwin's a good friend who's built from scratch his own factory and business and is its C.E.O. An avid collector of modern art, he's also built a sizable and rather expensive collection that I would sometimes oggle during those few times I've hung around his office. Aside from his business, he's shrewdly made a good investment in these works of art.)


Don’t stash cash under the bed, buy art

By Jake Ramirez
Philippine Daily Inquirer

WHEN the market is down, buy. This is the maxim of those who have lots of cash. And if the late Yves Saint Laurent’s art collection auction is any indication, the record-high prices set by the designer and his partner Pierre Berge’s 733-piece art collection is really the sign of the times. On the first night alone of the three-day sale of what Christie’s dubbed as “Sale Of The Century,” it brought already $262 million, as if recession never existed. Piet Mondrian’s canvass composition dubbed avec blue, rouge and jaune et noir, which inspired YSL to create his iconic Mondrian dress, fetched $27,191,525, and on top of it, his art collection also included a Degas, Matisse, Cezanne, Manet, Gauguin and Picasso, among others. If people collected YSL’s designs, the designer collected arts in a very shopaholic way.

Once, I received a P20,000 cash gift from a former employer, and I did not know what I ate that day, but when I headed to the mall, I did not buy shoes nor bags. Instead, I bought two pieces of Juvenal Sanso from Gallerie Joaquin. I am sure those Sanso of mine do not cost P20,000 now, since art appreciates. And given a choice between an Hermes Birkin in crocodile-skin or an H.R. Ocampo canvass painting, I would choose the latter without batting an eyelash. Artworks are investment pieces just like designer bags, but unlike designer bags that you tend to use and abuse, you care for your art collections, even getting insurance just in case it gets stolen or, heaven forbid, a fire hits your place of dwelling.

For the past three years, Trickie Lopa, Liza Periquet and Yael Buencamino have been organizing Art In The Park, a bi-annual event where one can buy artworks starting at P20,000 or below. And as its tagline says, it brings affordable art out of the galleries and under the sun since Art In The Park is being held in Jaime Velasquez-Salcedo Park, next door to Salcedo Weekend Market. It was first held to coincide with the second-year anniversary of the weekend community market. The weekend market has become popular, and so has the Art In The Park. Last year, the group introduced Art After Dark, an evening exhibit under the stars. This year, art enthusiasts trooped again to shop for art pieces. The options were varied and prices were affordable; even art students from FEATI and FEU sold their artworks for a song. I was impressed with Jomike Tejido’s artworks, he used banig (native mats) instead of canvass for his paintings, which is very Filipino. Another young artist, Mia Herbosa, caught my attention. She is the great grand daughter of painters Alfonso Ongpin and national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Her still lifes are quite realistic and mute, with vivid colors of orchids rising from dark backgrounds.

Printmakers’ Association of the Philippines did a seminar on printmaking. Made mostly from metal or acrylic plates passing through a presser, prints sometime sell as much as actual paintings. Five signed prints were raffled off among the attendees. Art In The Park ended by two p.m. and everyone took this as their siesta break for Art After Dark, which started by five p.m. Bea Camacho’s ice carving, “Remember,” was the focal point and was very popular among kids who couldn’t help but touch the letter. White sphere lamps made by Bespoke gave the trees dotting the park a much-needed oomph, and the art connoisseurs snapped pieces with prices higher than P20,000 from Avellana Art Gallery and other galleries.

In this time of recession, art is a safe way to bet and speculate. Rather than hide one’s cash under the mattress, invest in excellent artworks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


(click the image above and it links you to online radio connection of DZRH)

I'm gonna be on radio. I'm gonna be on radio. (I am humming this while I am jumping up and down cooking breakfast.)

I opened my email yesterday and I received this...

We are pleased to confirm the allocation of the episode of our multi-media program, Kalikasan, Kaunlaran! (KK!) on March 25, 2009, Wednesday to the discussion of environment and book publishing.

KK! is aired live by DZRH-AM Radio and TV, with simultaneous broadcast through the Internet, at 6:30-7:30 PM. Call time is at 5:30 PM for our pre-broadcast meeting with you.

Our program is one of MBC/DZRH's top-rated programs nationwide for our prime time slot. It reaches about 2M listeners in the Philippines, from classes A to E, including faculty and students of colleges and universities, plus Global Filipinos/OFWs worldwide. We expect more to tune in our program now that is also in video form for TV and Internet.

Our program was recognized as one of the finalists for the Best Science and Technology radio programs in the country at both the 2007 and 2008 Golden Dove Awards of the KBP, the broadcast industry's main association. Its Host was also recognized as one of the finalists for the 2008 Best S&T Journalists.

Most recently the UN-initiated and Austrian government-sponsored World Summit Awards (WSA) for multi-media programs selected our program as Philippine winner for the category "e-Inclusion and Participation." We are now competing for the global award in this prestigious contest that aims to reduce the digital divide.

The discussion in our program is usually in conversational Pilipino and English. But we have also featured guests who do not speak Pilipino, e.g., Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover, French Ambassador Gerard Chesnel, and Guam Senator Judith Gutherz.

For this episode, we shall use both Pilipino and English.


I'm going to be on radio and TV. Wow. I just hope I won't sound like some tweedle-dee dum over the airwaves or look like a whale on TV. Leaping lizards!

Seriously, I'd be sitting in with Karina Bolasco (a highly admired lady for her contributions to book publishing and children's book writing) and we'll be talking about BOOKS. Wooohooo!!

Tune in at 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (Manila time), March 29, 2009 at DZRH and find out more about what we do at CANVAS.

Okay, I'm going back to painting. This blog has been bereft of images for quite sometime. I need to finish these new works I am doing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Pen and ink sketch on 8.5 x 11 recycled paper

This study/sketch is for a new painting I am putting up for a group show called Kristo to be mounted for exhibit this Holy Week. I've begun the painting yesterday, and hopefully, my next post will be why I did this.

I call this one "Panata ng Magdalena" (The Pledge of the Magdalene).

Watch out... for the painting. :-)

(Note: I did this while I was hanging out in the courtyard of Baclaran Church)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Last Sunday, we (meaning the people behind canvas) had a book launch of CANVAS TALES - 3 Ecofables for Children. It was a fun afternoon for the kids and adults who came. Am posting some of the pictures here, courtesy of Sheila and Gigo's facebook. I stole these from them. Hehehe...

Nothing dampens the spirit of Ali (Gigo's youngest daughter) even if the afternoon heat outside was so oppressive. Dressed in pink, she was like a tiny butterfly flitting to and fro the whole place always grinning and laughing.

That's also how we set up the gallery in the background. Some of the original paintings and prints of the images from the book were hung for everyone to see.

Liza Flores (in white) is the wonderful lady who did the images for STAR THROWER in the book. And that's me making a bet with Ali that if she beats me in rocks, scissors and paper she can ride on my back and be her neighing "horsey" for that afternoon. Luckily, I won.

Liza (above) and Plet (photo below) signing the book for the two brothers - Paolo and Patrick...

... while I was busy making the pitch that this book was designed by an excellent book designer... ahem, me. :-)

Delan reads a letter sent by Paul Aird from Canada, the author of The King and the Royal Trees.

Nothing gives me more pleasure to know that every time I design a children's book, it becomes dog-eared and frayed later on. Why? because I know that the child who owns the book reads it.
Here it is being read in front of a group of these kids during the launch.

Emong (Elmer Borlongan) signs a copy of another book I designed - The Rocking Horse - for an avid fan of his works while Plet poses with a shirt printed with an image of her painting - I Am Doing What I Can.

Some of the kids brought along their puppy.

Some of the kids brought along their mommies.

While some brought their daddies and granddaddies.

I ended up being Ali's monkey bar after I lost in our rocks, scissors, paper challenge. At least she didn't make me neigh this time.

The whole affair was fun. Lots of food. Lots of laughter. Great people. Great art. And lots of shrieking happy kids. I do hope to see the book 3 CANVAS TALES in every kid's book shelf with the rest of the books from Canvas.

Here's a shameless promotion:

The book - 3 CANVAS TALES sell for PhP800.00 (about 16 dollars). It is well-thought of and designed (I'd say one of the best I've designed for Canvas)... and is a keeper of a book. It can be bought online at (also with our other books) or at 1/OF Gallery in Serendra, Taguig City.

On Saturday, March 14th, we'll be joining Art in the Park to be held the whole day at Salcedo Park in Makati, do drop by and check out the Canvas booth.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


This volume is an anthology Francisco Arcellana's works containing the most number of his stories in one book. Published by the U.P. Creative Writing Center under the directorship of Prof. Amelia Lapena-Bonifacio way back in 1989. Book Design by Bernie Solina. I remember doing the drawing for the cover of the book using a charcoal pencil.

...and that's what he wrote on the first page. I've kept this copy for more than 20 odd years.

I love books. When given the choice of choosing which to buy – a pair of pants I sorely need or a good book, I would choose the latter. A body can be naked and is defined as beautiful, but a naked, empty mind is a tragedy.

The first time I remember holding a book was the day my mother brought home a small bundle that morning she came from school. I was five years old then and in a few days I’d be walking down the street in my crisp, newly starched and ironed white shirt and dark blue shorts with a batallion of similarly dressed children of my age to begin a new life called Kindergarten.

She laid the bundle on the floor and I excitedly went for it. I grabbed the one on top. It was a big orange book with white letters on the cover. They looked quite familiar and I traced with my stubby finger a capital A and thought that this looks much better than the one my mother would trace with a felt tip pen on brown craft paper. It also had a picture underneath it of a big red apple. Now, this apple definitely looks much better than the one my mother drew. In fact, all the pictures and illustrations in it was a definite improvement of what I got used to with my mother’s drawings. It was also around that time that I started to draw my first apple.

I was ten when I read my first non-picture book. It was Charles Dicken’s unabridged version of A Tale of Two Cities. Dog-eared and frayed on the edges, it was a very dusty affair that I found stuck behind a cabinet in our old house. Bound in black cloth and embossed with gold letters on the cover, I leafed through it and was mesmerized by the jumble of words typed on every leaf of the book. But it wasn’t just the magnificence of the words flowing on every page that amazed me; it was the smell of the book paper. It was that same combined smell of book paper and printer’s ink that would later bring me back again and again to the school’s library. When I took a whiff of that book, I knew I had to read it.

It took me about a few weeks to finish reading Dickens. With the help of a big dictionary, a pissed off mother who I kept on badgering to bring me to London (as if it was just a train ride away) and Mrs. De la Rosa, our grade school librarian who seems to be pregnant every year. She allowed me to rummage through Funk and Wagnalls, Encyclopedia Americana and Britannica even way beyond school hours to give me a clearer picture of Dicken’s Victorian-era London. Even when she would be locking herself up with Mang Ed the maintenance guy in her office, she’d let me stay at the back end of the library to read. She’d just call out my name when she’s done with her business with him and I would hurriedly mark the page I was reading to return to it the next day.

At thirteen, I discovered a treasure trove of adult reading my older brother was hiding in his bed. He had several Playboy and Penthouse magazines neatly stuck inside the mattress I accidentally discovered while I was looking for my journal that I was sure he had stolen again. (Later I found out I left it on my desk at school and became widely read after a classmate decided to share it with the rest of our class.)

I turned every eye-popping page after another oggling at pictures of women at varying poses of undress, and lustfully, to my teenager’s eyes, I’ve bitten into the forbidden fruit of knowledge. To avoid being caught by my brother for stealing and reading his precious collection and an equally dangerous mother who I sure would freak out if she finds me even holding them, I would sneak into the bathroom, lock the door and there I’d eagerly look at the pictures and read the articles and stories, lapping every word with pleasure.

It was during one of those ventures of groping inside my brother’s mattress to find more carnal literature when I discovered a thick pocketbook with a closely cropped picture of a naked couple in a tight embrace. I leafed through it and thought that this would take some time for me to read considering the thickness of the tome. And for several afternoons, while my brother was at school, I would return to his bed, sneak out that book and retreat inside the bathroom to read it until the last page. But unlike the Playboy magazines I read, this book had more magic than carnality – of a woman ascending towards heaven borne in the wings of a thousand butterflies, of a man who was tied to a tree to be eaten by ants and a daguerreotype with images of half-naked American Indians. Unwittingly, I was reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, the same novel that my classmates struggled through when I got into college. They had to read it because it was part of a course requirement in English Lit. I read it because at thirteen I thought it was a porn novel.


When I turned seventeen and a sophomore in college, I met Francisco Arcellana. He reminded me of my scholarly looking Tito Sinforoso with his thick glasses, shrub of white hair on his head and shaky voice. “So, you’re the young man who made the drawing for the cover of my book,” he told me in his halting voice. “Yes, sir,” I said sheepishly in the presence of this giant in Filipino literature written in English.

I first read his short story (where, I don’t remember anymore) A Death in the Factory in high school. In just one page, he captured the sheer helplessness of a widowed young wife as she was handed a few measly pesos for the death of her husband in a factory accident. It was so powerful it moved me, and I’ve kept it in my memory as my most favorite piece of written literature. And there I was, at that moment, tiny and young, in front of an overwhelming pillar of a writer.

“Sir, I read in the introduction of your book that you were sixteen when you wrote A Death in the Factory?” I shyly asked.

“Yes, that is right,” he said as he took out a pen to write on his salutations for me on the first page.

“Uhm, it is my most favorite story… sir,” I said as I cleared my throat of phlegm for the umpteenth time.

“I am glad. And I am more glad that you caught the spirit of my stories in your drawing,” he said with an old man’s smile as he handed me back my copy with his written note in it.

Through the years since I first held a book I was part of designing, I’ve always held the idea that someday, I’ll be doing more of these. I’ve also held the thought that if I can’t be a writer, I’ll design great books.

I still smile every time I see the cover of this sophomoric work and read the words the writer scribbled in the inner page for me.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009


This is one of those moments when I figure I have to take a bit of time off from drawing or painting and put my neurons into something I used to do - advertising design and copywriting.

Teddy, the florist, is joining this big wedding and bridal trade fair and he asked me to design a flier for him. It's the usual half-bond paper size affair with a random smattering of pictures with some text that simply indicated the contact numbers and name of the florist.

"Give me that and I'll cook up something that people will take some time to read and actually sell you as an excellent florist," I told him.

After half a day of sitting in front of the computer, composing some lines and laying out the images of his excellent floral designs I filched from his hard drive, I came up with a simple flier above.

"Eeek, Dan... I like it. It's so sosyal," he screeched.

"Well, I hope when people read that they'd buy more of your great bouquets and you have more business," I uttered. I was actually thinking, "Hmmm, I'm kinda rusty in the copy writing department, but it still is there."

I also did his blue logo which I figured would make a neat button. He likes it.

Oh, for those reading this post, do come at the launch of the book (I am sounding repetitive) EARTH TALES - 3 Ecofables for Children. It's on March 8, Sunday at 3 p.m. at 1/OF Gallery in Serendra.

If you have kids... bring them. :-)