Monday, April 25, 2011


There are two women - as far as contemporary pop music is concerned - that I admire a lot. And that's Macy Grey and Katy Perry. And there are two things that I do every time my brain hits a blank wall - dance and cook.

I couldn't move this computer to show me cooking so I'll just dance to the tunes of these two women.

(I think I look like a bald bull going amuck on the second video. Okay, I'd better get back to work.)

Monday, April 18, 2011


48"x 48"
acrylic on canvas

"I usually avoid relatives who come for a visit from abroad and come bearing gifts," I admitted rather drily to my high school mate as we shared a table during recess.

"They always give these K-Mart or Walmart-bought things and declare that they're the latest in fashion. Like last time, my mom asked me to wear this pair of cheap canvas shoes that were made in Korea brought by a distant cousin from Canada. It even had a price tag on and it's a dollar worth. I felt like a refugee being given a relief item." He nodded in agreement while munching on a burger.

That distant memory brought me a slight pang of guilt. For a teenager who was more concerned with what’s the latest in fashion, reads Teen Beat, catches the latest episodes of American shows on TV and swings to the songs of the B-52 or Billy Idol, getting these ‘balikbayan gifts’ from my US-based relatives were also a tedious affair of having to show grateful smiles and that robotic, forced ‘thank you’ I never meant.

“Don’t they actually get to read what’s on the latest trends and what is cool? They’re already in America for Pete’s sakes,” I would say that to myself beneath my sighs as I open these dime-store cheap gifts.

I have, like many households in our old neighborhood in Balic-Balic, have tons of relatives in abroad, mainly in the North American continent. Most of them have set foot in the U.S. and Canada by way of marrying an American/Canadian citizen, or waiting for years for that sponsored migration from other relatives. Many a time they’d be coming straight from the provinces then into the land of milk and honey, never setting foot in the big city. The bright lights of, say, New York, Toronto or Los Angeles would be dazzling for many of them who are more accustomed to the whizzing of the mosquitoes in the dark and the light coming from the single naked lightbulb. Most of these relatives are themselves escapees from the poverty that was prevalent back then in their lives - the kind of life my own parents have shielded us from.

It was only years later when I realized that for every dollar’s worth of gift they’d send us back here in Manila, it was, for them, equivalent to thousands of pesos they never could have had here if they stayed.

But among these relatives of mine who’d send us gifts, one stood out. She’s my Tita Bong (or Aunt Nelly) who worked for years, not in North America, but in the Middle East. The youngest sister of my mother, she was also wet nurse to my younger brother and I when we were babies.

I always look forward every time she’d fly in for vacation and would eagerly open the gifts she had for us in her bulging luggage. I was 13, when she gave me a pair of Bali shoes. I had no idea that they were adult shoes but I could tell it was expensive. The leather felt really nice and the heels were sturdy. The best part of it was, while everyone was wearing the standard Marikina-made shoes, mine was BALI - the same brand of shoes I once saw in an ad in a glossy men’s fashion magazine. Or that time when she gave me a pair of really cool Levi’s when I was 16. They fit me so well and it was the latest cut from the jeans maker that I became a hit in school. I remember sneaking out of our house one school weekend wearing those jeans so I could go to Mars disco in Makati to be with the cool kids. It felt good to be a cool kid in those jeans.

The year I turned 18 was also the last year when she came in from abroad. She had decided to come back for good and eventually settle in our home province in Iloilo.

“Oh, there,” she said as she pointed to a pair of sleek, light-grey-bluish canvas shoes with leather heels, “That’s a pair of shoes my boss’s youngest son wore when he went to a disco in Paris. He only used it once and I found it the next day in the trash bin. He said somebody else wore the same pair.” My eyes went round in excitement when I saw how cool the shoes looked and was already imagining in my mind that it’d go well with a pair of black jeans I was thinking of wearing on my next disco escapade.

“Wait, Tita. Somebody else owned these shoes?” I asked her while caressing the shoes.

“Of course! What do you think? I’ll buy those ridiculously expensive things? I clean the rooms of my boss’ sons and if they put something in the trash bin, I would get those and bring them back here,” she said. I was dumbstruck. All these times, I was getting things other people already wore and threw away?! And to think, I belittle the cheap, but newly bought ones I get from my other relatives from the States.

I suppose she saw how my hands were slowly putting down the shoes when she added, “But I save the best ones for you though. I know you hate getting cheap stuff and you also have better taste than your other cousins. And besides, do you think you will ever have a relative who can afford to give you those things as gifts, even if they’re secondhand? Aber…?”

She has a point. And I always wore those things she gave me as if they’re the most expensive things in the world. Because in all honesty, to my young mind, they really were.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Check our campaign at CANVAS to gather 4,000 USD by the end of the April from at least 50 donors. We aim to raise this amount to publish collections of our award-winning stories and give to 3,000 children in the Philippines.

It's a worthwhile CANVAS Project with GLOBAL GIVING that you can check out, give and spread the word about.

Here's a short video on the project:

Friday, April 8, 2011


OFFERING (study)
ink on 125g/m2 grained paper
11.75" x 16.5"
April 2011

acrylic on canvas
15" x 15"
April 2011

A small work I did a few days ago for KRISTO - the annual Lenten exhibit.
(I actually prefer the study on paper I drew. I decided to remove the bird and put thorns on the heart.)


'Kristo,' both a Lenten and art ritual, returns this year
by Junio De Los Reyes

Since 2005, artist Salvador “Buddy” Ching and Delan Robillos of The Artery Manila have been presenting the “Kristo Manila” Lenten exhibitions which offered viewers a venue, via the visual arts, for reflection and meditation in observance of the Holy Week. The well-received shows were held annually until 2009 when it became necessary to review the shows’ objectives. Though the public welcomed the addition to other Holy Week traditions, it seemed that the endeavor was seen by some as just a commercial opportunity. Thus, the two exhibit pioneers opted to give the exhibit a rest last year.

This year, Ching and Robillos are bringing back “Kristo Manila.” To stress on refocusing, it shall simply be titled “The Offering.”

“This is to remind everyone that the creation of the artworks and appreciating these are part of the Lenten offering and reflection,” Robillos said.

Participating artists are Leonard Aguinaldo, Hermes Alegre, Conneth Amido, Felix Amoncio, Mark Arcamo, Anton Balao, London-based artist Yveese Belen, Gerrico Blanco, Franklin Caña, Ross Capili, Roen Capule, Salvador Ching, Salvador Convocar, Farley Del Rosario, Anna De Leon, Robert Deniega, Ferdinand Doctolero, Shalimar Gonzaga, Jaime Gubaton, Cathy Lasam, Dante Lerma, Norlito Meimban, Agang Maganda, Francisco Nacion, Roel Obemio, Singapore-based artist Wilfredo Offemaria, Jr., Danny Pangan, Jill Arwen Posadas, Omi Reyes, Jef Samonte, Aner Sebastian, Ojing Señara, Janelle Tang, Rex Tatlonghari, Palma Tayona, Jomike Tejido, Migs Villanueva, Orly Ypon, and Pinggot Zulueta.

''This is our way of using our talent to pay tribute to the true Master,'' said Ching, who put together the first Kristo (Malolos) show in Bulacan in 2001.

Simultaneously, Kristo (Malolos) shall open on April 13, 2011 and will run for a month at the Museo ng Bulacan located at the Malolos capitol while Kristo Manila is slated from April 11 to 30, 2011 at the Looking for Juan (L4J) Art Space in Serendra, Bonifacio Global City. L4J Art Space (formerly 1/of Gallery) is owned and operated by Center for Art, New Ventures, and Sustainable Development (CANVAS), a non-profit organization that promotes Philippine art through exhibitions and the publication of children's books. Changing the gallery’s name from 1/of to L4J is in keeping with CANVAS’s thrust of furthering causes such as defining the Filipino identity and free expression.

“L4J is meant not only to be a venue for exploration of and dialogue on what it means to be Filipino, but also what it takes to be a proud one,” CANVAS executive director Gigo Alampay explained.

Part of cultural pride is the strength of belief in tradition, not the least of which are spiritual practices. This makes L4J Art Space an even more fitting venue for Kristo Manila 2011.

The exhibit’s offering shall go to CANVAS’s ongoing initiative to work with The Global Giving Foundation to bring its children's books to public schools and children's hospitals throughout the Philippines. For more information on how you can help, please visit CANVAS' GLOBAL GIVING PROJECT.

***An edited version of this article was published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on pages E1 and E2 of the Lifestyle Section on Monday, April 4, 2011.


To Those Who Get to Read My Blog,

Hope all is well with you. I am writing to solicit your help and to tell you about an opportunity/activity that CANVAS is presently pursuing. Details below.

Any help you can give - even just to forward this email and get the word out to your friends/contacts about this campaign - will be greatly appreciated. :-)



Hi, I work with The Center for Art, New Ventures & Sustainable Development (CANVAS), a nonprofit that is committed to promoting greater awareness and appreciation for Philippine art and culture, principally through the publication of original children's books written and illustrated by some of the finest young Filipino writers and artists today.

Our books - to the extent that they help inspire children to read and gain independent learning skills - are also our modest way of contributing to efforts to improve literacy and education here in the Philippines. Since we were founded in 2005, we have published 10 full color children's books, some of which have gone on to garner critical praise and prestigious awards including the Gintong Aklat Award and the National Book Award.

To make both the stories and the art truly affordable and accessible, especially to teachers and overseas Filipinos, we have also made them all freely downloadable as e-books on our

Just recently, we were selected by the GlobalGiving Foundation to participate in its Open Challenge, a fundraising opportunity for nonprofit organizations working around the world.

In order to succeed in
GlobalGiving’s Open Challenge, CANVAS must raise $4,000 from 50 donors by April 30, 2011. If we meet this threshold, we will be given a permanent spot on GlobalGiving’s website, where we have the potential to benefit from corporate relationships, exposure to a new donor network, and access to dozens of online fundraising tools.

Please help us reach the threshold of $4,000 from 50 donors! Be one of the first people to make a donation at
CANVAS' GLOBAL GIVING PAGE. Not only will your donation help to inspire children to read (and love reading!) but, it will help us take advantage of a long-term fundraising opportunity!

We’re also going to need your help spreading the word! Please share this opportunity with your friends and family!

Please let me know, too, if you have any ideas or suggestions for how we can move forward better with this campaign.

Thank you for your support!

The Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (CANVAS)

Thursday, April 7, 2011


ink and gouache on paper
9.5" x 13"
KOKURYU Japanese sketchpad
February 2011

Sometimes, even if I’ve told myself I don’t regret, I still do.

I regret…

…that I don’t get to visit my father as much as I should. He doesn’t remember anymore that he has sons. He only mentions my mother’s name even if she’s right in front of him.

…taking another big scoop of creamy double chocolate ice cream when I have already told myself that one is enough. Tomorrow I would see ‘the bulge’ of my midsection not being any smaller as I’ve planned it would a month ago.

…not giving the lady my seat in the train and pretending to be asleep. I said to myself, “but there were other women standing like her”, except she’s the only heaving two big bags from her shoulders.

…sneering at the overly chirpy female fastfood crew simply because I was having a bad day.

…those times when I said ‘yes’ when I really meant ‘no’.

…not hearing mass for the past two years because I had an argument with a priest about condoms, sexuality and religious ambiguity. I still see him officiating mass and I doubt if I’d ever go near the church again with him there.

…being cynical. I should have more faith in people.

…being too careful when I should be taking a little bit more risk.

And now I find myself feeling regret for having written this. I have no idea how to type in a proper end.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


ink and watercolor on paper
11.75" x 16.5"
(As my father slips into the abyss of his Alzheimer's... I remember.)

The black traveling bag was marked ‘T-shirts ni Tatay’. It’s one of those canvas overnight bags with wheels business people would use whenever they’d scoot from one airport to another, the same one my brother used when he went to Singapore for a month. I could still see the airline’s baggage sticker stuck on the lower side of it. I turned it upside down and saw his name written next to the right wheel. Oddly enough, my father and brother share the same name – David. And now it contains the senior David’s shirts.

And now, it is sitting here, on the floor, in my apartment.

My mother asked me to store it together with some other boxes from our old house. Left here by the movers, this black bag containing some of my father’s old shirts seems to carry within it more than just ‘things’. It carries with a few stories that I remember of him. Vividly I remember three shirts.

I remember the brown sport shirt with white stripes and gartered sleeves he always wear back when he still played golf. I know it’s his favorite, so that time one of the sleeves got caught on a piece of wire poking from the wall of his office, he asked my mom to sew it instead of buying a new one. I would, on occasion, borrow that same shirt when I’d be meeting my high school friends to watch a movie. My mother would scold me if she catches me wearing dad’s brown shirt, “Baka naman maghalo na kayo ng amoy ng kilikili ng tatay mo nyan!” (You and your father might begin to share the same armpit smell!)

There was also this set of white V-necked undershirts he’d be wearing when he’d have his short-sleeved button polos on. I was a small kid when I would remember how I would cuddle up to him in front of the living room’s black and white TV with the dial that my older brother would poke a match stick on to prevent it from slipping and losing the channel we were watching. I could smell the mixture of cigarette smoke, Old Spice cologne, day-long sweat and the Three Flowers pomade on those white undershirts, and it always… always makes me feel just right.

The complimentary t-shirts emblazoned with the logo of Wack Wack Golf and Country Club where my father spent more than thirty years of his professional life would always bring back memories of long, heated conversations he’d have with Tito Canuto – his younger brother who also spent most of his years in the same company. My father is a very patient man, kind and soft-spoken. Us - his sons - never heard him raise an angry voice, even at my older brother’s worst discretions. But it is a different story every time Tito Canuto comes over for a visit. It would begin as a mild conversation of “how are you’s” and would, in an instant, turn into fist-banging on the tabletop and a raised voice, usually from my father. From a mild-mannered, quiet Bicolano, talking with Tito Canuto turns my father into a loud, irritated Italian trying to make a point to the former. Usually, their conversation would only quiet down when my mother comes over and lays a hand on my father’s shoulder to offer the two of them some hot coffee.

The black bag is here and I still am too reluctant to open and check what’s inside, fearful that when I do, I might not rise up without me either shedding a tear or grinning a fond smile… for my father.