Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Doggy Life

Exactly a week ago today, Bogart, our family's mini pin, went missing. I slipped out of the house early that Saturday to catch the bus to Baguio to make it to the opening of “Produce from the Garden” at Cafe by the Ruins (still up on its walls are our lip-smacking paeans to fruits, herbs, vegetables, favorite ulam and desserts, all things that sustain our lives).

I wasn't aware of anything unusual until I got an urgent SMS from my sister while the bus traversed Tarlac asking if I had seen or heard Bogart before departing. No, I answered, but I heard him wailing a short while the night before— his usual lament for his mistress, my kid sister Gigi, because she wasn't home at her usual hour. But I dismissed the sound

Earlier, I made a mental note to use Bogart for a future subject for a painting. His “austere dignity”, to borrow poet Denise Levertov's phrase, never fails to impress me, especially when he sits very still on his haunches, his head up, his eyes looking past the window, his ears like antennae, keen to the sound of the car as it turns left on our street with Gigi at the wheel. Mommy calls him a good guard dog because he yelps non-stop when he picks up the scent of strangers at our gate.

Because I was too far to be of any help in the neighborhood-wide search for him, I texted that they post a picture of him in Facebook. This social network has helped others find their missing pets. Gigi managed to compose an emotional email with a photo of Bogart attached. She sounded like she was saying goodbye, giving him up for lost.

My youngest brother Eric got a rude awakening that Saturday when he heard the news. Without even splashing water on his face, he dashed out, going from street to street, alley to alley of Barangay Kapitolyo, calling out Bogart's name. Another sister recounted how Eric would return home just to quaff his thirst, catch his breath a few minutes. Then he went out to resume the search.

Later in the day, Gigi thought of telling the security guards to spread the word that she was offering a cash reward for information leading to Bogart's recovery. She went in to shower. She wasn't done toweling her body dry when the doorbell rang, and a street urchin came forward with information. The child had seen someone catch the dog when he wiggled his small body free from the fence railing and jumped to what he must've thought was freedom.

Because Bogart can be fierce and noisy, the captor put him in a sack and brought him to a new home. Gigi was led to the place. From her account, it was blighted, filthy and dark, a narrow passageway allowing one person at a time to pass through. There a man reeking of alcohol met her and demanded P200 for Bogart's release. He kept the dog in a bird's cage.

Gigi paid up, he asked for more, but once Bogart was handed over, she left, silently furious.

Yesterday I called to ask how dog and mistress were doing. Gigi said Bogart has shown signs of trauma, fearful and shaking at the sight of strange men when they go out for walks.

I impulsively said, “He might need the services of a dog whisperer.”

I could feel Gigi brightening up on the end of the line: “You know of one?”

I told her I was kidding. I've heard of horse whisperers but no one for dogs yet.

Bogart has been the center of everyone's attention since his return. Bruno, the playful, spirited mini pug, doesn't mind playing secondary actor to this little drama.

I imagine there must be double poignancy when Gigi calls out to Bogart and Bruno when she leaves for work each day, “Be good boys now. Take care of each other and the people at home. See you later. When I get back from work, we’ll play.”

Photo above shows Kimi Fernandez carrying Bogart a few days before he went missing. Lower photo, Bogart in his green shirt on St. Francis Day

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Home Works for the Lluch and Dalena Women

 For Julie Lluch, one of the Philippines’ top sculptors, home truly works as proven by her and her three daughters in their first family exhibition at Alliance Francaise in Makati City.

Initially resistant to the idea of a family show, Lluch, 64, a philosophy alumna of the University of Santo Tomas, said: “I found the proposed concept of a family show the corniest thing. But as Alliance president Deanna Ongpin was very forceful in convincing us and we started to work, we found the idea not so cheesy anymore.”

Lluch, Sari, Aba and Kiri Dalena are known in Manila’s art circle as among the most stylish dressers and bold experimenters in their respective media. So going corny would be the path not taken.

The agreement was to pursue each one’s preferred direction, but as their pieces evolved, the reality set in that they are indeed a family, “always together, working parallel, sourcing, referencing, referring and referring to each other,” the mother said.

There was the obvious: Aba, Kiri and Julie live in the same four-storey house in Quezon City. Sari, married and a mother of two, resides nearby.

Lluch said: “We know each other intimately. I feel blessed to be their mother. Art seems so natural to them. I never thought I’d have a doctor in the family. We understand each other better because we move in the same art community. Sometimes, I wish one of us can cook well or can nurse when one of us is ill.”

The four women arrived at the title “Home Works,” the name of an earlier show Aba had. This latest one however does not refer to the job or assignment they had to do at their home studio but to the idea that their home life does work for all.

“In this show, I realized that we are our most comfortable and boldest selves,” Lluch said. “When the pieces were installed, I saw that the content was very sexual.”

Aba has a sculpture of dogs copulating. Kiri has gigantic condoms that could also be interpreted as breasts. Sari filmed, with her husband Keith Sicat’s assistance, a portrait of herself in the bloom of pregnancy, baring her body to the camera while floating in a pool.

When Lluch voiced aloud her observation, Sari said: “You’re the boldest, Mom. You’re the original.”

Sari, 40, a film studies graduate of the University of the Philippines, was jittery about her video being viewed by her father-in-law on opening night, but her sisters and mother affirmed her.

She said: “Afterwards, I didn’t need affirmation from elsewhere. We have lots of fun teasing each other.”

She credited Lluch for “giving us lots of freedom.”

Lluch’s oil painting “Self-portrait,” done in 1972, was shown for the first time. Sari was always mystified about it as a child, but she realized the depth of its subject matter when she became a mother. It shows Julie, pregnant with a second child and minding an unseen baby in a crib, waiting for her spouse to come home.

Sari said: “I related to it when I started waiting up for my husband and for the baby to be born. Sometimes, I find myself torn between raising a family and making films. What Mom painted was a good example of how to avoid post-partum depression by creating artworks or continuing working. Otherwise, you go crazy.”

Aba, 38, a UP fine arts graduate, created a series of dioramas about family life. One showed her father, painter Danilo Dalena painting. Another had her and her sisters engaged in child’s play (she drawing, Sari on the piano, and Kiri with a bundle about to run away from home). The third portrayed her mother surrounded by her cacti sculpture series. What unified the dioramas was the presence of one of their dogs in each as these pets were considered family, too.

Kiri, 34, who finished human ecology at UP Los Baños, agreed: “Home has held us all together.”
Her contributions referred to the condom sculptures and risqué-worded t-shirts her dad made in her childhood. For example, he had a shirt that said: “Key king math thumb book.” In Tagalog, these words read: “bulbous vagina.”

Kiri’s neon-lighted sculpture used the same play of words, this time poking fun at the male genitalia. Hers read: “Teeth thing mall lamb bought.” InFilipino, it means “soft penis.”

She also showed “Penis Line,” small, finger-sized penises in various positions of arousal and state of rest. She considered it ironic that while making these, she was working on a documentary on abortion.

To her, joining “Home Works” wasn’t all that hard. She said: “It was just about being yourself, being relaxed and at ease, except for Mom who issued constant reminders to us to finish our works on schedule.”

Just like a family, indeed.

Photo of Julie (in checkered skirt), family and blogger by GARI BUENAVISTA

Article originally published by VERA Files

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pacquiao, Licad, Macuja & Other Tales of Heroism

 For the nth time, I'm ceding this space to Pablo Tariman. Last night, I came home from "FILMhamoniKa," conductor Gerald Salonga and his FILarmoniKA Orchestra's last performance in their concert season, a real jab at popularity because they selected memorable music from the movies. The repeated ovations for the young music director, his equally young orchestra and guest vocalist Bituin Escalante are a positive sign for orchestral music's future. 

Walking back to the car park, I thought aloud to my concert companions how Salonga could follow Leonard Bernstein's footsteps (his Joy of Music and his Young People's Concert series helped  popularize the classics among American children by using the then young medium of television). I noticed three videographers onstage recording the entire concert at Philamlife auditorium and took their presence to mean that "FILMharmoniKa" will soon air on TV. That means a wider audience can be reached. 

Salonga is a good communicator. He is not shy about turning to face the audience between numbers to pick up the mic and annotate a piece before it is performed. It is a format that will help create and mold a new audience that will consider concert-going a vital part of their lives. 

My hope is in his 2011 season, he will add, pound for pound, more classics in the orchestra's repertoire. May he strike a balance between crowd-pleasers like last night's "Star Wars Suite," "James Bond Theme," among others, and the musical wealth of the ages that is little seen and heard live. We see the makings of another sort of champion if he achieves this.

By Pablo A. Tariman
 "It’s an outrage and a total disgrace to pay a boxer a million dollars just to have him punch someone on the nose while musicians can hardly make a living. Even if I were given a ticket to the Ali-Frazier fight, I wouldn’t see it it.” --  Antonia Brico, American conductor in during a 1975 presscon in Manila

“With deep concern for his millions of fans around the world, Pacquiao may have to ‘let go’ of an opportunity to finish the ‘Tijuana Tornado’ early in the fight and prolong the action up to the later rounds in order to put entertainment into the fight.”
      --  A sports writer covering the Pacquaio-Margarito fight  in Texas

The Pacquiao-Margarito fight in Texas, USA, once more put to  test the strength and status of the Filipino boxer as the greatest boxing hero for all time.

Pacquiao’s greatness is witnessed in  less than two hours--sometimes less than 30-minutes--by  millions all over the world every time he faces a new opponent.

Coming from a poor family who has seen the many humiliating faces of poverty, Pacquiao has found a way out of third world status by boxing his way to world fame.

Aside from his superhero status, he has amassed untold wealth, dizzying fame and  adulations and has conveniently metamorphosed from boxer  to product endorser,  aspiring singer, actor and now congressman of his Mindanao province. He is husband to a beautiful wife, father to healthy children and a good son to a mother who brought him up despite her own economic and marital woes in the past.

From the way he was and is now, Pacquiao is a role model , a legitimate boxing hero and a candidate for greatness which many think he acquired already.

Do other Filipinos acquire fame and fortune and qualities of greatness the way Pacquiao did.?

If the boxing glove was Pacquao’s instrument, the power of the pen was Jose Rizal’s  greatest weapon and he used it to expose the atrocities of the Spanish rulers and in the process  acquired greatness and a national hero status.

But if there are heroes in the boxing arena, there are also unsung heroes in the performing arts.

Iloilo-born Filipino tenor Otoniel Gonzaga was reaping  audience adulation in Vienna  as Calaf in Turandot and as Bacchus in the  Strauss opera, Ariadne auf Naxus and todate remains the only Filipino tenor who has sung the Verdi opera, Otello.

Another Filipino opera singer  from Morong, Rizal, Arthur Espiritu, made history by becoming the first Filipino tenor to make it at La  Scala di Milan (the Mandalay Stadium of opera) in 2007. Some 67 years ago, a Filipino baritone by the name of Jose Mosessgeld Santiago Font made the same conquest in La Scala  in  the year 1932.

Recently, Lea Salonga  was again the toast of  England and the millions of tv viewers as she sang in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables in London where she was the first Filipina to sing the lead part of that musical.  She is the first Filipina actor to receive  both the Olivier and Tony Awards in theater.

Of late, a 46-year old ballerina in the person of Lisa Macuja Elizalde got steady and consistent acclaim for her roles in Giselle, Don Quijote and lately, Le Corsaire. She happens to be the first and  last Filipino soloist (in fact, the first foreigner)  of Kirov Ballet where  the imminent Mikhail Baryshnikov  and Natalia Makarova came from.

After her triumphs in several continents, Cecile Licad again made waves in Michigan and Germany with her Chopin No. 1. Now headed for Russia where she will become the first Filipino soloist of the Russian State Orchestra, Licad is  also the first Filipino to get the Leventritt Gold Medal in New York (the same medal that went to  Van Cliburn and Gary Graffman) and was adjudged by a New York Times critic  Harris Goldsmith  as a new member of the  league of the world’s greatest pianists.

For their own brand of heroism, these artists deserve more than token notice from the government. They will never enjoy a pay-per view income, only a few can buy several luxury cars and mansions and their highly acclaimed performances will not get congressmen booking flights abroad for their performances.

Which bring us to reflect on the plight of artists with no millions in pre-performance contracts. They have had to make do with modest fees compared to million of dollars of world boxing champs.

Once again, let’s cheer Manny Pacquiao for the nth time for the extraordinary brain and brawn he  has shown in this Sunday's fight.

But for once, we should also remember that the world also needs heroes and heroines who can replenish and warm the heart and spirit of people  in these  difficult and uncertain times.

In this aspect, a  Cecile Licad, an Otoniel Gonzaga,  a Lea Salonga and a Lisa Macuja  have done more than enough to make our country more proud. They will win hearts and minds and they will prove they can make a difference -- not by beating an international foe to a bloody pulp --  but in showing the nobility of the human spirit through the language of music, theater and dance.

They didn't do it because it's trabaho lang.     

They did it for art, love and  life and with no hope of a state motorcade and  prospects for product endorsements.

Pacquiao's image from

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sinag de Leon Contemporizes Art of Paper Cutting

As a child growing up in Marikina, Sinag de Leon thrived in an environment strewn with samples of Philipine folk arts and crafts, her parents being avid aficionados and lecturers on the subject.
She picked up a volume of Childcraft and followed the instructions on how to cut out and form a snowflake out of paper. Snow being alien to her sensibility, she wondered how the intricate designs on pastillas de leche wrappers from Bulacan could be duplicated in her new-found medium.

A vanishing craft in that province, paper cutting has been given a contemporary twist in the series of solo exhibits de Leon has had this year. Her latest solo show “Aninag” at the San Beda Museum in the college campus on Don Manolo Ave., Alabang Hills, Muntinlupa City is on extended run until Nov. 30.

Prof. Felipe M. de Leon, her father, said in the exhibition notes the latest exhibit is different because she “presses her paper cuts within two or three transparent glass panels, making them visible from two sides.”

The result is an interplay of light patterns with the glass panels turning into negative spaces. With the pin lights of the museum artfully turned on the objects, shadows of the paper cut shapes are reflected on the walls.

“Aninag is a fitting title because in Tagalog, it means looking through a transparent or translucent medium,” he wrote.

A Philippine Studies graduate of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, de Leon explained that the Filipino’s love of designs predates the arrival of the Spaniards. It is reflected in the tendency “to beautify spaces to please the eyes,” she said, citing the country’s gold collection — one of the best in the world, wood carvings and shavings in Pakil, Laguna, ornate architectural details like the panolong in Maguidanao, the tattoos on the bodies of Cordillera people, the swirls embroidered on the barong Tagalog in Lumban, Laguna, and copper bracelets.

Paper is also commonly used in local crafts like the papier mache horses peddled outside churches in Southern Luzon provinces, buntings or banderitas hung on a line during fiestas, on the head gear or Ati-atihan dancers and masks at Maskara Fesivals in the Visayas.

Paper cutting requires the simplest materials: a pair of pointed scissors and paper. The creativity is up to the user. The sheet of paper is just folded once, twice or thrice. The user starts cutting to form patterns, taking care not to cut across the paper so the piece isn’t ruined.

The beginner can draw patterns and with practice, these can be discarded. De Leon is proud that none of her paper cuts have repeat patterns.

Apart from exhibiting, she enjoys sharing her skills, saying, “I feel so blessed to share what I do. That is why when I get invited to do a show or demo/workshop, I grab the opportunity and challenge myself.”

She added: “I like to explore my options as a budding artist. That is why I feel that I have to expose my works to a wider audience. I am happy with the comments of people who see my works and become more inspired to do more.”

In time for her 37th birthday on Nov. 20, she will have another solo exhibit at Likha Diwa, a restaurant on C. P. Garcia Ave., UP campus, Diliman, Quezon City, with an environmental theme, using recycled paper instead of new ones.
Her shows refer to Filipino and Asian themes: “Paper Jam” at Likha Diwa was a play of colors with food as inspiration; “Dreamweaves” at Conspiracy Bar was inspired by mandalas and dream catchers, or things that help a person meditate or concentrate; and “Sinalimbay” was inspired by big space and warm colors of “Kiss The Cook Gourmet” where for the first time she doubled and tripled the size of her paper cuts as a challenge to herself (one piece took her a day and a half to cut).

“Aninag is different because for the first time, I did not paste the paper cuts on a paper background,” De Leon said. “By using glass panels, viewers are able to see just the paper cut itself, without any distractions.”

Her mother, Anna Leah Sarabia, never ceases to wonder how her eldest daughter continues to re-invent herself every few years. After she graduated, de Leon worked as a school teacher; then she joined a women’s nongovernmental organization.

This year marked a turning point for de Leon who had proven herself an artist as well.

Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia shows Sinag (in black) with her workshop participants. 

Originally published by VERA Files

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Food from 4 Foodies

Whenever we get together, we being art teacher Norman Chow, watercolorist-writer Baboo Mondoñedo, baker-theology instructor Toottee Chanco Pacis and me, talk is spiced by food on the table or food imagined. So it comes as no surprise that for our group show, "Produce from the Greenhouse," we are united by the subject of sustenance. We officially open our exhibition of acrylics, watercolors and pastels on Nov. 20, Saturday, at 4 p.m. at Cafe by the Ruins, homing zone of foodies from all over the archipelago. We can't assure that a lechon will be the buffet table's centerpiece, but a jolly good time will most certainly be had by all. 

Poster design by Jennifer Cariño