Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘art’

Stirring Up the Sleeping Palette

I kept on dreaming colors. They swirl around me like icing on a cupcake that makes me hungry for more. I mix and mold them together until they become trees, mountains, a sunny landscape and a smiling me. I was so inlove with them, I buried them in the secret cupboard in my psyche. But here they are, giggling before the partly opened door after a long hibernation.

It’s been ten years since I messed my fingers and my brush with watercolor. I stared at the newly-bought acrylic tubes with a bit of consternation. However, my excitement was tingled even more by the warm, afternoon sun. It’s like releasing the joy of childhood again. It’s awakening the magic from within.

I thought art was a childish hobby to play along. But I did not realize art is actually a part of my soul. Art is an expression for me. I could do art in Microsoft Paint, Photoshop or in the PicsArt app. But I realized digital media cannot take away the power of art in physical form, particularly paintings.

Just as I love the smell of books, I love the enigma paintings can bring. They carry emotions and nostalgia. They also carry the soul of the artist who made them. That’s the reason I’m always fascinated with the artworks at museums at Ben Cab Museum, the National Museum and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. They are channeling us deep into one’s heart and insights, as well as in another time and space.

As for me, I just love stroking my brush as I try to replicate landscapes and childhood memories. This one is one of my favorites. And it was born about fifteen years ago.

That artistic silence was cut off when I needed it to heal me from a traumatic event months ago. That day, I stupidly sank my smartphone in beachwater while it was sitting in the pocket of my shorts. I could not enjoy my beachside trip in Marinduque because I had no gadget to play around with. I was so attached with my phone, I felt I have lost a loved one. I know that sounds stupid, but think of the hardwork I have done just to own a smartphone – for the first time! For a month without one, I then focused my attention on scrapbooking.

I did that for a few friends who were leaving the company. I gathered our other friends who unleashed their artistic creativity on paper. I searched for old colored pencils, brushes and art set. They need to be replaced. I need a new set of color tubes.

I was compelled to buy acrylic paint because I something to mark my newfound cane at Mt. Ulap. Months after, I was encouraged to go beyond this because of a friend.

For now, I would not reveal this part of the story. I just could not contain the joy of mixing colors and painting again. All I could think for now is to give away all my artworks because I believe art is for sharing. I hope my paintings would never serve a selfish purpose but it would bring encouragement and joy to many people.

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​Cultural Immersion: Baguio Weddings – A Kiss, A Gong, and A Dance

The sound of gongs is strongly infusing the festive atmosphere. The bride and the groom were greeting well-wishers who had attended their wedding ceremony earlier. Looking closer at the floor near the stage, a group of men playing gongs were formed in a circle. Old men in baseball caps, traditionally dressed elderly women wearing colored beads, young men in tuxedos, and ladies in satin gowns took turns in dancing traditional dances to the beat. In such a wedding feast in Baguio, no modernity can hinder the rhythmic culture their generations have embraced. 

In the definitive Filipino culture, weddings are held as a community event. Almost – if not everyone – in the community are invited to celebrate. The bayanihan system (a classic Filipino attitude where the whole bayan or community helps one another) becomes alive in such occasions. Neighbors would voluntarily help to cook, arrange, and even organize the wedding. While this tradition is slowly dying because more couples are relying on professional wedding coordinators, this concept is still being kept in many rural provinces and cities, including Baguio.

An example of the bayanihan system – locals form a line to pass food to one another in this large gathering at my friend’s wedding.

Every Filipino loves Baguio for its cool climate, strawberries, and many popular tourist sites. I love Baguio for its meek and courteous people. Some of them have become my friends and I have the privilege to taste their culture and their way of living.

I had two friends who have recently married at Baguio. Just like how the quaint townspeople of Bulacan would hold their weddings, they similarly hold their matrimony with a community celebration. My province, Bulacan, would have videoke as a form of entertainment while Baguio people would celebrate this occasion with dances and gongs. 

Gongs are considered an ancient instrument by city people like me. I am impressed that these people would not use them for production numbers alone. Both elders and youths would join together and strike musical rhythms on it. They are accompanied with traditional dances that love and courtship to mark the occasion. 

Food being served to the community at my friend’s wedding.

Usually, they would hold their celebrations the whole day, even up to the wee hours of the morning the next day. There is an abundant flow of food, mostly made of pork and chicken, rice, and pansit (a type of Filipino noodles) which the whole community would partake. Locals are not shy to share their talents while everybody would show their appreciation to them. Celebrations would continue at the house of the bride and the groom. Old men at night would chant to call the spirit of the anito (traditional deity) to bless the gathering. As the music and dancing continues, the bride and the groom danced along with everyone. And of course, the visitors are not exempted from joining in the fun.
For the first time, I played the gong. It was heavy for me, but the hypnotic rhythm of the instrument made me enjoy every moment I danced to its tune. I just think I look awkward while dancing. My Instagram post just proves that (sorry I can’t upload the video on this blog. So please click the link to find out. I am the lady in the white dress and black blazer in the video).

Baguio people are proud of their artful heritage, as they wear woven Kalinga skirts or intermarry these designs with modern fashion. They love their culture so much the rhythm of the gongs pulse through their veins, willingly dancing along every clanging beat without hesitation. Through the sound of their instrument they become one, bringing into awareness the legacy they carry as Igorots.

Celebrations would continue at my friend’s house the whole night

Manila, a fascinating city of sights, color, sounds, is nothing as unique as this. The mixture of various cultures has turned this central city of Luzon into a melting pot of obscurity. We have become more in tuned with modernity and Western civilization, losing into consciousness the beautiful, old songs that have been passed down to us through school. Looks like Madonna’s Crazy For You has become the local fixture in videoke sessions. 
I keep on learning so much from other cultures in my own country. With all regions having their own differences, it just proves that we are a diverse society. I’m glad we have Filipinos who still carry the pride of their heritage. The Igorots are teaching us that traditional hertages are not a myth but they are living, breathing, and are worth to be celebrated for their uniqueness.

You can check out the videos on my Instagram account @rhemapenaflor. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

Breathing Adventure: When the Heavens Come Down (A Twin Peak Adventure At Mt. Cuyabo-Mt. Maynoba)

I felt like entering into twilight zone as the tricycle bumped into the pitch-black road at Brgy. Cuyabo in Tanay, Rizal. This is the first time our team were able to set out very early in the morning. It was almost 5am and the three of us did not have a bit of sleep the night before. All of us booked for a tour group for Mt. Batolusong, which disappointingly, did not show up at our designated meeting place.

But we were determined to set out into the wilderness again. Packed with our heavy bags and a reliable data connection, we reviewed directions from travel blogs and soon found ourselves at Mt. Cuyabo and Mt. Maynoba.

This twin peak is an almost-new hiking destination in South Luzon. Surrounded by other popular mountains like Mt. Irid, Mt. Cuyabo and Mt. Maynoba are relatively small. However, they boost this one sighting that would only be seen when you arrive there at the right time.

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Past 5am and we were beginning to trudge along the damp trail lined with dew-covered grass. The trail became suddenly steep at the foot of Mt. Cuyabo. But that was just the beginning.

We could hear the birds singing their wild but glorious morning call among the dense forest leading to the summit. There was a faint fog that brought a slight chill over my face. This made the hike lovelier, although the initial trail was bringing pressure to my legs. Almost halfway, I was sweating too much and nearly dead-tired. It was tempting to rest for long periods, not until I turned around and saw the sea of clouds.

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This is heaven on earth! I thought I could only see such a sight on Mt. Pulag. The mountains surrounding us shyly covered themselves in the pure, white blanket of clouds from a distance. However, they were beginning to fizzle off from the morning kiss of the great, golden sun so we have to get to the summit as quick as we can.

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It was a sight to behold. The Great Artist had lovingly stroke different hues of blue and faint yellow on His favorite sky blue canvas above our heads. The sound of birds seem to cheer gleefully at His masterpiece while they flitted around His watercolor palette. But it’s a fleeting artwork, because He’s planning to create a new one soon. And because we love keeping memories, we have endlessly made selfies beside His work. This is the moment when we would love to pull out a guitar and sing a heartfelt song of praise. I hope we could do that next time.

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We rested and ate breakfast for a while at Mt. Cuyabo. There was still another mountain to conquer. Sherwin, our tour guide, told us we would try our best to see the clouds on Mt. Maynoba’s summit. But 8am and now sleep-deprived, we missed a better view of the sea of clouds over Mt. Maynoba.

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The sun was a bit crueler by this time. Her rays had finally fizzled the rest of the clouds that once covered the sleepy mountains. Yet, Mt. Cuyabo appeared greener as we viewed it from the peak of Mt. Maynoba.

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Our adventure does not end here yet. If you think the sea of clouds is the only highlight of this place, there are more to see beyond this twin peaks. There are eight waterfalls to visit before the trail ends.

But we need a shut eye first…or I’ll end up clawing the damp soil towards the falls.

Our tour guide led us a to a corner where the tall grass has been cleared away. This is where campers would set up their tents for an overnight stay. We spread our jackets and raincoats over the still damp grass to finally have the sleep that we’ve been craving for.

I opened my eyes to see gray clouds hovering over me. My friends have also awakened. I felt like napping for about a few minutes but I was surprised we had dosed off for an hour!

We had gained enough strength to continue the trek. Since it was a Saturday, the tourists were almost closely lined up at some parts of the trail. Fortunately, we don’t get to bump into each other at the steeper portions, especially at the roped segments. More fortunately, we had a good sleep before that or I might roll myself downwards until I reach the falls.

The sound of gushing water could be heard at a near distance as I slowly balanced myself at the rock-laden, downhill trail that had my head spinning for a while. When we got to the falls, we sat down and took lunch.

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It was not a huge waterfalls, but it’s still refreshing to stay before it was kept hidden among the hills and the tall trees. The waters were cool and refreshing but we were just to tired to dip into it. Instead, I waded through these waters when we began our trail back.

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Curious little creatures and insects hovered over the pristine waters of the stream the flowed from the falls. Giant blue dragonflies rested on the enormous green leaves that flourished beside the waters. One huge, dark-colored butterfly covered the sunlight that inched itself between the dense little forest of greens. This is the kind of place I would want to wake up to in the morning, but also the one that can’t be carried back to the tainted and crowded suburbs we knew as home.

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We passed by the other waterfalls that were smaller than the one we stayed. It was noon and the trek was about to end. Small rice paddies that cradled a

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little hut on its corner were already looming as we hit the last leg of the visit. Houses could be seen lined up along a cemented road at a distance. The paradise was already far away. We were already back at the registration site.

It’s an achievement that we were able to come and end the tour early, without having the troubles of being late. The disappointing meet-up turned out to be a blessing in the end. Besides, we saved much on our expenses when we had our own tour. The travel group had charged us with a bigger fee.

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It’s great when these little unexpected circumstances bring you to more awesome moments. It just takes that determination to shove off the disappoinment and breakaway into the wonderful unknown.

Ink On My Fingers

I did not expect myself to become a fan of modern calligraphy. I just joined a workshop

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Messy firsts at the workshop…

for the sake of seeing my friend Jenna again. But when I learned how to do cursive strokes with that calligraphy pen, it was magic. I got a new hobby.

I used to be interested with calligraphy when I was in highschool. Back then, I used to have a calligraphy book, which was a guide for writing various fonts. I bought it to copy artistic lettering using a ballpen. But I did not bother looking for an appropriate pen in writing these fonts.

Now that I had my own pen holder, nib, and ink, I was a little mad looking for scribbling pads. Although this hobby is beginning to spread here in the Philippines, items for this art

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Another messy first 🙂

can only be found in specialty stores. I had to order pads online as I cannot find a store that sells these wondrous calligraphy items (which was an agony waiting for my order for days).

My first works were messy. I used too much ink in some of the letters. I even had the trouble of writing these letters, especially that I am left handed. Calligraphy ink would not dry easily, so I had to wait some time for the letters to dry. I had to readjust on how I handle the pen.

The more I improved, the more I enjoy it. But for the meantime, I wonder where would I use this newfound skill in the future. As for now, I’ll just enjoy scribbling away.

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Jenna and I showing off our works of art 🙂

Breathing Adventure: Exploring Art in BenCab’s World (Benguet Tour Part 1)

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The roads fresh from the New Year’s revelry the night before, this bored little lady headed away from the still smoky lowlands to the mist-covered highlands of Baguio. I was excited to get out of reality for a while in order to experience a real holiday vacation, even if it’s just so sudden.

There were only two days and one night left for me in Baguio. All I just wanted was to go trekking with my closest friend from the far end of this country. But with the rains and fog covering the summit, my friend gave a few choice places to tour around. I chose all of them. For now, I can only share one popular tourist destination you can check out when you get to Baguio.

I have been going to Baguio a number of times just like almost every local tourist in the country. But, I had to experience the BenCab museum yet. So, I’d rather not miss this itinerary that day.

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This art museum is flocked by tourists and art enthusiasts because of the man who set it up. Ben Cab, or short for Benedicto Cabrera, has been hailed as a national artist of the Philippines. He’s been considered as a world-class Filipino artist as his works have also became known in different countries. In support of other Filipino artists, he built this museum for everyone to enjoy Pinoy art.

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It takes a 15-minute taxi ride from Baguio City to get to this artist haven. Though located in an almost remote part of a word-carving village, it was crowded with tourists that day. Entrance was supposedly at P120, but it was not yet in effect. Instead, we paid the original price of twenty pesos less.

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Inside was a kaleidoscope of ideas, emotions, and history clashed together through various artworks from different artists. Modern art had dominated each rooms. Here are just some of my favorites:

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“Feral Garden” by Roger “Rishab” Tibon. Not only are cat lovers captivated by this painting but every eye that pass by it

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“Tamis” by Emmanuel Garibay. If you’d look closer beneath the arms, you can guess where this painting is pointing at. It speaks of women and children used as private armies in places of conflict.

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But nothing beats this Lynyrd Paras artwork. I guess the title (which is already written on this painting) should go for the broken hearted and the disappointed in life 🙂

Art can never stand alone without history. And history carries the spirit of art from the beginning of time. Bulol, or rice granary idols stood guard in some of the exhibition areas. These carved images depicts the pagan culture of the Northern tribes of Luzon, especially in these areas of Benguet. This has been a common sight in this part of the country, but I guess tourists like me could only look and wonder at them.

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Sitting quietly around the bulol guarding this place

Just as I was amazed in seeing Picasso and Rembrandt in real life at Ireland, I was amazed to see BenCab’s works personally for the first time. Some of his works made me wonder…

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Talking to BenCab’s Tribal Art. “Who or what are you?”

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“Kutohan” by BenCab. Removing lice has been a tradition since long ago

There is also the Erotica Gallery. I guess I don’t have to elaborate what kind of artworks you’d expect there. If you’re bringing along kids, I’d suggest you’d read the signs in every room you visit — unlike some the parents who wondered why they were offended at the artworks in this room.

If you’re hungry (and had enough money for quite expensive food), you can visit the Cafe Sabel. But for thrifty tourists like me, I’d pass it for the moment. My friend and I roamed around a bit of BenCab’s little garden, which was made to look like a little prototype of Benguet’s rice fields and idyllic villages. We had limited access of the whole garden as the ecotrail tour needs to be arranged at the reception.

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A part of BenCab’s garden

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A little rice paddy at BenCab’s garden

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Strawberry fields forever at BenCab’s garden

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The mist covering the museum building

 

Though the mist soon spoiled the garden’s view, our tour was a worthwhile experience. There are more places to go, but I guess I had to keep you waiting until my next blog. 🙂

Movie Perspective: Revealing the Reeking Societal Cancer in “Heneral Luna”

heneral lunaI was never been a fan of General Antonio Luna. Known for his infamous temper, I ever wondered why he was enlisted in the roster of Philippine heroes. At the first week of the “Heneral Luna” screening, I dismissed it as another average period film. Until the social media buzzed with endless accolades for the film.

Although oozing with curiosity, it took me four weeks before seeing it. Notwithstanding the fact I watched it without a date (which I never ever had yet), I got more than what I’ve bargained for.

Much of the movie plot revolves on the Philippine revolution, which coincided at the close of the 19th century. Here was General Luna, pompous and ready to defend his principles — in a defensive move. Not the wimpy kind of general who would shrug his shoulders when the government was ready to deal with the American conquerors, Luna was stubborn to push the Westerners off the newly instituted Philippine Republic.

His ways in disciplining his soldiers, mostly the cowardly ones, and his laid back fellow generals was offensively harsh to many of them. Those who resisted his orders were immediately slapped with Artikulo Uno: those disobedient to the general’s orders can be subject to punishment and death without undergoing military court.

His defense on his stance offended many of President Emilio Aguinaldo’s cabinet members. This had triggered a conspiracy to eliminate the headstrong general. But one thing made Luna’s name forever etched in the pages of history was his love for his Motherland. Never mind the women that he had, the rough way he dealt with his enemies and even allies. Until the end of his life, he was brave enough to stand as a man for his country’s freedom and not for his selfish priorities.

With the the film’s quick plot, I was surprised when it ended after almost two hours. In a short span of time, every historical personality became much alive, and even personal, by the way the actors portrayed them. John Arcilla, who played the role of Luna, convinced me that the general was more than a rash character from my school textbooks. His eyes had this hint of madness that made Luna look much like him (add it with the general’s mustache). Yet, he had also embodied the other dimensions of his character very clearly.

No need to impose how realistic this film should be, as the facts in this part of Luna’s life was well narrated even with a few symbolisms, especially his assassination. (Oops, sorry for spoilers) Jerrold Tarog, the director of his film, had been ingenious in weaving history and relating it to our social consciousness. He had reintroduced a tragic but praiseworthy figure once forgotten in our classes. With that he brought an awakening to a demoralization that has never been cured until now.

This film showed us more than Luna’s character. Though it was not proven in history who killed Luna (though most viewers had implied it to be the president himself), his death had shown how much we are still dealing with the so-called cancer of society: treachery, greed, and selfishness. As Luna was eliminated by Filipino soldiers, the film revealed how his own countrymen was ready to put away unity for the sake of their own selfish agendas. So it is with our society today. I’ve seen this scene many times with our leaders, eliminating one another through character assassination. But I believe it’s not only hitting the political arena, but it goes out to all of us, as well.  Luna’s question echoes to many, “Kaya natin magbuwis ng buhay sa pamilya pero para sa isang prinsipiyong makabayan? (If we can sacrifice our lives for our own families can we not do it for our country?)”. What I got was more than a story, but a reality that we have to tackle and address.

I once thought that Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal (1998) was the best period film my generation could see. Jerrold Tarog had proven himself a genius in recreating a period film, making it worthy for Oscars. It brought back my faith that we Filipinos can create noteworthy period films that can be entertaining, mind-opening, and worth the sacrifice to see it.

Curtain Viewpoint: Finding the Missing in “Katre”

To lose a loved one through death is tragic, but to lose them without a trace is more devastating. Such is the pain that relatives of the missing go through, which was brought to life by Christian Tordecillas’ masterpiece, “Katre”.

It’s an honor for me to see a friend’s work come alive on stage. Christian, or X as we fondly call him, had written plays that imply social relevance. One of them was the one-act satire, “Dyip” (Jeep, short for jeepney), which won him the Carlos Palanca award in 2006. I was already impressed by his brilliance in provoking critical thinking of life’s realities through artistic writing. This time, “Katre” touched my heart as it brought up the issue of desaparecidos in the country.

In the play, an aged Lea awaits for her missing husband and child. Everytime she rises and returns to her katre (bed in Visayan dialect), she recollects her life when her family was still with her. Not knowing their fate, she clung on the hope that they are still alive.

Lea is the epitome of those left by desaparecidos, or those who are missing due to forced disappearances. We remember Jonas Burgos, who still remains missing since he was taken in 2007. We remember Karen Empeño, and Sherlyn Cadapan, whose whereabouts remain unknown even when alledged abductor Ret. Gen. Jovito Palparan had been caught. We remember the rest of the desaparecidos since Martial Law, who had been forcefully taken into the seclusion. Just like Lea, those left behind by desaparecidos struggle between hope and despair.

Because I did not want anybody to see I was a crybaby, I gulped back my tears when Lea battled against that hope she treasured for years. The actress convinced me of the pain and frustration Lea tried to deny before. Her story rings the message of the consequences of impunity — which the Philippines has struggled for a long time.

Without glorifying the political overtures of impunity, “Katre” brings to thought the ordeal of those who have been victimized by it, whether the desaparecidos or the families they left. Simply portrayed yet deeply movong, “Katre” awakens the fact that the issue of impunity should not be ignored.

“Katre” is one of the plays featured in “BA-WAL: Mga Dulang Bagong Luwal” by Project Mayhem Productions. Also featured here is the dark comedy “Over My Dead Body” by Christian Dagsil. You can watch them at Ateneo de Manila, at the ISO complex. Remaining theater dates are at September 7, 13, 14, and 15. These plays are shown at 3pm and 7pm, except on September 13, as show is only at 7pm.

Meet the master behind, "Katre", Christian "X" Tordecillas. To see one of his works come alive on stage is an honor

Meet the master behind, “Katre”, Christian “X” Tordecillas. To see one of his works come alive on stage is an honor

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