Nune Alvarado

SAGAY HANGOVER. When a beam of sunlight entered my half-opened eyes, it felt like there was scrambled eggs cooking out my brain. I shut my eyes tight while I lay in bed regretting why I had too much of those happy Red Horses. I looked out into the window where the whipping wind touching my face and the view of the endless blue sea made my distressing hangover more bearable. From a room next to mine, I heard familiar singing from one of my drinking buddies last night. It was Noy Pillora of the popular 1970s folk rock band, Asin.

I gingerly walked my way into the remote beach where I found the host of last night’s drinking session, artist Nune Alvarado. There he sat on gray sand from across his art studio painting not on a mural-sized canvas or sketchpad but on smooth round pebbles that he gathered from the beach.

ATALYER ALVARADO. Nune’s studio is a hand-hewn, hand-woven, hand-painted art fortress that towered as a huge art installation in a neighborhood of beach resorts at the Old Sagay town of Sagay City in Negros Occidental. Built from repurpose wood, bamboo and painted with loud tropical hues, sea breeze would sweep through the slatted bamboo walls and flooring.

Atalyer Alvarado is like a cocoon that the famous Negros artist calls home and a respite to his friends who stays a day or two in this two-bedroom rustic structure.

ART OF ALVARADO. In the 1970s, Nune became an outstanding artist of protest art. This art movement can be traced to the period beginning with the institution of the Martial Law to post-EDSA People Power Revolution as part of a bigger art movement: Social Realism. During that period, the country was tormented by extremes of social injustices, corruption, and poverty.

These painful social scenarios have inspired and angered artists like Nune to draw and paint his iconic human forms with veiny arms and legs almost like cadavers alluding hunger and hard labor along with reoccurring symbol-laden creatures like serpents, insects and birds with spiky thorns and dagger-sharp edges in folksy tropical colors. Although not clear but his color choices and human forms may have been influenced by the Angry Christ mural of Alfonso Ossorio in Victorias.

LOOKING BACK AT ALBARAKO CAFE. To sit down with Nune over breakfast and meals at Café Albarako was to listen to his stories from his humble beginnings to the events that led to his incarceration during Martial Law.

Born on May 5, 1950 in a farming community at Pabrika, Sagay City, he quit farm life at age 18 and took up advertising at La Consolacion College in Bacolod City and later painting at University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. During the Martial Law years, he participated in protest rallies where he applied sarcasm and mockery in banners and effigies to criticize the excesses and abuses of the Marcos government.

ART-MAKING BY THE BEACH. At his art studio in Sagay, Nune begins and ends his day making art. He could be sitting by the beach painting on smooth rocks or together with his son Nuklar decorating the bamboo posts of Albarako Café and boats with loud tropical colors or drawing his spiky creatures and sharply jagged edged human figures on homemade paper that his wife, Sally made from recycled newspaper.

EPILOGUE: SOCIAL REALISM IS TIMELESS. Nune laments on how history is repeating because Filipinos forget the lessons of history, the injustices and political corruption of the past. If we think about it, we need intrepid social realists like Nune. We need them today.

Published in: on July 3, 2018 at 3:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Three Generations of Joey Cobcobo

EVOLVING ART. The art of Joey Cobcobo is among the few in the contemporary art scene that is consistently experimental, evolving, and divergent. Its unfailing trademark is to go off tangent from the sought-after styles and predictable themes that are common in the art market. It is his passion for self-discovery that draws his curious followers and the serious collectors of art to stay and focus on the evolution and versatility of his art.

His manner of presentation has thrived since he emerged in the art scene with his first generation of representational art that drew inspiration from his Ifugao and Ilocano roots and Christian upbringing. In Lola 101 part 1, 2, 3 and 4, he applied monotype printmaking techniques to capture the essence of grandmotherhood on leaves, flowers and stems and printed them on shifu crocheted handwoven paper fabrics. These second generation of works were exhibited in Avellana Art Gallery, Ortigas Library, and BenCab Museum.

ENTER THIRD GENERATION. The art installation in Propaganda at the Lopez Museum in 2015 marks the beginning of the third generation of his works where the materials he used were sourced and reflective of his Mandaluyong neighborhood, right in the very place he first saw light.

This multisensory and interactive experience—from the eye-catching wooden ladders that pierced through the ceiling to the pre-etched wooden clogs (bakya) used as stamps that encouraged viewers to walk into a map of Mandaluyong spread out on the floor to impress and rethink their social responsibility—is meant to communicate Joey’s message to a vast and diverse audience.

SHOW AT ART VERITE’. In this day and age of pluralism in art, Joey’s secret sauce is in the selection and mix of media and techniques that he has mastered from previous generations of art-making. He chooses what will best deliver his message, something that goes beyond superficial aesthetics that earned him CCP’s Thirteen Artists Award. Traditional mediums from his first and second generations of work—oil on canvas and woodcut serial prints—are coveted pieces, but for this recent body of work, Joey revisits, reinvent, and reveals.

For this exhibit, Joey gathered unfinished works from eight years ago. He mixed and applied a spontaneous flow of colors and layers upon layers of paint to achieve a sense of historical finality from his earlier works. The result is a 29-piece ensemble of dynamic paintings that are full of surface texture, heavy layers of paint and reconstructions of selected prioritized memories and effectuate imagination.  From the titles alone, the viewer can pick up playful, suggestive, and nostalgic themes like Armas on Plexiglass, Ginumburza, Ratbow (When syllables are read in reverse it is pronounce as?), and Bawal ang Sweet.

BAAZOOKAA. All pieces went through introspection and retouching in Joey’s three-story home-studio, located right in the middle of a busy marketplace in Mandaluyong City. His home-studio has designated spaces for people-watching, creating art, and a computer shop business where he grabs ideas for his drawings, painting, and carvings for his printmaking plates. His finished product is a demonstration of how the process of art-making is affected by the environment.

Baazookaa, inspired by the bubblegum brand, is a catch-all word that fuses together all of the pieces for the exhibit. It recaps the dynamic styles, themes, and techniques that Joey has intrepidly explored to come up with three generations of art.

EPILOGUE: MONOGRAPH. A week ago at around past midnight, I suddenly sneaked out from a drinking session and traveled to Joey’s home-studio so I can learn about each piece for his upcoming exhibit and have this text for the exhibit catalog ready before the show.  Text in this blog will be published in the exhibit catalog and an excerpt from it for the press release for the show.

Baazookaa will run from May 5 to 17, 2018 at Art Verite’ Gallery in 2f Shop at Serendra Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. For inquiries contact Art Verite’ Gallery at +632 9151982 / +63 9273296273/ / /

Published in: on April 29, 2018 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Cultural Tour of Metro Manila

FESTIVAL DAY.  An hour before sunrise, the palengke in Cubao and Divisoria begins to swell with early shoppers. The prayerful flocks inside the churches of Quiapo, Baclaran, and in the Sta. Clara Monastery in Quezon City. The rising sun lights up the preserved ruins of Intramuros and the elaborate façade of the Metropolitan Theater and the National Museum. In EDSA and Makati City, there is a choking traffic from the morning and afternoon rush hour and anarchy rules on the streets where sidewalk and roving vendors offer a wide-variety of street food from boiled and skewered bananas to santol and green mangoes with bagoong. There is a festival in front of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

From morning to sundown, Metro Manila is exploding with so many flavors and things artistic and cultural to experience so we asked artists, writers, and fellow travelers to provide us with a personalized cultural guide to our beloved national capital.

MANILA IN 24 HOURS. Famous for his contemporary rebulto on wood, Thirteen Artists Awardee and serial creative Riel Hilario provides this itinerary:

My 24 hours would start mid-morning at 10 AM. Breakfast in Intramuros area. San Agustin Church and its Museum, then its the Masters Hall at the National Museum. Lunch at the esteros of Binondo. Head out to Makati to the Pasong Tamo galleries. On to Ayala Museum and merienda at M Cafe. An easy walkabout in BGC. Head south to Conrad Hotel for some drinks. Sunset watching at the Bay. Perhaps a gala show at the CCP. So end the night there or back in Makati. Next morning, breakfast in Greenhills. Some galleries in the area. Exit Manila before lunchtime.

MANILA’S MERRY MIXES. Food historian and award-winning writer, Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria shares:

Sample folk food. Some names may sound Spanish or Mexican but the dishes have a Filipino heart and soul: tamales made with coconut milk; adobo cooked in palm or sugarcane vinegar; sourish and brothy sinigang; the savory, boiled, meal-in-a-pot pochero with native banana, cabbages, sweet potatoes and a flavor-layered eggplant relish; kare-kare oxtail stew with subtleties from peanut and annato. Don’t pass up a morning cup of thick chocolateh served with a sopas ranging from budbud or suman (finger shaped rice or millet with coconut milk and wrapped in palm or banana leaves), buttery ensaymada, or biscuits baked in a wood-fired oven. And don’t miss afternoon merienda with its array of baked goods ranging from street breads to fancy egg yolk-rich yema puddings.  Halo-halo, mix mix, a symphony of syrupy fruits, beans, custard and ice cream to which have been added textural punctuations like pounded and puffed rice called pinipig. Philippine rum and brandy are internationally acclaimed. Liqueurs from island citruses dayap, dalandan, and kalamansi and tuba wine from coconut palm stamp island happiness on the tastebuds forever.

A DOSE OF CULTURE. Staunch heritage advocate and the man behind FEU’s vibrant student concert performances, Martin Lopez recommends:

Start and end your day at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Build up your appetite by following the joggers around the CCP including up and down the main driveway. Cool off and have breakfast at Pancake House in Harbour Square across the CCP Little Theater. Return to the CCP to see what is on exhibit. Then, cross Roxas Boulevard and head to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and spend a couple hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. You can have lunch there. If you can still take in one more museum, spend the afternoon in the National Museum of Anthropology or the National Gallery of Art. Alternatively, you can spend your afternoon walking the cobble stoned streets of Intramuros. Catch the sunset from the roof deck of the Bay Leaf Hotel. You can have cocktails and dinner there. Finally, return to the CCP for a performance in one of its halls.

MANILA I’M COMING HOME. Artist, writer and editor of the iconic 10-volume Filipino Heritage, Alfredo Roces regularly flies from Sydney to Manila to attend art shows and meet fellow artists shares: 

Last time I was in Manila we did a quick tour of museums. As we were in Urdaneta Village we started with Ayala, then the CCP, then the Met and then the National Museum. That was interesting. I would say try to add Intramuros, Fort Santiago-San Agustin Church. Catch some current events. We saw the Artfair and an art auction. Divisoria is interesting.

EPILOGUE: MANILA SUNSET. So there, a personalized cultural guide to Metro Manila from our country’s art and culture authorities. So find some time to explore our national capital until sundown and watch how the tropical sun paints the city with that unrivaled incandescent golden glow that makes us sing:

Hinahanap hanap kita Manila
Ang ingay mong kay sarap sa tenga
Mga jeepney mong nagliliparan
Mga babae mong naggagandahan
Take me back in your arms Manila
And promise me you’ll never let go
Promise me you’ll never let go
Manila, Manila
Miss you like hell, Manila
No place in the world like Manila
(Manila by Hotdogs)

Published in: on April 16, 2018 at 6:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Angry Christ

PILGRIMAGE TO VICTORIAS. Watching a stage play can inspire a sudden urge to travel. The sinakulo, an outdoor theater that reenacts the moving scenes from the passion and death of Christ have inspired pilgrims to walk the same road leading to Jesus’ crucifixion in Golgota. Whether pilgrimages were made in faraway Jerusalem or close-to-home Mount Banahaw, pilgrims were driven by a strong desire to give reverence to places made sacred by a touch from an intrepid saint or by a life-changing miracle.

There is no saint or miracle in the sugar town of Victorias, Negros Occidental but after watching the Angry Christ, a celebrated stage play by Floy Quintos, I made sure that my tour itinerary includes seeing the pulsating tropical colors and psychedelic patterns applied by the artist Alfonso Ossorio on the walls of St. Joseph the Worker Parish.

VICTORIAS MILLING COMPANY. It was providential that Negrense sculptor Joe Geraldo offered to host my day one in Negros Occidental because I will find out later on my visit to his studio that his art-making may have been influenced by Ossorio as seen in the swirling patterns and inherent angst of his terracotta sculptures. 

From Silay airport, we sped off on motorbikes to Victorias. Our little motorcade revved on. We zoomed on good roads that cut through the immense cane fields of the Sugarlandia and raced against trucks loaded with sugarcane. After half an hour, we finally arrived at Victorias Milling Company compound, reputedly the largest sugarcane mill and refinery in the world, it was owned by the landed Ossorio family. Past the guard house, the smell of burnt molasses permeated the air in the sugar factory. Behind the carabao sundial with overly enlarged horns that serves as the dial face was the Ossorio Chapel.

THE OSSORIO CHAPEL. A few years after World War II, the Ossorios commissioned the famous New York architect Antonin Raymond to design a church for their sugar workers. The church was dedicated to Saint Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus and patron saint of laborers, carpenters and those who work on wood.

Modern and simple for a period dominated by Baroque style and traditional design in church architecture, the chapel of the Ossorios was a plain concrete structure. Its facade is adorned with an assemblage of broken bits of cerveza bottles that formed scenes from the life of Saint Joseph. There is also a large mural depicting the Last Supper and Pentecost on the exterior wall. These were designed by the Belgian Baroness Adelaide de Bethune.

FILIPINIZED IMAGES. Bethune’s work continues in the brass plates in the pulpit and baptistry with details depicting brown-skinned Biblical characters.

This Filipinized version of imported religious characters are repeated particularly in the wooden bass relief of the Station of the Cross with military men that alludes to the oppressor Pontius Pilate and statues of Saint Micheal, Mary and Joseph dressed in Filipino brown and native fashion by sugar farm worker and wood carpenter Benjamin Valenciano.

LO AND BEHOLD, THE ANGRY CHRIST. No Baroque retablo but a sight to behold at the main altar is the mural of the Last Judgement with a central Christ figure having glaring blue eyes, outstretched arms and flaming heart while crushing a devil’s skull that looked like a calavera from Mexico’s Dia de los Muertosbetween his feet. He is flanked by his parents Mary and Joseph, grandparent San Joaquin and Sta. Ana. God the Father represented by red orange hands sticking out from the Holy Spirit that resemble a Mayan bird and the all-seeing eye above.

All these vibrant swirls, colors, and horror vacuii inspired the playwright and fellow pilgrim Floy Quintos to stage a play about the thirty year old artist, Ossorio who flew from New York in the late 1940s to his family’s sugar estate in Victorias to apply his art in the chapel that his family built for their sugar workers.

EPILOGUE: CLOSING SCENE. The Quintos’ Angry Christ recounts the eleven months Ossorio labored in sleepless experimentation on applying wax to his design studies, flashbacks with his artist friends and influences Jackson Pollock and Jean Debuffet, the spiritual struggles with homosexual insecurity and the resistance he faced in expressing his avant garde style to a Filipino audience who was foreign to his art.

That morning, I positioned myself just below that skylight of Ossorio Chapel to recall that unforgettable closing scene from the stage play where the intrepid artist Ossorio who nears saintly status for his contribution to the world of art stands staring at his masterpiece, the Angry Christ -a miracle worth a pilgrimage to Victorias.

-2018 Easter Sunday

Published in: on April 1, 2018 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tana Dicang Museum

HOW TO MAKE AN ANCESTRAL HOUSE. The bahay-na-bato of our forefathers with its aged patina on stone and wood is impossible to replicate today. Building materials like coquina, piedra china, adobe, wide narra and balayong planks, the well-seasoned hardwood like molave and guijo are unavailable nowadays. The sentimental charm of an ancestral house emanates from its history made by the different generations that lived together and were bounded by the same traditions and memories that endured at least a century.

A good example of a well-made ancestral house is the Lizares House in Talisay City. It was converted as Tana Dicang Museum in honor of a town matriarch, Capitana Enrica Alunan-Lizares.

THE LIZARES BAHAY-NA-BATO. From a quiet street, the Lizares House stood simple, stately, and ancient. The house spans four generations of Lizareses and took eleven years to build from 1872 to 1883 following the building tradition for Visayan houses of having coral stone for the ground floor and weather-proofed molave for the upper floor. Molave wood was directly sourced from the forest and was cured for three years in sea water before it was used for construction.

The dungeon-like silong has the traditional layout of a townhouse built during the Spanish era with the main door that opened directly from the street into a cavernous zaguan where a bulky carroza awaits the next procession under the intricately-carved grand staircase.

A GRACIOUS HOME. The wood of the staircase gleamed with age from the generations of guests that went up to the main floor of the house. A bastonera greets visitors of the past and the present like a butler taking the gentleman’s cane and hat and the ladies’ parasol.

The top floor has a symphony of period furniture and fine craftsmanship as seen in the rose tracery panels that allowed music from an orchestra stationed in the caida to be heard in the main living room and dining area.

QUEZON AND OSMEÑA WERE HERE. Wide double doors at the caida opened on opposite sides to the sala major and comedor.  A formal arrangement of period furniture is presided over by a bust of Tana Dicang by Guillermo Tolentino in the sala major. In the olden days, the sala major was reserved to personal friends and important guests such in 1938 when Commonwealth President Quezon and Vice President Osmeña graced the Lizares House during Bacolod City’s Charter inauguration.

The comedor has a long dining table where the influential Tana Dicang sat at the kabisera while she hosted meals for important politicians. A vajilera in one corner of the formal dining room displays the dinner set that was used during the Quezon and Osmeña visit.

ART NOUVEAU FURNITURE. The bedrooms boasts its own set of period furniture from aparadors with tall crest of flowers and scrollwork to the canopied and posted beds carved with Philippine art nouveau patterns. These beds bear monograms of Tana Dicang children that totaled to 16!

A small door in the matriach’s bedroom led to her office on the ground floor. The well-loved and hardworking Capitana continued to work past her retirement age. In her will, she bequeathed the Lizares House to her children and specified that ten percent of the earnings from the sugar plantations be used for the preservation and maintenance of the ancestral house.

EPILOGUE: FORGET ME NOT. The news is plagued with reports about heritage buildings being demolished here and there to give way to another high-rise condominium building or its parts being stealthily moved piece-by-piece to a ‘heritage’ theme park in Bataan.

While we are in a day and age where the past is set aside and the lessons of history are forgotten, the Tana Dicang Museum is a testament that it is unforgivable to forget the legacy of ancestral houses.

-Women’s Month 2018

Published in: on March 18, 2018 at 1:03 am  Leave a Comment