Ayala Museum

Ayala Museum

WHEN HISTORY COMES ALIVE. Philippine history can be a boring subject. Depending on how the topics are presented, stories about the olden times, how our ancestors lived, how our heroes died can be fascinating when it is entertainingly and creatively narrated. As the cliché goes, this is when history comes alive!

We were at the Ayala Museum for the first time to attend one of Ambeth Ocampo‘s weekend lectures. Home to ancient artifacts and well-curated exhibits that narrate the our historical timeline, the museum is a fitting and potent setting for our country’s most popular historian to discuss about everything and anything about Philippine history.

Ayala Museum exhibit

Ayala Museum Damian Domingo

ART FOR ALL. The six-floor building has a permanent exhibit of ancestral gold that were unearthed from pre-colonial grave sites. While it is not clear when our ancestors first learned to mine gold, but the earliest gold artifacts date back as far as 500 BC. Visitors can view up-close priceless ancestral gold used as personal ornaments like barter earrings, anklets, bracelets, woven belts, necklaces and burial face ornaments that is believed to give its wearer greater privilege in the afterlife.

The museum has a collection of rare drawings from the 19th century album of Damian Domingo. Two of these albums are in the US and two are in local private collection. The Ayala Museum reprinted the Damian Domingo drawings in pencil cases, greeting cards, stationary and made the rarest art of a Filipino old master available for all to bring home.

Ayala Museum Chinese junk

Ayala Museum diorama

BOAT GALLERY. It is only in the Ayala Museum you can find a boat gallery that shows in miniature models a myriad of watercraft that sailed on our lakes and rivers in the olden days.

Chinese junks with its mighty sails and roofed quarters for its sailors transported traders to the different islands to barter goods. The royal galleons that carried the colony’s products to Mexico and in some occasions became warships. The cascos with awnings of nipa navigated the length of Pasig river and sailed the wide Laguna de Bay to ferry passengers and produce to the countryside.

Ayala Museum Declaration of Independence

Ayala Museum diorama exhibit

DIORAMAS. The timeline of Philippine history is visually narrated in 60 dioramas. The intricately detailed dioramas were made by unnamed craftsmen from the chisel town of Paete in Laguna.

The diorama exhibit is a good introduction to learning Philippine history because it highlights the significant events and important turning points that led to our natinoahood. However, this outline should not replace the main text we study in school, those details we research in our library and read from books because memorizing key dates and historic names and places do not make sense out of context.

Ayala Museum Ambeth Ocampo lectures

Ayala Museum Ambeth Ocampo

STANDING ROOM ONLY. It was standing room only when we arrived early at the Ayala Museum for the lecture. For more than an hour we learned and were entertained. We waited in line for our turn to have our copies of Looking Back to be signed. How come the weekend lectures of the Ambeth Ocampo are always jam-packed and sold out?

EPILOGUE. Here is an excerpt of my interview with Ambeth:

Traveler on Foot: You are undoubtedly the most popular Filipino historian of this generation. You have numerous followers, influenced and inspired a lot of Filipinos to appreciate our culture, art, and history. Can you now say that this is the life that you want? What else do you want to achieve in life?

Ambeth Ocampo: As the country’s former National Historian, as allegedly the most popular historian of my generation I’d like to think I took history from the ivory towers of academe and brought it down and returned it to people where it also belongs. I wanted to share my interest and enthusiasm for history by making it relevant to people. I am an accidental historian, I didn’t plan it. Many things in my life fell on my lap and I made the most of them. Skill is nothing without opportunity and I was blessed with both. I’m lucky that I like what I’m doing such that my “work” doesn’t seem like work at all because I enjoy it–and this shows.

Published in: on September 6, 2016 at 5:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Raul Lebajo

Raul Lebajo

SURREALIST’S HOME. The slow and long travel on the infamous EDSA traffic coming from the northeast going to the southernmost city of Metro Manila were all forgotten when we stepped into a surrealist artist’s home studio in Katarungan Village, Muntinlupa.

The sprawling garden and all three floors of the Raul Lebajo estate are creation spaces where still-life images of mutant flora and fauna and botanical creatures are expressed on mural-sized canvas and on small pieces of paper. 

Raul Lebajo painting

Raul Lebajo home

RAUL LEBAJO. Surrealism was a revolutionary art movement that began in 1920s. Foremost surrealist artists paint melting clocks, floating men, strange creatures that give life of everyday objects and things that question the reality of appearance. This art movement has endured and remains popular because of its ability to unite all cultures. It is surreal because it is like in a dream.

The name Raul Lebajo is linked to Philippine surrealism. He paints familiar creatures and objects we see around us every day but in fantastic colors and dream-like forms to express his message that we must be symbiotic with nature and stop being destructive of our environment.

Raul Lebajo drawing room

Raul Lebajo 2nd floor studio

ALWAYS OUT OF THE BOX. Going up to a flight of stairs, Mr. Lebajo led us to the drawing room on the second floor where he does pencil sketches. Facing the artist’s drawing table is a painting that made me feel claustrophobic. Starring at it for a while, the respected artist broke the silence by explaining the thematic message of the piece, kinahon ang tao so they are struggling to go out of the box.

At one corner is a collection of miniature earthenware from Luz Gallery. They serve as an endless source of inspiration. The huge painting and the collectibles give us a clue that no matter how surreal and out of the box Lebajo’s artworks may appear on canvas or on paper, they are firmly rooted in shapes and forms drawn from real, everyday objects.

Raul Lebajo 3rd floor studio

Raul Lebajo home studio

CREATIVE CLUTTER. Art supplies and unfinished works on canvas take much of the tall space on the third floor studio. Here, music from a small transistor radio fills the room.

A monobloc chair in one corner is painted with colorful dots. There is a display of action figures, a primitive bulol, and some disparate objects. All and the rest of the creative clutter we can only guess to have inspired the artist to play with forms that later appeared in his works.

EPILOGUE. We remain avid fans of our local talent and them having us in their home studio to listen to their stories, their opinions, and dreams, that experience is surreal.

Click here for more blogs about our visits to Filipino artists in their home studios.

Published in: on August 28, 2016 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Lucky Salayog

Lucky Salayog

JUST GOT LUCKY. Two years ago, I found a broken santo in a dumpster. I brought it home and thought for a while what to do with it until sculptor Lucky Salayog took the armless statue of Jesus into his studio.

A month later, Lucky returned to our house with the sculpture. We were impressed at how he recreated the missing left arm with construction nails. He explained that the nails are symbolic of the passion of Christ. The right arm was fashioned from found metal scraps, a fitting metaphor for healing and renewal. What used to be an armless icon is now welcoming our visitors with open arms into our home.

Lucky Salayog artist

Lucky Salayog workshop

METAL SCULPTOR’S HOME-STUDIO. The Salayog home, located at the foothills of the Sierra Madre in Montalban, Rizal is Lucky’s studio. His workshop is located at the back of their kitchen where he assembles his sculptures made of found metal pieces. When creativity overflows, Lucky spills it out in his garage that is filled with junk shop-finds from metal doorknobs and springs to bicycle and motorcycle parts.

On living room walls are his paintings of birds and windmills. Currently, these are his favorite subjects, but it is in his sculpture that Lucky is best known for.

Lucky Salayog flying machine

Lucky Salayog exhibit

FLYING MACHINES. During our visit at Lucky’s studio, he was preparing for his first solo exhibit. His body of works is about man’s ingenuity, imagination, and dream of defying gravity to be high in the sky, above the clouds, reaching for the stars through flying machines.

Powered by a crank is a wind turbine with sails made from denim cloth. A screw-like propeller that brings to mind Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawing of an air screw that was designed to compress air to obtain flight. There is an elaborate, complicated-looking contraption that powers metal oars to propel an airship.

dream to fly

EPILOGUE: DREAM TO FLY. On one afternoon this August, Lucky’s flying machines will grace our home with an art exhibit entitled Dream to Fly.

Click here for blogs about our visits to Filipino artists’ in their home studio.

 

Published in: on August 20, 2016 at 5:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Pasinaya Festival

Pasinaya Festival

FESTIVAL DAY. The mesmerizing dance of the Maranao just ended with a crash of a gong when performers of the Jota Batangueña began clicking their castanets and the dancers makes a graceful entrance to the improvised stage on the drop-off ramp of the CCP Main Theater. At the parking lot, the Philippine Madrigal Singers serenade the crowd competing with a marching band performing on a street-side while a post-Modernist artist greets visitors at the CCP bookstore. At the old Senate Hall, a children’s choir performs a Visayan folk song. In Intramuros, actress Mae Paner makes bubbles while tour guide Ivan Dy coaches children in playing traditional Chinese games.

All of these simultaneously happening at Intramuros, Luneta, the National Museum Complex and the Cultural Center of the Philippines in celebration of the Pasinaya Festival.

Cultural Center of the Philippines Pasinaya

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PASINAYA. At the start of the year, the Cultural Center of the Philippines gives a sampler of Filipino dance, music, theater, film, and visual arts by hosting the Pasinaya FestivalThis one-day event draws crowds of different artistic interests and it is held in different venues along Roxas Boulevard and around Manila. 

It’s good to start at the CCP Complex where spectators can avail of an audience pass to all of the participating institutions for a minimal fee. We avoided the long lines at main theater and Tanghalang Batute so that we could catch as many happenings as possible on that day.

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FREE ARTWORK FROM THE PRINTMAKERS. At the second floor of the CCP Main Theater, the Philippine Association of Printmakers (PAP) led by Benjie Torrado Cabrera demonstrates basic printmaking. The art of printmaking involves the process of transferring an image from a plate onto paper.

At the PAP kiosk, creativity isn’t restricted to the artists. Spectators line up to experience pulling out paper from a block of wood carved with an image and take home a free artwork from the Printmakers.

Jamie de Guzman CCP

Jamie de Guzman at the CCP

JAIME DE GUZMAN. During the festival, prices of publications by CCP were sold at a discount. We got the coffee table book Tuklas Sining from the CCP bookstore and asked post-modernist artist Jaime de Guzman to sign the page where his celebrated work, Gomburza is printed.

A recipient of the Thirteen Artists Award, de Guzman’s body of works inspires generations to reflect on our social realities. His distorted human forms and powerful strokes representing inequality and unrest as seen in his works during 1970s are as timeless and relevant in our current political scenarios.

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FOLK ART ON WHEELS. By lunch time, CCP is already crowded with spectators. We left CCP via the colorful jeepneys that transports passengers to other festival venues.

The Philippine jeepney has been traditionally known as a mobile art piece. Its loud and festive colors, chrome embellishments, plastic trimmings and chrochet curtain that hang along the windshield and a rosary dangling from the rear view mirror makes it an epitome of folk art on wheels.

Pasinaya Old Senate

Pasinaya National Art Gallery

NATIONAL MUSEUM. The folk art on wheels ferried us to the National Museum. After touring the different galleries, we were led to the old Senate hall where a children’s choir performed a set of Visayan folk songs.

Built in 1916, the imposing National Museum building was based from the plan of Daniel Burnham. Its original Neoclassical architectural is evocative of the Greek Parthenon which coincides with the American branding statement that the ideal government is founded on democracy. For several years the Philippine Senate held its sessions on the second floor hall until 1996 when the senate offices vacated the building.

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INTRAMUROS OF MEMORY. From the National Museum, we walked to Intramuros where a portion of General Luna Street was closed down to traffic. In Barrio San Luis, music is provided by a banduria ensemble. Makeshift stalls sell trinkets and handicrafts. Spectators are invited to create handicrafts and participate in the building of an art installation in the middle of the street.

This festive Intramuros recalls the pre-War feria on the feast days of San Nicolas and Sta. Lucia in front of the Recolletos Chruch, the June 13 procession of San Antonio de Padua at the San Francisco Church, the feast of the Sacred Heart at the Jesuit Church of San Ignacio and the Fiesta of La Naval de Manila at Sto. Domingo Church and the traffic jams in front of the Capuchin Church because of the pilgrims of the Our Lady of Lourdes. All the churches mentioned are long gone and can only be seen in old photos like the ones in the book Intramuros of Memory.

Pasinaya Bipoa

Te tit Pasinaya

BAHAY TSINOY. The audience pass allowed entrance to various museums. At Bahay Tsinoy, we explored the the different galleries exhibiting Filipino-Chinese heritage and artifacts. Ivan Dy of Old Manila Walks introduced the guests to traditional Chinese games Bipao and Tet-it at the museum lobby.

EPILOGUE. The annual staging of the Pasinaya Festival ushers the year with appreciation for art across different mediums of expression. Whether through dance, music, theater, film, and visual arts, Pasinaya leads the spectators into discovering the kind of art that goes straight into their heart.

Published in: on January 3, 2016 at 12:26 pm  Comments (1)  

Carina Guevara-Galang

*This article was first featured in Issue 9 of Cake & Whiskey Magazine. Words by Glenn Martinez and photos by Jesse Abad.

Carina Guevarra-Galang

ART 19B. It was rush hour on a humid, tropical evening in urban Quezon City. Inside Art19B, an art gallery set at the heart of Cubao’s bohemian district, the air was cool. Bentwood chairs in one corner reminded me of vacations spent on the beach and the white brick walls with colorful drawings took me back to childhood. Gallery owner Carina Guevara-Galang shared the stories of the pieces in her collection with me, each one reflective of our Philippine life and culture.

One of my biggest idols in life was my lola Carmen Guevara, Carina reminisced. We would go to [art] exhibits and I would accompany her, and we would meet the most fascinating characters. She had a home which even then at a young age I already know was very special. I loved going there and being surrounded by beautiful things that obviously meant so much to her, not because they were expensive but because they’re part and parcel of who she was.

Carina Guevarra-Galang interview

Carina Guevarra in Studio

ON COLLECTING ‘BEAUTIFUL THINGS.’ With Carina’s early exposure to art, mingled with her own artistic talents at a young age, her own house eventually filled with paintings from floor to ceiling.

But collecting ‘beautiful things’ was not cheap: I need to unload some so I could afford the hobby, which gets expensive. Carina said. Friends would buy off me, and I would use the money to buy even more. So it really made sense to eventually open a gallery.

Carina Guevarra Norma Belleza

Carina Guevarra and Vic Galang

A COMMITMENT BIGGER THAN MARRIAGE. Carina is a chef by profession. She studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and came home to the Philippines to open several restaurants. Nowadays, her most refreshing times away from the restaurants, that Carina calls a commitment bigger than marriage, is when she’s on a trip to scout for art throughout Filipino villages.

When we are out [on our trips], the monotony of city living is broken. Manila’s traffic and crime can be very heavy and negative so when, in the middle of shanties, I meet an artist and amidst the poverty there is this incredible talent, it’s like a beacon of light. I love meeting them, learning of their process and quirks. The pieces become personal.

Carina Guevarra Noel Mahilum

Carina Guevarra Philip Badon

HISTORIANS OF THE PHILIPPINES. From conception, art is charged with emotion and memory, which is layered by the emotions and memories brought to the piece by a viewer. They are creative pieces borne out from the artist’s dreams and frustrations. And for Carina, Art 19B gives voice to those artists in her own backyard.

They are our voice, they are our historians, They will tell our story long after we are gone and they will tell the truth. Artists visualize our dreams, our fears, our terrors, our aspirations. They make physical what we cannot explain, what we cannot understand. They plant those seeds.

Carina Guevarra-Galang gallery

EPILOGUE. For those like me, who walk through the doors of Art 19B, Carina shares her passion not only for art, but for people.

I am a gallery owner but you have no idea how many times I’ve played therapist to my clients and artists. I guess the vibe of the place relaxes them enough to tell me very personal things about their live. So once we started talking, their lives mix with the art, and out conversation can last until 3 am.

-18 October 2015
Feast day of St. Luke, Patron saint of painters

Published in: on October 18, 2015 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment