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  

Lydia Velasco

Lydia Velasco

NEAR ART. There is a church, a hospital, grocery and wet market, a resort famous for its nine-waves pool, a mall called SM City San Mateo in our neighborhood but there are no art gallery or art museum. The nearest we could go to see artworks is at Vargas Museum in UP or Pinto Gallery in hilly Antipolo. So whenever I feel the craving to see art in its traditional and timeless beauty, I run to the home studio of the modernist master Lydia Velasco in Marikina.

When going to Tita Lydia, we cross the bridge that connects our barangay to her’s. Below the bridge is the historic Nangka River where a bloody battle between Andres Bonifacio’s men and the Spanish forces took place in August 31, 1896.

Lydia Velasco statue

Lydia Velasco grotto

HOME OF THE ART ICON. Religious, serene, motherly that’s the vibe when entering the home studio of the art icon.
Surrounding Tita Lydia’s unfinished artworks is a lush floral and fruit garden with several grottoes where the modernist master spends time praying and painting, and entertaining her followers, family, and friends.

Filipiniana is all-over the house. Vintage stained-glass, filigreed transoms, and colorful machuca tiles were used at the main entrance. The stairs leading to second floor studio and living quarters were made of salvaged wood and capiz window panels from an ancestral house.

Lydia Velasco studio

Lydia Velasco modern paintings

THE WOMEN OF LYDIA VELASCO. In the several occasions we visited Tita Lydia, we always find her working on several commissioned pieces. She is known in the art circle for her women figures. Slender, serpentine, sophisticated women forms is how art critics describe Tita Lydia’s art.

Tita Lydia adds texture to her canvas by pasting fabric with interesting design patterns to her female forms and blending her collage with yellow, green and red tones.

Lydia Velasco old works

AMBASSADOR CHAIRS. A tour of Tita Lydia’s home studio begins in the garden then to the second floor studio where there is a display of the artist’s old works bearing the signature Lydia Cruz or Lydia Velasco-Cruz. While seated on a pair of ambassador chairs from her ancestor’s home in Navotas, Tita Lydia told us stories of her life as a young girl selling fish in Navotas market where the old trading tradition known as bulong-bulungan system is still being practiced to this day.

She majored at advertising in UST and worked for various advertising agencies before becoming a full time artist. It was one of her artistic directors, Mauro Malang Santos, who suggested to drop her married name Cruz when signing her paintings for the purpose of easy recall. Tita Lydia signs her coveted canvases today with Velasco.

Lydia Velasco paintings

Lydia Velasco painting Candle Vendor

CANDLE VENDOR. When I Googled paintings by Tita Lydia, I found one of her early works called Candle vendor. This painting interests me because it recalls the ritual of burning or melting of candles as offerings in exchange for heaven’s blessings or divine intervention for someone’s desires. In our recent visit, Tita Lydia puts her signature on an updated version of the Candle vendor.

EPILOGUE. I am thankful today because whenever someone ask me Oh! Who are the people in your neighborhood? I can sing about the artist Lydia Velasco.

-8 September 2015 | Nativity of the Virgin Mary

Published in: on September 8, 2015 at 5:15 am  Comments (1)  

Ugu Bigyan

Ugo Bigyan

AUGUST 14.  While malls in Metro Manila are preparing for payday sale, fans of a celebrated potter are eager to go for that four-hour road trip to Tiaong, Quezon a day before the first payday in August to get a discount on coveted handmade pieces by Augusto “Ugu” Bigyan.

The discount is based on the potter’s age. Let’s say as of the writing of this blog, Ugu is 52 years old on August 14, so take off 52 percent from the pottery’s actual selling price. Next year it will be 53 percent off and so on.

Ugo Bigyan showroom

Ugo Bigyan pottery

UGU BIGYAN POTTERY. Before becoming a potter, Ugu went to school in Manila then found a job after graduating from college. He went back to his hometown to become an artist. He got encouragement and inspiration from potters Jaime and Anne de Guzman from the neighboring town of Candelaria.

It took four years for Ugu to perfect his meticulous, attractive, and one-of-a-kind pieces. These words are just some of the fitting adjectives to describe Ugu Bigyan pottery.

Ugo Bigyan kubo

Ugo Bigyan Bed and Breakfast

BRING HOME THE POTTER’S GARDEN. So aside from being meticulous, distinct and beautiful, why do bus-loads of people still throng to Ugu’s workshop in Tiaong on regular days to get truck loads of pottery? Answer: Because it’s like bringing home a piece of the potter’s garden.

Under the canopy of fruit bearing trees and surrounded by tropical plant life are huts where Ugu’s creations are showcased. Aside from pottery, Ugu also designs wooden furniture where guests can have memorable meals that the master potter personally prepares.

Ugo Bigyan pottery store

Ugo Bigyan potter

EPILOGUE. Ugu’s birthday only comes once a  year but meeting an artist like Ugu even on a regular day is worth celebrating. So visit him, his pottery, his garden and greet him: Thank you Ugu Bigyan for sharing your gift.

-14 August 2015

Published in: on August 14, 2015 at 5:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Dominic Rubio

Dominic Rubio

DO YOU WANT A RUBIO. I am grateful to artist Glenn Cagandahan who asked me years ago, Do you want a Rubio? From the backroom of his art gallery in Paete, he pulled out a couple of canvases. He unrolled one of them. On it is man, dignified in old-fashioned finery, walking in a top hat and with a cane on his way to a ritualistic paseo. From my paseo to the lakeshore town of Paete, I came home with a Dominic Rubio painting.

That painting we got from Glenn became a conversation piece in our living room but the painting looked lonely so I got another one to make a pair. This time, it was a woman clad in traditional baro’t saya. She is carrying a bilao on her head and holding a bayong in her right hand.

rubio 24 x 30

A RETROSPECT. After graduating fine arts at the University of Sto. Tomas, Dominic worked for an advertising agency. Back then he painted tropical landscapes. His immersion with tribal communities in Mindanao inspired him to include indigenous characters into his works on canvas. Since then, images of Filipino heritage make its way to homes of those who appreciate Dominic’s art.

Dominic Rubio Casa Rubio

Dominic Rubio home

CASA RUBIO. I don’t think I ever planned to bring home artworks from our travels but having those Rubio paintings straight out from the artist’s hometown introduced me to the idea of meeting local Artists in their Home Studio.

In Paete, our regular rounds included the home of the Cagandahan siblings, Glenn, Odette and Christine where we comfortably stay overnight whenever we are in chisel town. The workshops of sculptors Luis Ac-ac and Ben Dailo are must-see stopovers. Painters Bayani Ray Acala and Otep Bañez always welcome us like long lost relatives. Recently added to our itinerary is Casa Rubio. 

Dominic Rubio artist studio

Dominic Rubio artist

RUBIO NOSTALGIA. Casa Rubio is the weekend home of Dominic and his wife Vivian and their three children. It is filled with objects that interest the couple like Vivian’s collection of antique milk glass in the dining room.

On the second floor, Dominic has a collection of vintage photographs that shows Manila with its Puente España, tranvia, and Escolta. It is in these nostalgic images where the artist draws themes from the past for his paintings.

Dominic Rubio sculpture

Dominic Rubio sculpture paete

CRANING NECKS. Dominic’s tribute to our heritage is interpreted in his Filipino figures with elongated necks clad in traditional finery akin to Damian Domingo‘s 19th century drawings tipos del pais. But his subjects are painted in contemporary style that appeal to a generation of Filipinos, just like Dominic’s characters with long craning necks, proud of their colorful culture and rich heritage.

EPILOGUE. But having an artwork by prolific artist like Dominic Rubio on our wall is never about showing off a trophy. It’s about the story of our journey on how we got close to God’s hands as the master Creator of all beautiful things. Today, I am grateful to my katukayo, Glenn Cagandahan for asking me some years ago Do you want a Rubio? because that Rubio painting was my first step into discovering local art and the Filipino artists that made them.

-25 July 2015 |
Feast day of Santiago Apostol, patron saint of Paete 

Published in: on July 25, 2015 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Ferdinand Doctolero

Ferdinand Doctolero

SABADO DE DOCTOLERO. Artists are busy people. On top of the mental activity of visualizing what to create with their hands, the artists will have to prepare pencil studies, the brushes, the colors and the mixing plate, the canvas or wood panel on which he or she will apply the oil paint, acrylic gesso or that modeling paste for that impasto effect on their painting.

So when mixed media visual artist and fine arts professor
Ferdinand Doctolero agreed to meet us one weekend at his home studio, we dropped whatever we are doing and just went to see him for brunch on Sabado de Gloria.

Ferdinand Doctolero artist

BRUNCH WITH DOC. Professor Ferdinand Doctolero over brunch is always enjoyable company, always full of stories, and always insightful about the world of art.

The art professor is known in the art circle as Doc. Well respected by generations of fine arts students, he is the department head of the College of Fine Arts at the Technological University of the Philippines. His former students, now CCP 13 artists awardees Joey Cobcobo, Mark Andy Garcia, and Dex Fernandez recall the several drawings they  have to submit to Professor Doctolero as one of the requirements in order to pass his class.

Ferdinand Doctolero palaspas

Ferdiand Doctolero illustrations

THE BOY WHO WANTED TO DRAW AND PAINT. Just like in the short story that he wrote The Boy Who Wanted to Draw and Paint, Doc encourages his students to keep on drawing, sketching, applying color on whatever their creative mind can think of.

Practicing what he lovingly preaches, Doc filled his home studio with playful artworks, doodles and drawings on paper. Different size canvases line up the ground and upper floors. The house is adorably inspiring for someone who wanted to draw and paint.

Ferdinand Doctolero puppet

Ferdiand Doctolero studio

YELLOW BELL STUDIO. Doc’s home studio is named after the yellow bell flowers the grows abundantly on their front lawn. Doc shares this art space with fellow artist and wife Beth Parrocha-Doctolero.

After brunch, Doc gave us a tour of Yellow Bell Studio, showing every piece of artwork that he and Beth have created. Joaquin moved around the house as if it were a playground with happy characters straight out from a children’s story book.

Sundalong Patpat

Ferdiand Doctolero Kata-kata

MGA ILUSTRADOR NG KABATAAN. Both Doc and Beth are members of the Ilustrador ng Kabataan or INK, an association of artists committed to the creation and promotion of illustrations for children.

Doc showed us some of the original illustrations he did for Sundalong Patpat, a short story by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario and the Tawi-tawi folk story Kata-kata: Paghahanap kay Ma’ajarat-Tornorka.

Ferdinand Doctolero Maharlikang Angel

Ferdiand Doctolero and Joaquin

EXCHANGE GIFT. Before leaving Yellow Bell Studio, Joaquin and Doc exchanged works. Doc got a watercolor drawing of the Ang Matapang na Bata from Joaquin and Joaquin received from Doc a mixed media painting of the Prinsipe Angel.

EPILOGUE. For Ang Matapang na Bata,  Joaquin applied what he learned from Doc in the short story The Boy Who Wanted to Draw and Paint:

The Boy used the Pencil, Pen, Paper, Brush, and Paint to interact together with the point, line, shape, form, color, texture and space…

And the Boy was happy with his work of art.

Published in: on July 4, 2015 at 7:44 pm  Comments (2)  

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