PAKIL FIESTA. The quiet town of Pakil in Laguna is home to a centuries-old healing ritual known as the Turumba. This street-dancing procession is held twice a year. First, during Pakil’s town fiesta on May 12 and second, on the feast day of the Our Lady of Sorrows every September 15.

A reenactment of the first Turumba is repeated every 15th of September to commemorate the founding of the town’s most important religious icon, the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.

Turumba story

Turumba Marianga

TURUMBA LEGEND. It was 1788 when some men went fishing on Laguna de Bay at the end of an unusual September storm. While rowing their bancas, the fishermen spotted an object bobbing against the tide. A group of fishermen were able to catch it with their net. Upon retrieving the object, they made several attempts to bring it to the church of Paete but the tide is drifting them away from the shore.

The object was settled on a wide flat rock in the lake shore of Pakil. As the curious town’s people gathered around the object, they found it to be a painting of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores framed on a nine by eleven inch beaten silver. Some men folk tried to bring it to the church but was too heavy to lift not even the big woman named Marian-ga could move it off the rock.

Turumba Padre Soriano

Turumba image

HINDI MABUHAT! SUMAYAW NA LANG TAYO. The news about the wondrous icon reached the parish priest. That day being a Sunday, Padre Miguel Soriano instructed the altar boys, the choir, and those who came to hear the mass to assemble at the shore.

As the priest touched the painting, the people started jumping and clapping as an expression of joy. Padre Soriano found that the previously heavy painting has become light to carry as the towns people danced around the image. They continued dancing as they bring the painting to the church.

Turumba procession Pakil

Turumba procession

TURUMBA STREET DANCING. The original painting is kept in a chapel at the adjoining convent of San Pedro de Alacantara Church. During the annual procession, a statue of the Our Lady of Sorrows is taken down from the high altar of church and is brought to the narrow streets of Pakil on a silver anda carried by male devotees.

Stomping their feet and waving their arm in pointing gesture while chanting Turumba sa Birhen, the whole town participates in the dramatization of the first Turumba.

Turumba healing procession

Turumba healing dance

A HEALING DANCE. After the first Turumba, the dancing tradition continued as religious a parade for the sick. In a book by French surgeon Paul P. de la Gironier, he described the early  Turumba as a procession celebrated yearly in the town of Pakil where all the sick and invalid take part in by dancing. In this manner, they believe, that they will get cured of their sufferings. Coming from places as far as 20 miles, the lame and sick who still have a little bit of strength plod themselves along to Pakil to participate in the fiesta. During the entire duration of the procession these unhappy ones dance assisted by helpers and shout Toromba la Virgen, la Virgen Toromba! It is a strange spectacle to see all these poor devils make superhuman efforts and incredible contortions until the Blessed Virgin is returned to the church. These unfortunate one at the end of their strength throw themselves to the ground gasping and rest motionless for hours. Those who are seriously ill often die of exhaustion, while others regain their health or get worst.

While the Turumba we see today is far from Gironier’s description, it retains its old two-step beat when healthy devotees act like sick men and women. National Artist Alejandro Roces explains that the turumba could be a blend of the words turo, to point and umbay, a hymn of grief. The act of pointing at the image and then patting another person are part of the Turumba ritual of transferring the healing powers of the religious icon to a person who needs healing.

Turumba sa Birhen

EPILOGUE. The frenzied dancing and chanting continued until the silver anda bearing the antique image of  the Virgin of Sorrow is carried back to the church.

This concludes the dramatization of the finding of the Virgin of Sorrow painting that made the people of Pakil dance for joy.

 15 September 2015
Feast day of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.

Published in: on September 15, 2015 at 12:44 am  Comments (1)  

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)  

Angel Cacnio

Angel Cacnio

ART ANGEL. I prefer art that shows festive themes, particularly where the artist draws inspiration from folk art. This is the kind of art we see in the works of Angel Cacnio.

Narrated on canvases are historic events, folk dances and traditions, idyllic rural scenes usually depicting life in old Tambobong, the old name of the artist’s hometown known today as Malabon.


Angel Cacnio House Malabon

TAMBOBONG TOUR.  One weekend, artist Eric Mercado agreed to take us to Tito Angel’s home studio in Malabon. Both Eric and Tito Angel are members of Tuesday Group, a community of artist who regularly gathers every Tuesday in Cubao Expo for a group painting session.

Eric gave us a tour of barangays Concepcion and Baritan to see the surviving period houses in his hometown. Oldest of the Malabon Heritage Houses is the 1861 Raymundo House with the Hapsburg Eagle inscribed above the adobe gateway.

Angel Cacnio Houe

Angel Cacnio diploma

CACNIO MUSEUM. The Balay Negrense-inspired residence of the Cacnios was the brainchild of the artist’s wife, the late Amelia Cacnio. Its upper floor serve as the living quarters while the ground floor has a private museum where Tito Angel meets fellow artists and his followers.

That day with Tito Angel, he told us stories about his childhood as the youngest of eight children of Flaviano Cacnio and Telespora Cruz. Being sickly as a child, he could not help much in his father’s livelihood as a fisherman. He earned a degree in fine arts in 1953 at the University of the Philippines when National Artist Guillermo Tolentino was the Director of the School of Fine Arts.

Angel Cacnio peso design

Angel Cacnio peso

NATIONAL TREASURE. The Cacnio museum showcases Tito Angel’s private collection of paintings including design templates he made for the Central Bank of the Philippines. In the 1980s, Central Bank commissioned him to design the 25 and 50-centavo coins as well as the 20-peso and 100-peso bills.

Tito Angel showed us the design he made for the 500-peso bill. According to Tito Angel, his original design bears the image of then president Ferdinand Marcos but with the changing of powers after the EDSA Revolution, he replaced the image on the 500-peso bill that of Ninoy Aquino. The festive design for the 500-peso bill did not make it to circulation.

Angel Cacnio art by Michael and Ferdie

Angel Cacnio art by Michael

CACNIO FAMILY OF ARTISTS. Also displayed in the museum were brass sculptures by Tito Angel’s sons, Ferdinand and Michael.

According to Tito Angel, He named his eldest son after a former president while his youngest to an Italian Renaissance artist.

Angel Cacnio bulungan

Angel Cacnio paintings

TITO ANGEL. That day spent with Tito Angel, we went around his backyard to harvest the green mangoes dangling from its tree. In one corner of the museum, we watched him add the last layers of brushstrokes to complete a mother and child portrait.

EPILOGUE. We listened to his sentimental stories on how much he misses the old days with his artist friends, his contemporaries and his wife, Tita Mely.

Before leaving the Cacnio museum, we promised Tito Angel that we will visit him again.

-24 August 2015
Feast day of San Bartolome Apostol, patron saint of Malabon

Published in: on August 24, 2015 at 12:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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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  

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