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  Comments (2)  

Bantayog ng mga Bayani

Bantayog ng mga Bayani 1

MARCOS HORCRUX. A piece of furniture at the Malacanang Museum screams a dark history. It is a chair where Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared Proclamation 1081 on the 21st of September 1972. Two days prior to that national broadcast, Marcos has already placed the Philippines under Martial Law. This granted him the authoritarian powers that he claimed necessary to eliminate the violent overthrow of the republic and to initiate reforms under what he would call the New Society.

As the dictator, Marcos closed down Congress, sequestered big businesses and mass media, centralized the police and army, arrested his critics without due process and silenced those he considered enemies of his administration.

Bantayog ng Mga Bayani memorial wall

Bantayog monument

WALL OF REMEMBRANCE. I belong to a generation that can only learn about this dark episode in our history from reading books and making pilgrimages to places where the violence and the heroism are remembered. The Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City is our version of the many holocaust museums around the world. But instead of Hitler and the Nazi regime, Bantayog ng mga Bayani tells about the heroes and events during Martial Law and the Marcos regime.

Standing on the beautifully landscaped park designed by National Artist for Architecture Ildefonso P. Santos is the Inang Bayan Monument. The 45-foot bronze sculpture by Eduardo Castrillo is like Michelangelo’s  La Pieta depicting Inang Bayan lifting a fallen martyr. A portion of Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios is inscribed at the base of the monument. A black granite wall with the names of those who fought the repressive regime that ruled the country from 1965 to 1986 are immortalized in the Wall of Remembrance.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Mural

BANTAYOG MUSEUM. Aside from materials that are available today, the things I knew about Martial Law, its key players and history were based from stories narrated to me by my parents. I remember a story told to me by my mother about an uncle and how he managed to slipped out of the country to escape mass arrest and avoided torture from military men. Looking at the exhibits at the Bantayog Museum made me realize that not everyone is as fortunate as my uncle.

It has been observed that Filipinos are too forgiving and too forgetful. The museum’s objective is to help people remember one of the darkest moments of our past, learn from its lessons and make sure that it never happens again.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Museum

Bantayog ng Mga Bayani Marcos

THE MARCOS DICTATORSHIP. Ascending the stairs from the museum lobby, leads to the main gallery. The first thing that greeted me was an enlarged picture of President Ferdinand Marcos with Imelda and the first family during 1965 oath taking ceremonies. Surrounding the enlarged picture are images with captions that illustrate poverty, torture and violence inflicted on protesters, and another one that explains why Marcos and Hitler are alike.

Marcos became president in 1965. During his term, the national debt grew and this was left to the Filipino people after his dictatorship. Martial Law destroyed the balance of freedom and established a culture of fear. The Marcos dictatorship was intended to rule for life to enrich its leaders and the cronies through ill-gotten wealth at the expense of the Filipino people.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Diokno

Bantayog ng mga Bayani FQS

BOMBING THE OPPOSITION. At one corner stands a life-size cut out of the eloquent opposition leader Jose Diokno speaking before a mammoth crowd during the 1971 political campaign rally at Plaza Miranda, which ended in tragedy after two grenades were tossed onstage wiping out the senatorial line-up of the opposition party.

Marcos proclaimed Martial Law thirteen months after the gruesome carnage at Plaza Miranda. Opposition leaders that survived the Plaza Miranda bombing were arrested in the first hours of the dictatorship.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Jail cell

ARRESTS HERE AND THERE AND EVERYWHERE. A dimly lit corner leads to a replica of a prison cell of activist Father Jerry Aquino. He was detained in Camp Bagong Diwa for speaking up against the Marcos regime’s excesses and for opposing the building of Chico Dam in the Cordilleras. The prison cell was cramped with a small bunk bed and toilet bowl.

Marcos kept his political enemies under tightest security in military camps nationwide because of the fear that they gain public sympathy.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Snap Elections

Bantayog ng mga Bayani People Power

THE ROAD TO EDSA. With increasing civil unrest, failing economy, uncontrolled corruption of cronies, a hostile international media, the murder of popular Senator Ninoy Aquino, the fraudulent snap election and the mutiny in the military, the tide turns against the 20-year rule of Marcos.

The historic narration of events at Bantayog Museum culminates with the exhibit depicting the triumphal 1986 EDSA Revolution with the image of Our Lady of Fatima sitting atop a replica of a military tank set against the backdrop of mass protesters.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Hall of Remembrance

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Macl-ing Dulag

HALL OF REMEMBRANCE. From the main gallery, I was led to a room that shows morbid images of dead people and the description of how they met their violent deaths. The Hall of Remembrance gives tribute to those who who died because they revealed the evils and truths of the Marcos dictatorship and fought for the restoration of freedom.

Under Martial Law, there were about 75,000 +++ human rights abuses that were documented and proven.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Fr. Valerio

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Quimpo jr.

DESAPARECIDOS. Among those who met their violent death were Emmanuel Lacaba who was shot in his mouth, Liliosa Hilao who was poisoned with acid, Antonio Hilario was buried alive, Soledad Salvador, Resteta Fernandez and Fr. Nilo Valerio were beheaded. A series of pictures showing Jun Quimpo Jr. singing with a guitar, with a toy gun and a photo after being shot.

Carlos Bernardo del Rosario, a political science instructor at PCC (Philippine College of Commerce now PUP), has held different positions in various movements in opposition to the excesses of the Marcos regime. He was last seen putting up campaign posters inside the PCC campus and was never found despite search efforts. His disappearance was the first case of the Desaparecidos.

EPILOGUE: NEVER AGAIN. The relics and exhibits at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani give names to the countless that died in the hands of a dictator, his family and his friends. But what is the point of revisiting the past? Do we have to own the pain of those who were raped, tortured, and killed during that oppressive regime? Can’t we just move on? We do not need to fan the flames of hate today. But we have to remind generations the valuable lesson that evil exists because good men do nothing.

While it is said that history is written by the victors who have hung the heroes, thus our oral and written history may be revised, but the Truth we shall all be answerable to the Higher Being.

-Feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe,O.F.M. 
patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, journalists, and the pro-life movement


Published in: on August 14, 2016 at 4:00 pm  Comments (3)  

Paete Holy Week Procession

FOLKSY PROCESSIONS. A massive crowd waving Palaspas before an image of Jesus on a donkey called the Humenta is the first procession of the Holy Week. This Palm Sunday Procession recalls Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  Important Holy Week processions follows on Holy Wednesday for the Via Crucis, on Maundy Thursday for the procession of the Eucharist to the Altar of the Repose, on Good Friday for the funeral procession with the Santo Entierro and on Easter Sunday for the Salubong with the image of the Risen Christ.

In the woodcarving town of Paete, Laguna, a folksy procession is held on Holy Wednesday that brings us back to our ancestral world.

A FESTIVAL OF CARROZAS. Arriving late in the afternoon, local spectators and some eager tourists have already gathered in front of the Paete Church. A fellow blogger, Sidney Snoek has already found a good spot to take his photos.

Inside the centuries-old church of Paete is a festival of carrozas. The pews were purposely removed to give way to the massive carriages bearing the images of saints, via crucis celebrities and tableau based from Biblical scenes. It is amazing to see how the carrozas were lined up inside the church.

THE ROLE OF THE RECAMADERA. Completely decorated with flowers and fully illuminated, standing out from the carrozas are the statues carved by the town’s artisans. Some images date back to the 1700s. Old or newly carved, the statues were exquisite.

Images are entrusted to the recamadera who is in-charge of the cleaning and the dressing of the statue and its carroza for the procession.  Traditionally, the recamadera was a matriarch who spends for decorations and the feeding and temporary lodging of those who will join the procession.

HEIRLOOMS AND TRADITIONS. All the statues are family heirloom and are safeguarded at all costs. I have learned from locals that to loose one is considered a grievous offense not only to the family’s reputation but to the entire town as well. During World War II, the heads and hands of the statues were taken to the hills to hide them while the enemy torched the entire town to the ground.

According to local tradition, whoever inherits the statue also inherits a rice field, at a very least a hectare in size. A large portion of the income from the field is allocated for the statues maintenance, its dress, accessories, carroza, lights and flowers when it is taken out on the processions. The rest of the money is spent when the owner of the santo must open their house to all devotees of the statue for a whole day of feasting.

PRUSISYON. I was talking to Sidney, when the ancient tower bells began to toll. I went to my position near the church’s entrance while leaving Sidney somewhere in the courtyard. From the church’s double door the first carroza rolled out followed by the next one. Each float bearing saint or scene is introduced by a voice over.

The Holy Wednesday procession presents scenes and characters from the Stations of the Cross. Traditionally, each carroza is accompanied by guilds based on the image’s attribution. For example, the carroza of the Oracion en el Huerto, a scene in Gethsemene is followed by landlords and orchard owners. Accompanying the Nazareno are jeepney drivers and mechanics much like the scene in Quiapo. The Pieta is followed by workers and owners of funeral parlors. While image of San Pedro is followed by sabungeros, the image of Sta. Veronica with the face of Jesus on a piece of cloth is followed by painters and artists.

EPILOGUE. The procession went through its way across the courtyard and then through the narrow streets of the Paete.

In this day and age when commercialism dominates our traditions and fiestas, an event like the Holy Wednesday Procession in Paete brings us back to our ancestral world.

-Holy Monday 2016



ON THE EVE OF LENT. Every year, we turn over the dried and dusty Blessed Palaspas to our parish church on the eve of Miercoles de Ceniza. Old blessed palms are burnt and mixed with water for the anointing of ash on the forehead during Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Cuaresma or the 40-days of Lent. Like the Christmas season in Catholic Philippines, the Lenten season is as lively and as colorful.

Palaspas making

Palaspas vendors

PALASPAS-MAKING TRADITION. On the eve of Palm Sunday, vendors of palaspas line the church patio and street alleys. The palaspas are woven on where they are sold. The unopened coconut leaves are often used to make the palaspas.

Like the annual making of the folksy parol, palaspas-making is a family tradition that is passed on to generations. When I asked vendors on how he or she learned to make palaspas, their answers were similar. They were taught by their parents, uncles and aunties, lolos and lolas to make palaspas and sell them on Palm Sunday.

Palaspas humenta

Palaspas binondo

THE BLESSING OF THE PALMS. On Palm Sunday, the palaspas becomes part of the reenactment of Christ entry to Jerusalem where He is welcomed by a crowd waving branches. In some towns, a statue of Christ on a donkey called the humenta is carried on an andas in solemn procession. In Tondo, The priest plays the role of Christ in a procession where he rides a horse while blessing the crowd waving palaspas. In Binondo, the women spread the banig before the priest on procession that begins from church and ends at Plaza Calderon dela Barca.

Folk traditions taught us that anything touched or blessed by a holy man becomes sacred. Like crucifixes, religious statues, anting-anting medallions, the palaspas once blessed can ward off evil.

palaspas by the window

THE VERSATILE PALASPAS. Traditionally, sanctified palaspas are brought home and are placed on windows and above doorways to shield the house from evils spirits and calamities and bring good fortune. Some blessed palaspas are placed at the edge of the roof as protection from lightning. Burnt palms are scattered on rice fields to ensure good harvest.

In the local film Shake, Rattle and Roll, the one with the manananggal episode, palaspas was used to ward of the man-eating aswang. In Cabanatuan and Aklan, palaspas ash is mixed with coconut oil, incense charcoal, and a piece of holy candle to make a cure-all ointment. A healing ritual in Pakil involves the burning of blessed fronds before the sick. Its vapors meant to heal and the ashes are stirred into a glass of water as a drink for fever. In Ilocos, a small palaspas is woven to replace the cross from a rosary on a corpse’s right hand. This ritual for the dead guarantees an entrance to St. Peter’s gate.

10 February 2016
Miercoles de Ceniza

Published in: on February 10, 2016 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment