Joey Cobcobo


COLLABORATIVE WORK. It was the anniversary of EDSA People Power when CCP Thirteen Artists awardee Joey Cobcobo visited our home in San Mateo, Rizal to apply the kind of art he did for his solo show I’m Doing My Father’s Business on a vintage school chair in our study.

He traced Joaquin’s drawing using carbon paper and carved the image onto the furniture. The humble school chair became a printmaking plate with collaborative works of my son and Joey.



JOEY’S HOME.  At exactly one year after Joey’s visit, I decided to go see him in his home studio in Mandaluyong where he showed me how he has designated specific spaces for entertaining friends, creating art, and his computer shop business.

All of these spaces have impressive display of art like his entries for the Ateneo and Philippine Art Awards and those from his previous shows that are now part of his personal collection. In addition to his own works, Joey showed me a portrait given to him by National Artist Ben Cabrera.



COBCOBO’S CREATIVE SPACE. After breakfast of pandesal and coffee, we exited the house to the main street then entered a narrow alley that led to his two studios. The first studio is located at ground level served as temporary living space for guest artists who worked with him in art projects. The second studio on the upper floor is where Joey draws, paints, sculpts, and carves his printmaking plates.

It is in this creative space where Joey freely unleashes his talent on whatever medium he has mastered, drawing inspiration from his Igorot and Ilocano roots, his family and the people in his Mandaluyong neighborhood, which he never leaves behind.

-25 February 2017
Edsa People Power Anniversary

Published in: on February 25, 2017 at 4:28 am  Comments (1)  

Casa San Miguel


AN ART COLONY IN ZAMBALES. There are certain images that leave imprints on the mind and heart. Ours is an art colony
nestled in a vast countryside orchard of fruit bearing trees that is close to the sea and the mountains.

Founded by a world renowned musical prodigy, Julliard-trained violinist Alfonso Coke Bolipata on their ancestral land in San Antonio, Zambales, Casa San Miguel serves since it was built in 1993 as a refuge where our homegrown talents could converge, experiment, process, demonstrate, and inspire a local community through their art. The artistic tradition continues to this day in this creative cloister where young musicians and visual artists learn about art from their equally talented adult counterparts.



PUNDAQUIT MOUNTAINS. The bus en route to Iba, Zambales began to roll under the early morning sky of Quezon City at 7am. After a couple of stopovers, we arrived at marketplace in San Antonio, Zambales. It was only then we realized that we had covered more distance than spending hours in traffic in Metro Manila. Stress was forgotten.

We rode a tricycle and veered off the main road twice to take a photo of the Pundaquit mountains. First, along the road with a mango orchard in the foreground and second by the beach. In Pundaquit beach, a local pointed us to a natural formation where a figure of a man’s face can be outlined on the side of Capones Island. Untouched by pollution and haze, the colors of nature seemed more vivid in Pundaquit and there is no need to apply a filter to capture the breathtaking views of the mountains.



BASTION OF THE ARTS. We knew that we entered the Corpus-Bolipata farm estate when the tricycle slowed down and passed through a gate decked with colorful tile mosaics of themes and style we immediately identified to artist Plet Bolipata-Borlongan. From the gate, we followed the walk path under the leafy canopy of the vast mango orchard.

We passed the fountain and behold, in New England Shaker architecture dressed in red Ilocos bricks is the bastion of the arts, Casa San Miguel.



BACKSTAGE CAFE. After five solid hours travel by bus, we were hungry. A friendly welcome staff led us to the Backstage Cafe where we walked through dappled sunlight under the colorful canopies set for al fresco dining. We entered the cafe through a sliding door. Literally, the cafe and its kitchen is located at the backstage of a performance theater.

We chose a table next to a coffee station that is set on an antique chest of drawers decorated with Baliwag-style carabao bone inlay so I can easily access the unlimited drink. The wooden furniture, the vintage objects on the wall, the ambient lighting, the jazz music and the aroma of brewed coffee mixed with freshly baked bread fill this cozy cafe with charm, warmth, and good vibes. We felt at home.



THE BOLIPATA PLAYGROUND. My travel companion called my attention to a small gate that opens to a hidden area behind a cafe, Dad, there’s a playground!, he said. The grounds in the Pasilyo Country Living and Bookstore looked wild and rustic but obviously well-curated with outdoor furniture and whimsical sculptures by Plet Bolipata.

There is art in every inch. A vintage Volkswagen Kombi was converted into a bookstore to house a collection of good reads from the library of artist Elmer Borlongan. We browsed the books and sat in one of the weathered wooden furniture. A soft breeze had caused a wind chime to fill Plet’s playground with relaxing tinkling tones.



BORLONGAN BAKASYUNAN. Within the Casa San Miguel compound is the creative retreat of artist couple Elmer Borlongan and Plet Bolipata. During the day of our visit, the Borlongans were in Japan to celebrate Emong’s golden-year birthday.

More of Plet’s works like a whimsical menagerie are displayed right in front of the Borlangan bahay bakasyunan in Zambales.



GALERIE ANITA. Casa San Miguel is also home to the Anita Magsaysay-Ho Museum and Gallery. Named after only female member of the Thirteen Moderns, it houses contemporary artworks of Zambales-based artists and the collection of Coke Bolipata.

We sat on the gallery’s hardwood bench at the center of the enormous space. With the organic and smooth curves, this functional piece of art is distinctively by sculptor Jerry Araos. We walked around to look closely at each artwork. My personal favorites from the museum’s collection were the Andres Bonifacio depicted as angel in watercolor by Manny Garibay and a work that recall Da Vinci’s flying gadget by Don Salubayba. My young travel buddy kept coming back to see the mixed media piece by Brendale Tadeo.



CASA SAN MIGUEL.  After roaming the grounds and spending quick quiet moments under the trees, we entered the main building. While the American architectural design ends on the facade, the interior of Casa San Miguel is a visual feast of playful Filipino styles.

The placement of the huge windows that provide natural light and cross ventilation is similar to the configuration found in a bahay na bato. There are grilled balconies that look out to the orchard which were common in hacienda houses of the past. The unpainted wood that dominates the large rooms and the steeply-pitched ceiling that resembles the native feel of an ancestral house. Then there is a mirador or tower room, which is an octogonal cupola providing a 360-degrees view of the Pundaquit countryside.



ARTS CENTER. The environment at the art center is akin to Hogwarts School or Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

But instead of a Professor Wolverine or a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, we met visual artist Brendale Tadeo while doing an inventory of the artworks he curated at a gallery dedicated to his artist mentor, Don Salubayba. In another space, artist and educator Lala Monserrat Pavilando is facilitating an art workshop to a group of local youth.



EPILOGUE. In separate chambers, music lessons led by Coke Bolipata are being held from lectures on musical theory to the hands-on playing of instruments.

Coke gives credit to his grandfather Don Ramon Corpus, a celebrated concert violinist and pioneer member of the pre-war Manila Symphony Orchestra as his inspiration for making art accessible for all and this passing of artistic passion continues to this day in the same way Don has handed the torch to Tadeo and Pavilando and Coke to the children of Casa San Miguel.

– 14 January 2016
In celebration of Traveler on Foot’s 9th Year

Published in: on January 14, 2017 at 6:37 pm  Comments (2)  



ERMITANEO. While walking along Mabini Street under the glaring mid-morning sun, a street-side vendor selling yosi, candies, bottled water, along with excavated Asian ceramics, rusty Maranao kris, and ethnic Kalinga necklaces invited me to check out his merchandise. Welcome to Ermita’s antique district.

Antiques, tribal artifacts, and folk art are beautiful objects with intrinsic and historical value. They give hints at our culture and can inspire a feeling of connection to the different periods in our history. They are expensive providers of inspiration. That is why I visit antique stores in Ermita mostly to satisfy my visual cravings for our ancestral heritage more than to shop.



NUESTRA SEÑORA DE GUIA. I usually start my walks around this district in its Church that houses the oldest antique statuette of the Virgin Mary in the country. When the Spanish arrived in the seaside village of Lagyo, the old name of Ermita, the natives were found venerating a wooden icon set atop a clump of pandan plant. Its head and shoulders were carved from narra and body from molave with fading swirls of blue, red, and gold. The men sent by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi were quick in convincing the villagers that the image of the Nuestra Señora de Guia was brought by angels.

A chapel was built not far from where the image was found. This same chapel went through several reconstructions and expansions on the same site along Del Pilar Street. High on the main altar of the present Ermita Church is the original antique icon now glowing in golden robes, bedecked with jewels, curly wig and crown, and holding a baston de mando that was presented to the image by a galleon commander for saving his ship from a storm upon the invocation of Ermita’s titular patroness. The original provenance and how the image of the Nuestra Señora de Guia ended up in the beach in Ermita centuries ago remains a mystery.



REPRO AND ORIG. The priced items in Ermita stores are the rare santos, colonial jewelry like the tambourine, excavated pottery and ceramics, tribal artifacts that were used in rituals like the bulol, old wood furniture like a mesa altar from Baliwag, a galinera from Batangas and a lamesa from Bohol.

They are sold side-by-side with copycat versions.  A seasoned antique hunter can easily spot a well-made reproduction from an authentic piece inside a crowded antique store at a glance or at close inspection.



GALLERY DEUS. Antique dealers and their reliable
storekeepers are good mentors on how to spot a repro versus an authentic piece. Multi-awarded playwright Floy Quintos is always an exciting company at Gallery Deus. His store at the Faura Center specializes in antique santos and tribal art.

In one of my visits, he sends me an Ifugao spoon with a polished patina that according to Floy cannot be copied not even by the best fakers. But more to the patina and encrustation on the surface of an object, the intangible spirit of an antique santo or an old bulol cannot be captured in a fake.



SPOT THE REAL ONES. Housed in the stately pre-war Casa Tesoro is Maria Closa, an antique store that specializes in tribal artifacts from the Cordilleras. This antique store is airy, filled with light, and well-curated enough that it can be mistaken for a museum. On pedestals are darken Kalinga jars next to massively heavy kinabigat. There is a display shelf of bulols in different age and sizes and a table lined with ritual boxes, spoons, and plates, and Ifugao baskets.

To train the eye and instinct to spot real antiques and tribal art, Gallery Deus and Maria Closa are the stores to visit when in Ermita.



MABINI STREET. Close to the antique stores are art stores that sell framed paintings on canvas depicting folk and rural scenes bursting with tropical colors. This has become the character of the Mabini Art Movement, a genre in Philippine paintings that took its name from Mabini Street. In one of my recent walks, I took a photo of a group of artworks sunning at a corner along Mabini. It reminded me of artist friend Jose Yap Baguio who spent painting his last works under the lamp post near Ermita Church.

It was also on Mabini Street in 1966 where Paul McCartney with his group the Beatles chose to spend the afternoon as tourists after ignoring the invitation of the Marcoses in Malacanang. In one of the art stores along Mabini, McCartney bought a painting by Ben Cabrera for 70 pesos!



UNUSUAL BREAK IN 1973. On my way to Mabini Street one morning for my usual rounds of antique window shopping, I dropped by Solidaridad hoping to catch National Artist for Literature F Sionil Jose. He wasn’t in the bookstore but read about this short narrative entitled Memento of Martial Law. Framed with a Sheafer fountain pen, it tells about an unusual break in that took place in bookstore a year after the declaration of Martial Law.

EPILOGUE. Visiting stores in Ermita is a delightful way to learn our culture and our historic past.

Published in: on January 4, 2017 at 4:55 pm  Comments (1)  



MEET THE PILGRIMS.  Traveling with friends I haven’t seen in years is a special occassion to touch base and recall the good old days when we were in what used to be an all-boys Catholic school in Mendiola.  The itinerary set for us by Moses, who came to town after recently passing the bar exam in Australia covers a thanksgiving pilgrimage in Manaoag, lunch in Alaminos, dinner in Pampanga, and several hours on the road. The pilgrims aboard two SUVs rendezvoused at a 24-hour burger joint along NLEX. In the one SUV were Moses, Niño, JM,  Rod, and myself. In the other were Traj, Laica, Lailani, Mickey, and Casey.

At 5 a.m., like rowdy school children on a field trip, we rolled northwest through Bulacan and the last town of Tarlac to reach urbanized Urdaneta City.  We knew we were in rural Pangasinan when the monotonous view of rice fields and sugar cane plantations were broken by alternating vistas of nipa mangroves, fishpond, and stalls selling freshly harvested oysters along the highway.



SITIO SANTA MONICA. The town of Manaoag was originally named after the mother of the saint that founded the Augustinian order. The Augustinians established Sitio Santa Monica in 1595 and was succeeded by the Dominicas in 1605.

Wedding rites were being held when we arrived in Manaoag Church at mid-morning. Under the enormous, octagonal dome in front of the main altar were a couple exchanging I do’s before the ivory image Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de Manaoag.



THE LADY WHO CALLS. How the town was renamed
Manaoag is narrated in a folk story. A farmer on his way home from a day on the field was surprised to see a glowing tree that took the shape of the Virgin Mary. A voice from the apparition instructed him to build a church on the site. He rushed to the mission house to report the message but he was dismissed by the friar. The story of the apparition spread throughout other towns and soon pilgrimages were made on apparition site of the Dinad Apo ya mantatawag (the Lady who calls). The phrase was eventually made shorter to Manaoag.

Just like the generations of pilgrims who came to the town of Manaoag, our group whispered our prayers to the Lady who calls.



PILGRIM RITUALS. It has been a tradition among pilgrims to light candles with their petitions at the candle gallery behind the church. Prayer candles with printed image of the Virgin are sold by ambulant vendors and at the church’s souvenir shop. Some votive candles come in different shapes and colors.

At the souvenir shop, pilgrims buy statues of the Virgin, rosaries, and bottles of coconut oil that is believed to be a cure-all for different illnesses. Some bottles sold along the roadside contain roots and sundry objects infused in oil. Pilgrims gather around a priest stationed near the holy water dispenser to have their religious articles blessed. Some pilgrims request the priest to recite prayers and sprinkle holy water into their vehicles.



THE ROADSIDE EMPORIA. Outside the church complex is a kaleidoscope of local colors, flavors, and shapes from the yellow green banana leaf wrapped around the yummy tupig and the glossy golden basket that contains the patupat, an Ilocano version of suman to the sweet chico pineras and cylindrical rootcrop called togue.

From the roadside emporia, I finally choose to bring home an alat basket with its flexible bamboo cone lid called the hasang where freshly caught fish is dropped into this wide-shouldered fish creel.



LUNCH AT ALAMINOS.  With our souls nourished and tummies starving, we left Manaoag an hour before lunch and raced further into Pangasinan to Alaminos, a town famous for the Hundred Islands. But for a group of hungry friends, Alaminos will forever be synonymous to the warm hospitality and sumptuous lunch prepared for us by Hecson Lee.

For lunch, Hecson served us with food to die for begining with the papaitan. Paired off with steaming, fragrant rice, the shrimp and crabs dish were heavenly. The longanisa, the bangus, and the chopseuy are found elsewhere but the fliar and flavor is endemic only in the Alaminos home of Hecson Lee. Before leaving, our thoughful host gave each of us a personalized souvenir.



PALUTO IN PAMPANGA. We reached Angeles City to meet our friend Harvey just in time for dinner. A well-loved public servant, councilor Harvey served as our student council president back in college.

Just like how we were back in the day, we exchanged stories and reminisced college days while we feasted on Kapampangan-style paluto of chicharon bulaklak, liempo, bulalo, pork and chicken barbeque, stuffed hito and squid that Harvey personally selected for us from a smorgasbord of meat and seafood.


EPILOGUE. Just like for most of us with the Christmas season, December is a busy time for councilor Harvey especially a week before the Lantern Festival in San Fernando. We’re thankful we found time to reunite.

Harvey proposed to set another get together this time at Abe’s Farm in Magalang or at Atching Lilian in Mexico or witness the Mal a aldo on Good Friday. He promised to give us the front seat to this bloody street theater in barrio Cutud. With all these, we found another reason to gather for another roadtrip just like how we did in Manaoag and Hecson Lee’s Pangasinan. Pampanga is an equally interesting province waiting to be explored with friends.

-10 December 2016
Feast of the Our Lady of Loreto | Human Rights Day

Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 7:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Las Piñas Nature Church


NATURE CHURCH. In the vast concrete jungles of cities, we find modern structures that show deep respect for the environment and our culture. In Las Piñas City there is the Parish of Mary Immaculate, a church built within a modern residential subdivision.

It received a sobriquet as Nature Church because its architect used wood, anahaw, and thatch as main building materials and left the existing fruit trees and natural landscape, including the nearby creek undisturbed.



MAÑOSA DESIGN PHILOSOPHY.  The Nature Church verbalizes the design philosophy of Architect Francisco Mañosa who has been for decades championing indigenous Filipino architecture. Some of the notable Mañosa structures that we see today are the Coconut Palace, The EDSA Shrine, San Miguel Corporation headquarters in Ortigas Center, Pearl Farm Resort in Davao and the stations of Light Rail Transit 1 on Avenida Rizal.

At the Parish of Mary Immaculate, we immediately identified the Mañosa signature style in the church complex such as the pitched roof that is made of 40,000 interwoven anahaw leaves. This is a distinct design element and traditional material found particulary in the bahay kubo.



FILIPINO CRAFTSMANSHIP.  Materials found in nature are the traditional medium for Filipino craftsmanship. Anahaw leaves are woven to become functional abanico. Wood is carved or left in its original form to become fine furniture and sculptures. The endemic capiz shells are placed within the grids of wooden-latticed window panels of traditional houses.

In the main church of the Mary Immaculate Parish, translucent capiz shells were fashioned into lanterns in the form of doves. The altar is made from a marble slab resting on dried madre de cacao driftwood. Logs and tree trunks were recycled to function as church pews.



EPILOGUE. Beside the main church is a chapel with similar native elements. Here, we found flocks of birds resting on the huge madre de cacao chandelier and some stray cats sleeping on top of the organic pews. And just like the humans praying before a replica of the San Damiano Cross at the main altar, these creatures found a sacred refuge under the shade of interwoven anahaw leaves.

-2 November 2016
Día de los Difuntos

Published in: on November 2, 2016 at 2:18 am  Leave a Comment