Exhibit Notes from the Eight Researchers, 2010+2011
To imagine is to Hope
How does art help heal the earth? How do artists help in making the planet more livable?
This is a problem that our class has been addressing in a course at the University of the Philippines called “Special Problems (Art Studies 198).” Revolving around the theme; “Beyond Relief: Art in a State of Calamity,” the course and its problem were spurred by the floods of Typhoon Ondoy, a tragic event that compelled us to rethink and reflect on our roles as individuals, as teachers, cultural workers, as artists.
Working with Liongoren Gallery as researchers and writers for this year’s Walong Filipina provided us with a platform through which we can concretely understand that the crisis we now refer to as “environmental” can be understood, not just as a scientific problem but a cultural one. The destruction of sea, land and air is not just about “science,” but more about culture, attitude, values. The erosion of the soil is all about the erosion of a sense of place; the depletion of the ozone layer springs from the depletion of a sense of identity, connection to and affection for one’s place – one’s community, one’s school, one’s neighborhood, one’s dwelling. In other words, healing the earth means healing, not just poverty in the material and economic sense, but the poverty of the imagination and the spirit.
Through their art and life, the Filipinas we honor and the artists that give concrete form to this tribute embody the concept of art as techne, which refers not just to mechanical skills and instruments, “but to all kinds of artful managing and careful shaping,” as Thomas Moore puts it. Art is therefore not just about producing objects or performing songs and dances to raise funds for relief. Through their artful living, the exemplary Filipinas and artists in this exhibit show us other possibilities, not just of relieving the many traumas brought about by the erosion of our sense of place, but more importantly, of showing us a way towards hope and redemption, through the power of our creativity and imagination.
Flaudette May V. Datuin, associate professor, Department of Art Studies, University of the Philippines.
The environmentalists (in alphabetical order) and the works about them
Efren Garcellano on Evelyn Cacha
This group of drawings by Efren Garcellano, while inspired by the anti-mining activist Evelyn Cacha, is not meant to illustrate or directly depict her life and work, especially because the artist does not want to focus solely on his subject, much less, idealize and put her on a pedestal.
In one recent drawing, Evs, the only one that directly alludes to Cacha, we see her face blending into the forest landscape, barely recognizable and practically indistinguishable from the thick foliage. The rest of the drawings obliquely refer to the advocacy that artist and activist share and their fervent hope that the destruction of the mountains of Mindoro, which they both call home, does not reach what Garcellano refers to as “a point of no return.” Garcellano’s Hanger series and his portraits of Sonia and Lola Sonia from 2002 to 2004 are of domestic objects and ordinary people, but they speak profoundly of long inhabitation, of ancestry and generational continuity, and of the troubled ground of toil and rural dwelling. The loss of a habitat could mean the loss of a whole way of life for people like Lola Sonia and her grandchild, and the Mangyans, Mindoro’s indigenous people, as evoked by his portrayal of a struggling child in the work Haze.
Garcellano’s strategy of not making Cacha the center of his drawings, but presenting instead other objects, places and faces that put her work in a larger context is in keeping with Cacha’s humility and modesty, as seen in her reluctance to be among the eight Filipinas to be cited for this project. She felt, not only that her works “have not left significant impacts or legacy worthy of citation,” but also because she thinks the credit is not hers alone. Her only consolation, she writes, is that “our forests were not logged (by large scale logging, but were degraded by illegal logging just the same) and that up to now we have not been mined by a large greedy transnational,” but she quickly adds that this accomplishment is largely due to the efforts of other activists, like Fr. Edu, among others.
She continues her work as an environmentalist, she says, but “only” as an “enabler,” one “who enables other worthy young people to do the work of reaching to the masses at the grassroots and lobbying local officials so they do not allow more transgressions on Inang Kalikasan.” Similarly, the artist – who does not hold a degree in art but a Bachelor of Business Administration from Silliman University – is an enabler on many fronts – teaching and doing art, working with local government tourism, writing, organizing, trekking, hiking. Through their examples, these activists, teach us not only what and how we can contribute in our own little ways, but also how we can turn even our frustrations and failures into small gains and triumphs through lessons that will continue to enable and inspire us. – Flaudette May V. Datuin
Rico Palacio on Prof. Margarita dela Cruz
Waray artist Romarico “Rico” Palacio has been working with mixed media for about two years now and he found the medium appropriate for interpreting the life and work of Prof. Margarita “Marge” de la Cruz, Dean of the UP College Tacloban, founder of the Guian Development Foundation Inc. (GDFI), and 2008 Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan Awardee. Through GDFI, Prof. de la Cruz helped establish about 20 marine sanctuaries in seven municipalities: Guian, Balangiga, Giporlos, Quinapundan, Salcedo, Mercedes and Lawaan in Eastern Samar.
Palacio’s work “breathes” through images of bubbles which spread outward from the painting towards the viewer. “Bubbles bring oxygen/life in water,” he says. Palacio uses red as a dominant color attributing to it life and energy. He adds that it is the color of blood that runs through the veins. A fishnet is laid out on the painting and forms square grids. More than an instrument of fishing, the net symbolizes for the artist the existence of guidelines and laws: Guidelines need to be followed when taking resources from the ocean. The pieces of thread/yarn that spread out from the bottom of the painting symbolize the desire of Prof. de la Cruz to mend the environment.
Breathing life to marine sanctuaries through art and lifework: such is the meaning of Buhay, of life and art in the works of these Tacloban-based scientist and artist. – Ceres Canilao
Renato Habulan on Sr. Luz Emmanuel Soriano
Renato “Ato” Habulan is a social realist painter who believes that with his paintings, he can uplift the spirit of the afflicted and affect the conscience of the comfortable. This philosophy guides him as he explores the contemporary world with art.
For this year’s Walong Filipina, Habulan contributes two series of paintings on the life and work of Sr. Luz Emmanuel Soriano, whose primary concern is the greening of Assumption Schools particularly Assumption Antipolo: one painted Alla Prima (Italian for “at once”) or on the spot, and another series painted back in his studio.
The Alla Prima series, entitled Ugat ng Buhay, was painted with Sr. Luz sitting for her portrait, amidst a little forest which she created in the Assumption campus in Antipolo. The series made in the artist’s studio, Liwanag sa Dilim shows how light can create something out of nothing, and how each of us can be a source of light amidst darkness. It is also interesting to note that Habulan used waste paints in this series not only to conserve, but to also show that in simple ways, we can help do our part for the environment.
Through this series, the artist translates into visual form his conviction that the problem of environment is an urgent social problem. It is a core belief that he shares with Sr. Luz’s vision and mission – to create life and light out of the darkness.- Hemerson Dimacale
Egai Fernandez on Atty. Ipat Luna
A hint of yellow peeks out of the forest, as Edgar Talusan Fernandez, more known as Egai, explains the process of how he made his work possible. Beautiful accidents with a little bit of Egai’s will all came together for his work in this year’s show. He relates how he used a certain dripping technique to create the enchanting forest background on his work, A Forest Lives On – a visual translation of Atty. Ipat Luna’s advocacies on environmental law, healthy living, breastfeeding and tobacco control.
Upon closer look, one discovers that the background merges with foreground – the face of Atty Luna and her son, symbolizing continuity between Nature (background) and human beings (foreground) and between generations – Atty Luna and Alon. Such iconographic and technical strategy is in keeping with Fernandez’ “rare flexibility in art,” as respected critic Alice Guillermo puts it.
Well known for his works about militarization, poverty and social issues, Fernandez, like his subject, is also an ardent environmentalist, and an advocate of healthy living. In his art and in the work of Atty Luna, the Forest, and its speck of yellow peeking through dense foliage, does live on. – Virna Odiver
Jojit Solano on Dr. Judea “Dea” Millora
Dr. Judea “Dea” Millora, founder and president of Zero Kalat Para sa Kaunlaran Foundation, Inc. (ZKKFI) is also a practitioner of medicine, an NGO advocate, and a technical consultant on solid waste management. Her achievements in this field are associated with the communities that benefited from her projects as they improved their quality of living and provided livelihood opportunities.
For the 2010 Walong Filipina exhibit Jojit Solano, a young artist from Dagupan City Pangasinan presents his take on Dr. Millora’s work by juxtaposing – in surrealist fashion – disparate images and opposite meanings, in the process creating a dreamscape-wasteland – one that seemingly goes against Dr. Dea’s dream of a world of zero waste. Inhabited by a girl whose gaze haunts at the same time that it accuses – symbol of a troubling future – the wasteland is strewn with an assortment of objects drawn like comics or cartoon characters: of skulls enveloped in a haze of pinkish fog, of figures from the story of Creation, of fairies with butterfly wings, of birds with pedestrian stripes carrying plastic bags, of a woman and a baby, of strange plants – all set against a vibrant yellow background.
Out of Black, amidst that dark scene, the fairy guardians-street sweepers struggle to create a new world of hope; out of the wasteland, Dr. Dea’s dreams struggle to emerge – a dream grounded on “transforming lives one community at a time”– one that is rooted in caring for others, the Nation and above all, as a Christian, her love for God and belief that He can change everyone. – Deborah Virata
PG Zoluaga on Jurgenne Primavera
What the artist PG Zoluaga finds most remarkable about international expert Dr. Jurgenne Primavera is her perseverance in carrying out her advocacy on sustainable aquaculture and mangrove preservation. She has been for decades now, bringing forth a composite of scientific work that she has aimed to fully integrate in a holistic approach the restoration, conservation, and protection of Philippine mangroves. At the turn of the 20th century, only a fifth of the 500,000 million hectares of mangrove areas in the country remained. Mangrove ecosystems, according to Primavera, are very important: they support diverse marine life, prevent land erosion, lessen pollution, and recycle “nutrients from terrestrial run-off and river discharges.”
In his painting for this show, Zoluaga – who has himself long worked with other artists towards environmental consciousness through visual work and music – enjoins us to explore his world by rendering in front of us his portrait of Primavera as “diwata ng bakhawan,” an earth mother, ever protective of her haven. Through a montage of intertwining and alternating reality and fantasy, Primavera’s reality-anchored contributions are mediated with the myths of animism that, apart from being deeply rooted to the existing relationship between people and their environment, thrive in fantasy. Zoluaga pulls us back to the myths of our ancestors whose interaction with and protection of their surroundings were motivated, not just by material needs but a deep sense of spirituality. The work thus challenges us to share a soul-full identification with our environment, to value and regard it in the same way we revere and implore spirits, and to truly understand the depths of nature and living in harmony with it. – Aleth Gayosa
Mario De Rivera on Lydia Robledo
Through her work, Lydia Robledo teaches us that when you start appreciating butterflies, you would want to protect them, which means you would have to protect their habitat, which ultimately means you have to protect the whole ecological system. Butterflies are indeed indicators of the condition of biodiversity.
With Robledo’s advocacy as inspiration, artist Mario de Rivera, who is known for his unique style of incorporating photo transfer and modeling paste, works on two panels, which he entitled The Month of March, No. 2. and End of the Summer, No. 2
He refers to his works as “’lyrical commentaries’, using season of summer and more specifically butterflies, as metaphors for the delicate state of ecology our planet faces today.” He has further explained, “Torn butterfly wings, and flotsam and jetsam in a sea of blue summer sky litter the paint surface signifying dis-array and disrepair, as if to signal the end of summer vis-à-vis the end nature itself as we knew it”
Viewing these works is like experiencing a poem; it is an invitation to reflect on what Robledo strives to communicate and achieve, but in a form that invites us to go beyond surface meanings and realities. – Romena Luciano
Mark Salvatus on Luz Sabas
Most objects, if not all things can be transformed in both purpose and form. This is what Luz Sabas and Mark Salvatus tell us, while looking at their work.
Sabas, a former nurse, is one of the pioneering proponents of zero garbage and founder of the Zero Waste Recycling Movement in the Philippines. She started her efforts in 1968, when the idea of recycling garbage was not even a glimmer in the eyes of many environmentalists. As a public health nurse in Manila she was assigned to help find a solution to a garbage crisis that struck the city decades ago. “When trash collectors went on strike in the 1960s, I visited homes and went to the old dumpsite that came to be known as the Smokey Mountain,” she once told writer Linda Bolido (http://www.wri.org/publication/content/8351). “I realized there was very little trash that needed to be disposed of…. I saw that everything can be used.”
In Zero, Salvatus, who is known for his process-oriented, interactive and collaborative works, dug into the bag he always carries around the city, wrapped the ‘trash” that accumulated in clear tape, and brought them back to life as usable objects, such as table stoppers. He relates that he got the idea for this work when he saw the objects arranged in a kind of organized clutter in Sabas’ car – objects that looked like “waste” but which Sabas would most definitely and eventually transform, recycle, re-use.
Each in their own creative way, artist and environmentalist imbue objects, not just with function, but with what the social anthropologist Arjun Appadurai refers to as a “social life of things.” Objects have memories and lives of their own, themselves going through life stages from being useful to being obsolete or discarded, turning into nothing – a zero that ironically fills and pollutes the environment. In Sabas and Salvatus however, Zero is not just about zero waste or zero pollution. Corncobs, dried mango seeds, and old straw brooms transform into artificial flowers. Empty juice packs become recliners and umbrellas, a swimming pool turns into a fishpond. And when a lifeless object turns into a door or table stopper, and exhibited as “art,” the discard becomes a substitute for the actions of people, shaping in its turn their actions, positions and attitudes about life and art.
In this year’s Walong Filipina, Sabas and Salvatus show us that Zero is all about objects acquiring many other lives, many other meanings, processes and possibilities. – Flaudette May Datuin and Mai Saporsanto
Exhibit Notes from the Eight Researchers, 2011
“As well as ecology of natural environment, there is ecology of mind and spirit. Each is a layer of the other, interfused, three in one. The challenge for us today is to live this integration. Already we are late. Time we have is not so vital as time we make.”
In the span of years examining and studying plants, Leonard Co has discovered a number of endemic species. His most famous discovery is the Rafflesia leonardi, a parasitic plant named after him, which bears flowers and is among the largest species in the world. Our national hero Jose Rizal, whose 150th birth we celebrate this year, similarly has species named after him: Draco rizali, a flying lizard; Rachophorus rizali, a frog; and Apogonia rizali, a beetle.
As natural scientist, farmer, teacher, poet, sculptor, merchant, engineer, loving son and patriot, Rizal was an environmentalist long before it became very urgent to become one amidst the cultural, moral, spiritual and environmental degradations of these troubled times. During his exile in Dapitan, Rizal bought a piece of land he won in a lottery, planted trees, raised livestock and pets, and shared his produce to his community. He engaged with farmers to market their products and with the help of the community built a dam out of discarded roof tiles, gin bottles and stones. He gave lessons to children imaginatively through art and anecdote, wrote poems, sculpted statues. Leonard Co is a dedicated botanist, musician, photographer and poet. He speaks Mandarin, Filipino and Latin; he is a comic whose performances soothe his team’s weary minds when out in the field. Like these exemplary men and women we honor today, Leonard infects us with his passion, stories of which abound among people he touched with his humility, simplicity and unbelievable breadth of knowledge in Philippine botany.
Rizal was shot dead in Luneta when he was in his 30s. Leonard Co was 56 when he was slain in an alleged crossfire amidst the forests of Kanaga, Leyte, where he and his team were doing research for a project aimed at propagating endangered and indigenous trees in the area.
Walong Filipina 2010 pays tribute to these polymaths, men of many talents and intelligences. It is their memory that stitches the many contributions of the eight men whose lives we honor through paintings and installations of eight women artists.
Each in their own way, these honorees and artists live and embody the integration of mind, spirit and natural environment that the artist Alastair MacLennan describes so admirably in the passage above. At first glance, the men we honor appear to have specific ecological focuses: Col. Romeo Magsalos and Dr. Metodio Palaypay display a keen attention to the ecology of built environments; Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan strives for an ecology of the body; Fr. Alfredo Albor, Mr. Gonzalo Catan, and Mr. Warlito Laquihon, the ecology of the soil and the forest; Mr. Andy Orencio and Lutgardo Labad, the ecology of the soul. But in very real terms, these men – polymaths themselves – interfuse these seemingly separate concerns and disciplines – science, art, culture – into an integrated whole, inseparable and indistinguishable from each other. Through the powerful resources of art, artists make us feel and sense this integration, reminding us to engage with our surroundings in multi-dimensional and never in fragmented and ecologically-damaging ways.
This reminder becomes all the more urgent for “already we are late.” It is vital for us to make time, to make and remake our planet into a more humane and livable world. – Flaudette May Datuin
The environmentalists (in alphabetical order) and the works about them
The Place Beyond
(Fr. Alfredo Albor/Marina Cruz)
Marina Cruz, a multi-awarded painter and a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, major in painting, continues to explore themes of family and memory for this year’s Walong Filipina in her tribute to Fr. Alfredo Albor entitled Underneath the Background.
In this painting, the lone child that looks like a stunted adult haunts us with her unwavering gaze as she stands amidst a gloomy landscape. It is a disturbing image that resonates with Fr. Albor’s conviction that children will suffer the most in a damaged and endangered environment. Father Al, as he is known to many, is the Executive-Director of Community Action and Responsibility for the Environment (CARE) Foundation, which helps preserve and save the denuded parts of the Marikina Watershed.
Father Al believes that the world is a cathedral of God and all creations must co-exist with each other. But seeing how the ways and lifestyle of humans destroy the environment, he said that “children are being shaped by the universities to become anonymous functionaries in the production process.” Moral degeneration promoted by education makes the children both promoters and victims of this dismal set-up.
Through inviting schools and parishes to participate in his foundation’s tree-planting activity, Father Al helps in reforming the minds of children. He makes them realize the importance of co-existence and care for God’s creation. Thus, just like in Marina Cruz’ Underneath the Background, Father Al becomes the light the little girl hopes to see.–Maria Christina Pangan
Goodness Shining Through
(Gonzalo Catan/Lena Cobangbang)
Do you have termites? Mosquitoes? Rats and other pest problems? To get rid of these pests without harming the environment, the first thing that could come to mind is MAPECON or Manila Pest Control, a leading name in organic, safe and locally manufactured pest control solutions since the 1960’s. Walong Filipina honors its founder, inventor Gonzalo Catan. Jr.
Holder of an associate degree in agriculture from Silliman University, and bachelors’ degree in agriculture from the University of the Philippines Los Banos, Mr. Catan started his life work as a young boy in Negros Oriental. Wanting to learn how to grow his garden well and rid it of insects, he later translated this simple desire into inventions on organic pest control, sustainable energy, agriculture, household and even health needs. Today, he is widely known for having invented the Green Charcoal – an organic and renewable source of energy that is an alternative to LPG fuel. In 1996, it has won the bronze medal in the 24th International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques and Products Geneva, Switzerland. Currently, there are already food establishments using this technology.
When he was starting out, multinational companies did everything, including filing of court cases to stop him from selling the organic fertilizers and pest control solutions he developed – products that presented alternatives to harmful chemicals, some of which were already banned in other countries. Winning all the lawsuits filed against him by these companies, Catan continues this battle and remains vigilant in his fight to protect the environment. It is vigilance akin to that of Leonard Co’s relentless fight against similar evils, which, as artist Lena Cobanbang states through her installation’s title, continue to dwell among us.
On a more optimistic note, however we can also ask: Despite the pervasiveness of evil, is it possible for goodness to shine through, no matter what the odds? Mr. Catan proves that yes, it is still possible. Inspiration, passion, motivation and a true desire for change have fueled this goodness. From the verdant grass scarred by the phrase “Evil Lives,” a blue sky not only serves as background, but also as metaphors for infinite optimism, which at the same time urges us, in the words of the honoree to “save the earth and be the agent of change. When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.” – Jacqueline Ali
(Lutgardo Labad/Hermogena “Nene” Borja Lungay)
Many years ago, Bohol was a turtle-paced backwater, Cebu’s backward and awkward neighbor, source of its domestic and unskilled labor. Today, Cebu is a mere gateway, a stopover to the now more preferred destination – the turtle-shaped island to its south.
What brought this turnaround about? Most probably, the confluence of visionaries – a politician then serving important positions in the local government, a key church person and a cultural worker – who in the early to mid-1990s, came together and cobbled an environmentally sustainable eco-tourism and cultural program . Lutgardo “Gardy” Labad, cultural development worker, theater director, music composer and director, curator, events organizer, art educator – is one of these visionaries, the prime mover or system that is now entrenched and propelled by social entrepreneurship; preservation of ecology; eco-cultural tourism; performative and transformative space; transformative communities and sustainable development. Under his unstinting vision, he formed and mentored communities, he continues to nurture so they can transform into empowered artist-leader-providers contributing to the creative empowerment of the country.
Hermogena Borja “Nene” Lungay, a UP College of Fine arts alumna and one of the most – if not the most respected Boholano artist describes Gardy more succinctly: “He is the vehicle for the retrieval of historical memory.” Ma’am Nene, who has mentored and nurtured Boholano artists, and is a leading figure in one of the groups Gardy has initiated – the Boholano Arts and Crafts Heritage of BACH Council, translates this understanding of Gardy’s role in a painting that captures certain moments in Gardy’s lifework in colors, textures and light specific to Bohol, through a visual language that recalls the classics. In her hands, the confluence of vision among artists, cultural worker, government and people’s organizations come alive and infect us with what Gardy would call “the Spirit of the Place or Pride of Place” – one that will spur us to abandon our environment-unfriendly and unsustainable ways. For it is the kind of infection that makes us feel as if we – visitors and settlers alike – belong to that place, as if it were our place and not their place and that, if we only listen and sit still long enough, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the character of the land that would otherwise require long immersion to achieve. These artists, as Neil Everson writes, “makes the world personal – known, loved, feared, or whatever, but not neutral.” And when a place becomes personal, it becomes a part of us; it becomes not just an extension, a resource, but our dwelling, our home. – Flaudette May Datuin
SALT of the Earth
(Warlito Laquihon/Josie Tionko
Davao-based Dr. Warlito A. Laquihon, an agriculturist and an educator developed the SALT program together with his team in Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center. Josie Tionko, an artist-entrepreneur based in Davao like the honoree paints Dr. Laquihon amidst a verdant sloping field depicting the integrated farming system that aims to minimize soil erosion, restore soil fertility, produce food products that will generate income for the sloping land farmer in Bansalan Mindanao. Because of his exemplary work in the field of agriculture, Laquihon was the first recipient of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Triennial Award in 2002, The Distinguished Centralian Award in 1992, and the Marquiz Who’s who in the World 1996 to name a few of the recognition given to him.
With Laquihon’s scientific ingenuity on the Sloping Agricultural Land Technology and Tionko’s creative eye for beauty, artist and environmentalist will now be the steward of Mt.Carmel as it continues the battle for the preservation of its richness and life for the next generation. In hope of saving what’s left of the “used to be” fertile soil of our country, they created works that will promote awareness and educate the public: act and move, in other words, as the SALT of the earth.- Malen Dulay (guest writer)
Simple Words and Simple Deeds: No to Plastic
(Romeo Magsalos/Goldie Poblador)
Traumatic. Alarming. These are words that come to mind whenever we recall Ondoy, and the floods made more catastrophic because of drainages clogged by plastic. It is a catastrophe which spurred Senior Superintendent Romeo Magsalos, former PNP Chief of Police of Marikina, to act. He initiated and strictly implemented the “Zero Plastic Bag and Styrofoam Campaign” at the Marikina City Police Station. Policemen and women transform newspapers into paper bag trash cans. When going to market, they bringt with them reusable bags or a bayong or basket. Chief Magsalos’ example showed that it is possible for government employees to exercise political will and set an example.
Goldie Poblador interprets this example by setting up an installation made up of 12 jars of waste and 12 jars of flora collected from the environs of Marikina. A graduate of the UP College of Fine Arts, Poblador’s body of works is built on collecting and ephemerality. In her early works, she collected scents; and then she moved on to making and collecting jars. In this work, she collects waste, a representation of the garbage we amass; the ephemeral flora collection, which will go through the process of deterioration during the exhibit run, reminds us of the inevitability of decomposition. But on the other hand, the ephemerality of the flowers, and the fragility of the glass jars, also remind us that the ecosystem is fragile, and is in fact, steadily weakening amidst our wasteful and indiscriminate ways.
Artist and honoree embolden us to become vigilant eco-vanguards, mindful of the ways by which catastrophes like Ondoy can be minimized by simple words and simple deeds that simply say: “No to Plastic.” –Aliana Grace Z. Gimena
Lost and Found
(Metodio Palaypay/Marika Constantino)
Dr. Metodio Palaypay, a medical doctor trained at the University of the Philippines and University of the East Medical Center, encounters death on a daily basis. While these encounters may be part and parcel of his profession, it nonetheless made him realize that his ultimate goal as a doctor is to reduce the number of people dying because of an unhealthy environment. He addressed this issue by targeting the pollution caused by waste and by initiating his own Zero Waste Management drive in his home barangay of Sacred Heart. Pioneered by Walong Filipino 2010 honoree, Mrs. Luz Sabas, who campaigned for zero waste even before it got written into law, and became the buzzword that it is today, the project involves transforming trash into saleable items. Largely through Dr. Palaypay’s decade-long initiatives, Barangay Sacred Heart is now the now one of the cleanest communities in the metro, and is also one of the most successful money generating barangays in the country.
Marika Constantino, holder of architecture and fine arts degrees from UP, was so inspired by Dr. Palaypay’s work that she started to facilitate workshops of her own in the same barangay. As an artist, she shared creative ways of improving their handicrafts out of recycled materials. Lost and Found, the installation-tribute to Dr. Palaypay, puts together the pieces that emerged from the workshops.
Dr. Palaypay was inspired by Sabas’s work, and in his turn, he inspired Constantino – primarily a painter- to pursue another direction in her artmaking and do something extraordinary. The whole process not only gives full justice to these pioneers’ work, but also demonstrates that there are times when the artist herself may be the best representation instead of the art work. – Margareth Fontanilla
Soulful Ecology in the works of Andy Orencio and Jeannie Tan
Digressing from her usual paintings of quiet landscapes and seascapes, Jeannie Tan paints a portrait of Andy Orencio, an artist himself. In Andy, Tan seats her subject amidst the garden of Pinto Gallery, an art sanctuary in Antipolo. A bamboo foliage, remarkably painted with accurate details, beams behind Orencio, while he reads a book by Goethe—a German philosopher, and among the great polymaths of the 19th century. Orencio considers Goethe as one of his major influences whose lifework spanned the fields of literature, philosophy, and science. A passage from this book could give us a hint as to how Goethe philosophizes the natural world:
“[Talking about a bird feeding its young] If God did not inspire the bird with this powerful instinct towards its young, and if the same did not pervade every living thing in nature, the world would not be able to exist! But divine power is spread everywhere and eternal love is active everywhere. [Conversations with Eckermann, 29 May 1831]”
Such was the wisdom guiding Orencio’s attitude towards life and nature. Whoever meets the gardener would attest to his deep passion and the special relationship he fosters with the plants he cares for. One whole day wouldn’t be enough for Orencio to walk you through the garden, because he would name all the plants and flowers along the way, and will tell you their practical and medicinal uses and the proper care for each.
Painting from life, Tan seeks to catch not only the atmosphere of the outdoors Orencio lovingly and artfully tends, but also the ways by which her subject embodies what Thomas Moore calls “artful living” through the care of the soul. For Kuya Andy, as he is fondly called, the care of the soul involves a form of “soulful ecology,” which according to Moore, “is rooted in the feeling that this world is our home and that our responsibility to it comes not from obligation or logic but true affection.” Spending time with plants he affectionately cares for as if they were his “family,” observing them and being open to their teachings, he lives a spiritual life amidst the commonplace, and transforms the ordinary in a way that we “see soul where formerly it was hidden.”
Through their works, artist and environmentalist made me see and feel this soulful ecology at work in very real terms. I found the beauty in the mundane: in the taste of the herbs, the pungent smell of some blooms, the faint signs of growth from a seedling the gardener rescued from dying. Experiencing Kuya Andy’s work directly by roaming the garden-art sanctuary and indirectly through felt experience evoked by Tan’s portrait, I felt a connection with nature I haven’t felt for the longest time. I suppose it is in such personal realizations in the sacredness of the ordinary, that we can find the faint signs of growth, for reviving and renewing our beleaguered Earth. – Loreli Pama
(Jaime Galvez Tan/Pam Yan)
A twelve year old kid confessed in a blog that he has had asthma since birth, and for ten years he was a constant visitor to several doctors and hospitals; but after taking herbal medicine, he can play any sports without the fear of having an attack.
The herbal medicine regimen was prescribed by Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, former Secretary of Health, an internationally renowned author, and a practitioner and advocate of alternative and herbal medicine. His present preoccupation started during his anthropology and medical studies at University of the Philippines, where his professors encouraged him to study medicinal plants. After graduation, he practiced medicine in Samar, a place so secluded and depressed, he often ran out of medicine. He sought out, learned and collaborated with the local ‘albularyos’ (from the word: herbolarios), those who know the plants and their medical properties by heart. Learning from the ‘albularyos’ made him realize that healing with medicinal plants is not just convenient, but also environmentally safe and friendly. In his succeeding years in Samar Leyte, his prescription became totally herbal. Eventually he learned acupuncture, which he incorporated into his therapeutic regimens.
In Herbalaryo, Pamela Yan-Santos, an artist who is known for her use of different techniques and media such as quilting, collage, stencilling, and image transfer, rendered images of leaves in different tones of green, seemingly showing the different views of people towards the environment, and leaving room for different and diverse contributions. An installation also hints at the environmentalist’s conviction that humans are inseparable from nature and that everything in this world is interconnected.
The works of Dr. Galvez-Tan and Yan-Santos serve as an eye-opener for me, further strengthening my resolve to grow towards being a more sensitive and ecocritical individual – Hemerson Dimacale