Essays from the Researchers
Art Studies 198 students, 2nd semester 2009-2010 (in alphabetical order)
- Ceres Canilao
- Hemerson Dimacale
- Aleth Gayosa
- Romena Luciano
- Virna Odiver
- Mai Saporsantos,
- Debbie Virata
- Prof. Flaudette May V. Datuin, co-curator and faculty-in-charge
Ceres Marie Canilao on Dean Margarita dela Cruz and Rico Palacio
Back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the coastline of Lawaan in Eastern Samar was in a state of environmental disrepair and exploitation. Much of the forest areas were logged over, and marine life and its breeding grounds were destroyed. In the desire to provide for their families, many of the town folk resorted to illegal practices like dynamite fishing, which helped improve the day’s catch but in the long run destroyed the waters’ ability to provide for the future. By the early 1990s, fish had become scarce, mangroves had been cut, and Lawaan’s beaches were strewn with dead corals. Some of the residents, not knowing any other means of living, left the place and became squatters in Manila.
All that changed in the late 1990s, when Prof. Margarita de la Cruz, founder of the Guian Development Foundation Inc. (GDFI). And Dean of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas Tacloban College (UPVTC) and the then Mayor Manuel Inciso teamed up to save the coastal waters of Eastern Samar. When De la Cruz called on the nine municipalities of the province, it was Mayor Inciso of Lawaan who enthusiastically heeded her call. With funds from the World Bank and in cooperation with the local government, De la Cruz initiated the Community-Based Resource Management program in Lawaan. Today, the picture of Lawaan is very different. The mountains have been reforested. The waterfalls–– Lawaan has four of them–– are gushing with refreshing waters amid thick foliage and forest life. A walk through trails carved by volunteers to Amandaraga Falls in Guinob-an is, visitors say, like walking through an old growth forest.
The above account is taken from an article entitled “Marine Sanctuary Comes Back to Life” by UP Diliman Professor, Prof. Flaudette May Datuin, which was published in the Philippine Star a few years back. This account became the take-off point of an artwork by Tacloban-based artist Romarico “Rico” A. Palacio, one of the artists of this year’s Walong Filipina, Liongoren Gallery’s annual event honoring outstanding Filipinas at Liongoren Gallery, as a contribution to Women’s Month (March).
Buhay, Palacio’s work done in mixed media, “breathes” through images of bubbles which spread outward from the painting towards the viewer. He describes how bubbles from a bubble maker in an aquarium provide oxygen in water and make life possible. Similarly he sees Dr. de la Cruz as instrumental in bringing back to life the marine sanctuaries, in Lawaan, which today has spread to seven other municipalities: Guian, Balangiga, Giporlos, Quinapundan, Salcedo, and Mercedes. Today these municipalities have 20 sanctuaries between them, formed largely through the efforts of GDFI.
Red is a dominant color in Buhay, the color of blood that runs through our veins. This is quite interesting as life especially marine life is often associated with cool colors such as greens or blues. In Palacio’s case however, he uses blues sparingly and only for contrast in this particular artwork.
A fishnet is laid out on the artwork and forms square grids. More than an instrument of fishing, the net according to Palacio symbolizes for him the existence of guidelines and laws: Guidelines need to be followed when taking resources from the ocean. He recalls how Prof. de la Cruz encourages passive fishing gear such as traps and fish corals to avoid depleting the resources. Sizes of fishing nets were regulated. The fisherfolk were advised not to take the pregnant fishes or crabs. Aside from this, Prof. de la Cruz is also known for her publication on ‘Participatory Methods in Coastal Resource Management’ which is being used not only in the country, but also other countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam
The pieces of thread/yarn that spread out from the bottom of the painting symbolize the desire of Dr. de la Cruz to mend the environment. At the same time he attaches a maternal meaning to this, although he does not necessarily pin down being a mother to being female as he admits to me that as of the moment, he is both the mother and the father of his three children, (as his wife recently went to work as a nurse in the US to find a living). More importantly, he thinks that in life, there are only two kinds of people, especially when it comes to the environment: “those who mend; and those who destroy.”
Buhay is thus an attempt to capture the many layers of de la Cruz’s life work as a life bringer, protector and mediator, who promotes a sustainable relationship between the marine environments on the one hand and the fisherfolk who depend on the ocean’s resources to make their living on the other. Indeed Dr. de la Cruz has unwaveringly displayed a passion for the preservation of life not only through her work with GDFI, but through other aspects of her life as well. During her college years as a B.S. Fisheries Major in Diliman, she was politically active, fighting injustices committed against people during the First Quarter Storm demonstrations against the Marcos regime in the 70s and as member of the Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK). She was actively involved not only in organizing student groups but also in organizing other groups such as employees in the College of Fisheries, grassroots communities, resettlement sites, and fishing communities. She also fights for other environmental concerns such as mining and deforestation. Despite all her work, Dr. de la Cruz is the hardworking mother of two wonderful sons and an empowered wife with a supportive husband.
Palacio on the other hand, balances being an artist with his work as Artist Illustrator for the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), an extension of the Department of Agriculture (DA). He is also an active member of two artist groups, namely: Atitipalo Visual Art Group, composed of six visual artists from Palo, Leyte; and Kasikasi Group, with members from Leyte and the Visayas Islands. Palacio’s parents figure prominently in his development as an artist; in fact, the style and technique of Buhay is also a response to his father’s challenge to “create more works with deeper symbolism.” Palacio’s father (though he refuses to be called an “artist”), and his mother’s first cousin–Jeremias Acebedo, are responsible for most of the sculpture and paintings in the Cathedral of Palo, Leyte where Rico was born. Sketches made by his mother when she was still young also show skill in drawing. It was not surprising then when young Rico started to display a penchant for the visual arts. He pursued a degree in Architectural Drafting at St. Mary’s College to improve his skills. However his creativity was further stimulated when he started attending Visual Arts workshops in UP Visayas and Palo.
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. Buhay will be on view at the Liongoren Gallery for a month, beginning on March 25.
Hemerson Dimacale on Sr. Luz Emmanuel and Renato Habulan
The Greening of Assumption: Life Out of Waste, Light Out of Darkness
From a virtual wasteland, a mini forest sprang forth in Assumption Antipolo. Under the supervision of its current treasurer Sr. Luz Emmanuel Soriano, former president of Assumption College, an empty land transformed into PACEM Ecopark, one of the many projects geared towards the greening of Assumption campuses. Aside from being a haven for the mind and the spirit, the ecopark is home to the endangered Philippine Eagle. To date, there are four eaglets under the care of the Park.
Sr. Luz also spearheaded the annual Youth Ecology Camp project held for student leaders at secondary level, aiming to harness the enthusiasm and idealism of the youth towards environmental protection. She is also the president of the Philippine Council for Peace and Global Education (PCPGE), and under her leadership, the council adopted an environmental thrust, and recognizes the crucial role of education in effecting change. For its efforts, PCPGE received the Likas Yaman Award from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on June 27, 1991.
Inspired by conversations with Sr. Luz, who sat for her portrait under the canopy of trees in the park, social realist painter Renato Habulan created two series of paintings – Ugat ng Buhay (Root of Life) and Liwanag sa Diliman (Light out of Darkness) – for this year’s Walong Filipina 2010 exhibition, which premiered at Liongoren Gallery, Cubao till April 15, and Liongoren Gallery, Dagupan, Pangasinan, April 17-May 1.
Being able to bond and talk with Sr. Luz during the process of the project heightened Habulan’s imagination and reinforced his conviction that the problem of environment is also a social problem. Mother earth is not separated from us but is in fact, a part of us.
Painted alla prima, an Italian term which literally means “at once,” which means that the artist finishes the work of art in one sitting or session, the Ugat Ng Buhay series represents what Sr. Luz wrote in her book titled Save Mother Earth: What Schools Can Do – a practical guide for schools in making their Institution a more environmentally responsible community. Through this series, Habulan walks us through PACEM Ecopark, with the figure of Sr. Luz as the first stop, followed by groups of trees, and then an old tree that can be seen near a bridge. Rounding off this alla prima series, Habulan gives us a glimpse of the ecopark’s butterfly sanctuary.
The roots of the old tree gives visual form to Sr. Luz’s ability to put into practice her thoughts and ideas. Habulan further explained that Sr. Luz is like the roots of the tree that serves as main source of life. The tree lives because of its roots and the tree serves as a host and shelter for other forms of life, from the birds who build their nests to the insects that set up their homes and nurture their young. This biological chain represents Sr. Luz’s vision of light and life as she attempts to create a better place for all of us.
By centering on Sr. Luz as a Root of Life, the series invites us to contemplate and at the same time, it tells us the importance of each and every species in maintaining the biodiversity. This also gives us a clear message that we should take care of the things around us, whether or not it is in the field of our interest, and that we can contribute each in our own ways. This is what Liwanag sa Dilim series tells us. Painted out of recycled paints, the series demonstrates that each of us can make something out of nothing and become a source of light amidst darkness. Seemingly starting from inside a cave, we follow the progression of the series, leading us to the exit and towards Sr. Luz, who, true to his name, “Luz” meaning “light,” transforms a polluted space into a better place.
Having devoted her life for service to God, Sr. Luz says that her becoming an environmentalist “just happened. One day I woke up and realized that I should take care of the environment.” It is a vision that Habulan shares and translates into his paintings, through which he hopes to educate, uplift the spirit of the afflicted and affect the conscience of the comfortable. Moreover, being able to converse with Sr. Luz, Habulan realized that there is an urgent need in educating the youth, since the youth are the ones who have the greater advantage and opportunity in helping the healing of the earth. With that, Habulan volunteered to help Sr. Luz on the next Youth Ecology Camp.
Being one of the honorees in this year’s Walong Filipina (Eight Filipinas), Sr Luz joins seven other women, whose lives and works are being honored by seven other male artists in exhibit which opened on March 25, near the end of Women’s Month, and close to the start of April, the Earth Month, and now at CCP, from October 14 to November 28. First held in 1990, Walong Filipina has shown the works of close to a hundred women artists, as well as that of many other women achievers in other fields. But what was most unique for this year was the inclusion of eight researchers-writers from a University of the Philippines Art Studies class under the mentorship of Prof. Flaudette May Datuin. Aside from acting as liaison between honorees and artists, the students also wrote the exhibition wallnotes, helped install the works, provided the artists with information, at times editorializing and synthesizing the works of the Filipinas, and understanding the works, and watching how they evolved from concept to finished artwork.
I am one of those students, and I was assigned to work with Habulan and Sr. Luz, who each have different approaches in touching people’s hearts and making them realize how important it is to take care and protect our environment. More importantly, they share the same vision and core values: to create life and light – a light that will guide us in the darkness and lead us towards the path of righteousness.
Aleth Gayosa on Jurgenne Primavera and PG Zoluaga
Alay at Diwata (Offering and Deity
On a rare occasion, a scientist and an artist come together.
Dr. Jurgenne Primavera and PG Zoluaga, both Iloilo-based, comprise one of the pairs of women environmentalists and male artists brought together by Norma Liongoren for this year’s Walong Filipina exhibit.
True to the meaning of her first name “Jurgenne,” which means “earth worker,” Primavera has committed herself to the protection of coastal and upland areas, especially Philippine native trees and mangroves. The 63-year old scientist especially worked on the development and promotion of sustainable tiger prawn farming, for which she was lauded as one of Time magazine’s 2008 “Heroes for the Environment.” A sustainable aquaculture method like that developed by Primavera ultimately aids in the protection of
Philippine mangroves, now fast disappearing, at an alarming rate. At the turn of the 20th century, only a fifth of the 500, 000 million hectares of mangrove areas remained, and we have fewer areas today.
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,” as well as act as the first and second lines of defense against tsumanis, typhoons and other adverse conditions. But the rampant overexploitation and conversion of mangrove forests into settlements and tourist resorts; developments in aquaculture; and weak legislation and political will for mangrove protection, had all taken their toll.
Primavera, who remains active in retirement, encourages her fellow scientists “to come down from the Ivory Tower… and do science… against the grinding poverty and environment-unfriendly character of modern times.” “Ecologically damaging practices need to be replaced with ecologically sound ones.” Protecting mangroves, Primavera explained, “is a mission that teeters on the always difficult negotiation by which ecological and environmental goals, on the one hand, and economic, social, and immediate human needs, on the other, are adjudicated.”
PG Zoluaga, visual artist, sculptor, musician, and architect who holds degrees in architecture and landscape architecture from the University of the Philippines and University of San Agustin, has continuously advocated for the protection of the environment through his art. By collaborating with other Iloilo-based artists, he has aimed to raise consciousness about the environment through cultural activities. He is perhaps widely known as the artist who worked with Gawad Kalinga children by teaching them terra cotta sculpting and holding an exhibit, Halad Duta (Earth Offerings), with them.
Zoluaga seeks to make art that is clearly and easily perceptible, grasped, remembered, and able to influence people. Believing that the environmental movements are now past a passive stage, and instead must be thoroughly involved in the “action stage” of rehabilitating and protecting the environment, he believes that artists in music, theater, fine arts, and literature could collaboratively work in reaching people through clear messages conveyed through art, much change can be made. Among his collaborative projects is the 2009 Center for Environmental Concerns-sponsored album, Ili-ili sa Kalibutan: Mga Awit ng Bayan at Kalikasan. In the compilation, Zoluaga’s Alay calls for the protection and nurturing of an already ailing environment.
A group of his paintings, among which is Mother Nature’s Revenge, raises present, compelling concerns about living with nature. In his painting for Walong Filipina, Zoluaga enjoins us to explore his world by rendering in front of us his portrait of Primavera as “diwata ng bakhawan,” ever protective of her haven. Through a montage of intertwining and alternating reality and fantasy, Primavera’s earth-bound and reality-grounded contributions are mediated with the myths of animism that, apart from being deeply rooted in 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 not loosely motivated by mere tangible needs. Instead, the work presents a challenge for us to share a soul-full identification with our environment, to value and regard it inasmuch as we revere and implore spirits, and to truly understand the depths of nature and living in harmony with it.
Zoluaga’s Pasiplat sa Katunggan is a glimpse to a possible world that Primavera has faithfully envisioned and towards which she has devoted her life’s work. It is the outcome of Zoluaga’s mythologizing of the environment and the world which, as Joseph Campbell aptly puts it, is one of an artist’s most important roles.
In an interview with Zoluaga, he says he finds Primavera’s perseverance in her advocacy as most striking. As an ever enthusiastic teacher, she continues to mentor young Filipino scientists. She advocates for inculcating among children the values that are crucial in protecting the environment. “Start with the children because the values they learn will stay with them for a lifetime, the same way my experiences shaped my beliefs.”
Primavera reaches out to local folk. She emphasizes, “It’s not I and my peers who will ultimately save the environment. It’s the laymen, the common folk, who will.” Thus she works with them through local community workshops on aquafarming and by involving them in her projects. She integrates their livelihood in her advocacy.
In her latest project which she describes as the “most beautiful mangrove
ecopark in the Philippines,” the Katunggan It (Mangrove Forest of) Ibajay in Aklan, Primavera involves locals as tour guides to ecopark visitors. Primavera is dearly holding onto the promise of the project — to make mangrove forests accessible for people to see, appreciate, and want to protect.
Primavera herself admits that most of her life work has been for the mangroves and other native trees. After finishing her undergraduate and graduate degrees in zoology, Primavera’s interest in sustainable aquafarming and mangrove protection was sparked and nurtured when, as member of the Iloilo-based Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center or SEAFDEC/AQD, she studied shrimp culture.
It was during her stay in SEAFDEC/AQD when Primavera learned that the then widely accepted method of unplanned, poorly managed, and overextended shrimp farming had serious, negative environmental impacts, especially to mangroves. Ringing this critical warning during the 1980s heyday of aquafarming, she became exposed to criticism from many directions. “Because of my cautionary views, I became marginalized in aquaculture circles,” she relates.
Still strongly inspired by her 1972 participation in the U.N. conference on human environment, and later challenged by the effortless calling off of mangrove species names by experts from Thailand and Vietnam, Primavera vowed to focus on mangroves. In 1996, with a doctoral thesis on mangroves and aquafarming, Primavera earned her Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of the Philippines. Her commitment to master mangrove species culminated into a UNESCO-supported and Outstanding Book award where she was primary author, the Handbook of Mangroves in the Philippines–Panay. Extensive research work soon accumulated into many scientific publications. U.N.-FAO and Asian Development Bank sought her expertise.
Primavera became a consistent recipient of numerous awards both in the country and internationally. Among them was Stockholm University’s conferring
Primavera with a Ph.D. in Science honoris causa, in recognition of her contributions towards knowledge of the negative implications of shrimp farming and the value of mangroves.
Being one of the honorees in this year’s Walong Filipina (Eight Filipinas), Primavera joins seven other women, whose lives and works are being honored by seven other male artists in an exhibit that opened on March 25 at Liongoren Gallery Cubao, near the end of Women’s Month, and close to the start of April, the Earth Month, travelled to Liongoren Gallery Dagupan in May and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, October 14 to November 29.
First held in 1990, Walong Filipina has shown the works of close to a hundred women artists, as well as that of many other women achievers in other fields. But what was most unique for this year was the inclusion of eight researchers-writers from a University of the Philippines Art Studies class under the mentorship of Prof. Flaudette May Datuin. Aside from acting as liaison between honorees and artists, the students also wrote the exhibition wallnotes, helped install the works, provided the artists with information, at times editorializing and synthesizing the works of the Filipinas, and understanding the works, and watching how they evolved from concept to finished artwork.
I am one of those students, and I was assigned to work with Primavera and Zoluaga, and be a privileged witness of a rare occasion of a scientist and artist teaming up.
Romena Luciano on Lydia Robledo and Mario de Rivera
Lyrical Commentaries on Butterflies: De Rivera’s The Month of March, No. 2 and End of Summer, No. 2
When I look at the butterflies, I do not only see beautiful patterns in their wings, curls of antennas, and interesting tails, but more so the condition of the biodiversity—of the ecological system- Lydia Robledo
For this year’s Walong Filipina Exhibit at Liongoren Gallery, artist Mario de Rivera contributes a two-paneled painting entitled The Month of March, No. 2 and End of Summer, No. 2, a tribute to environmentalist Lydia Robledo’s advocacy for the conservation of butterflies.
According to him, “Both paintings are ‘lyrical commentaries’ using the season of summer…and more specifically butterflies, as metaphors for the delicate state of ecology our planet faces today.” He further explains, “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-a-vis the end of nature…”.Butterflies indeed are indicators of the condition of biodiversity as Lydia Robledo would always say.
Lydia Robledo, founder of Philippine Butterfly Habitat Conservation Society and member of Philippine Bird Watching Club, is currently co-authoring a book about Philippine Butterflies, which, along with taking photographs of butterflies, aim to increase awareness among the general public. “Equipped with cameras and not with nets”, together with her peers, she is able to share to others the beauty of different species of butterflies and birds. She believes that awareness would lead to appreciation, and this would eventually develop into a passion. This is what has happened to her, and this is what she dreams to happen to others, too.
Fascinated by the beauty of intricate patterns and varied colors of butterfly wings Robledo started to search information about butterflies. However, on her first visit in a butterfly house in Quezon City, she was dismayed at their dismal condition of confinement inside a net. From then on she began to search a better way to keep butterflies. She found out about the practice of Butterfly gardening, where all one has to do was to provide host plants to attract butterflies. This means that keeping the diversity of the greens translates into keeping the diversity of the butterflies. She has proven that there is no need for putting nets to keep the butterflies. This awareness broadens her perspective and leads her to be seriously involved in ecological conservation.
She is now working to communicate the interdependence between species, particularly butterflies and the whole ecological system to a larger audience. She has already started to introduce to a Christian group proper practices on ecological conservation. She has also been invited to give lecture on environmental conservation.
She is also working to make the public aware of the interdependence between species, particularly butterflies and the whole ecological system to a larger audience. She has already started to introduce to a Christian group proper practices on ecological conservation
University of the Philippines Art Studies Professor Flaudette May Datuin, our teacher who is guiding and mentoring us on this collaboration with Liongoren Gallery for this year’s Walong Filipina mentioned that one of the roles of art is “to make us see and feel more.” De Rivera’s work makes us see and feel more through skillful application of modeling paste, and layers of mixed visual elements, such as photo-transfer of mostly images of butterflies. From The Month of March, No. 2 and End of Summer, No. 2 enjoin us to reflect on what Robledo strives to communicate and achieve, but in a form that invites us to go beyond surface meanings and realities. His paintings encourage us to contemplate on the delicate condition of our planet, and act to prevent its impending death – the End of Summer. In the process, we share in the experience and partake of a lyrical commentary, which appeals to our feelings more than to our visual faculties.
Virna Pamela J. Odiver on Atty. Ipat Luna and Egai Fernandez
A Forest Lives On
A hint of yellow peeking out of the forest – this is the image that strikes me most at first glance, as I view the The Forest Lives Forever, Edgar Talusan Fernandez’ tribute to f Atty. Ipat Luna, one of the honorees of this year’s Walong Filipina, which opened at Liongoren Gallery Cubao March 25-April 15, and travelled to Liongoren Gallery in Dagupan, Pangasinan, where it ran from April 17 to May 1, and now at Cultural Center of the Philippines, October 14 to November 28.
First held in 1990, Walong Filipina (Eight Filipinas) has shown the works of close to a hundred women artists, as well as many other women achievers in other fields. For this year, Norma Liongoren, the gallery’s curator and owner, thought of honoring eight Filipina environmentalists through the works of eight male artists, and timed the opening of the exhibit on March 25, near the end of Women’s Month, and close to the start of April, the Earth Month.
But what was most unique for this year was the inclusion of eight researchers-writers from a University of the Philippines Art Studies class under the mentorship of Prof. Flaudette May Datuin. Aside from acting as liaison between honorees and artists, the students also wrote the exhibition wallnotes, helped install the works, provided the artists with information, at times editorializing and synthesizing the works of the Filipinas, and understanding the works, and watching how they evolved from concept to finished artwork.
I was one of these students, and I was assigned to work with Egai, as he is more known, and Atty. Luna, who for more than twenty years now, has been specializing in laws on protected areas. She also advocates healthy living, like breastfeeding and tobacco control and has served different non-profit organizations already like Tanggol Kalikasan andPusod, which seek to empower people and educate them on how to live in harmony with the environment.
Working with Atty Luna and Egai for this semester has probably changed my life in many ways. For one, I learned so much from Atty Luna’s work, who asserts – and I agree with her – that no one should be called an “environmentalist,” because everyone should do their part in serving nature. If everyone would just play their own role, then it would not be necessary to tag certain individuals as environmentalists, because they would not be unique anymore. They are just doing what they should. It is a realization that dawned on me, being part of this year’s 8 Filipina project at Liongoren Gallery.
From Egai, on the other hand, I have learned to lead a healthier life, when he advised me to go easy on my personal favourites, chicharon and chicken skin, while we were enjoying a nice lunch of tofu and eggplant omelette. Food, as Egai related, really is the secret of our lolos and lolas. They lived in a world without much junk food, preservatives, and fast food restaurants. Thus, I should start to make an effort to eat healthier food while I’m young to have a stronger body and longer life.
I also learned so much about the work of this remarkable artist. In a light conversation with Liongoren and Egai – probably the most interesting afternoon that I had in months, even in years! – I have learned about how beautiful accidents with a little bit of Egai’s will all came together for this work. He relates how he used a certain dripping technique to create the painting’s enchanting forest background.
As the respected art critic Alice Guillermo puts it, Egai possesses “a rare flexibility in art.” He is not afraid to experiment with different techniques, no matter how weird it is (including running a water hose on the painting itself) just to get the effects that he wanted. He related that the process of experimenting itself and creating art is, if not almost, of equal importance with the finished work. He has also successfully merged abstract form with figures – something that is not already new to him, for he has already done works with this technique in the past. An ardent environmentalist himself, Egai believes that nothing is trash and almost everything could be reused, recycled, or even turned into beautiful works of art. He even confessed that he uses his old works to make new ones!
Later on, upon closer view, I have come to discover that the enchanting background may not be the background after all. It has merged with the face of Atty. Luna and her son, Alon. The foreground becomes the background, while the background may also be considered the foreground. They are both of equal importance now, making a statement that Nature and human beings are equal and not separate. The merging of background and foreground may be interpreted in different ways: the forest lives on because of Atty. Luna and similar advocates, and the advocacy continues, is passed on and lives on to the future, through her son, who symbolizes the future. Atty Luna home schools her son, to shield him from what she believes as a dominant culture that destroys nature, a culture that is unconsciously embedded and ingrained in our education system.
In an interview with Atty Luna, she related how she grew up in Batangas; how she spent her fun childhood days swimming in Taal Lake and waiting for her school bus at the foot of a mountain. Atty. Ipat Luna, as I reflected, was really made into what she is today. The way she grew up made her into the Spartan-lady-environment-protector that she is.
Today, as I dream of travelling, I am armed with the lessons I learned from these two remarkable individuals. Yes, I should truly live my life healthy as much as I could so that I could travel all I want in the future. Preserving those areas that I would want to visit is also of similar importance. I now look at the environment and the nature that surrounds me in general, in a whole new light. I now think twice before throwing something out in the garbage. I now think thrice before buying something that might contribute to all the waste that’s already polluting our surroundings.
I am really lucky to have met Egai and Atty. Luna. Aside from that, the project itself has been life and culture-changing to me, and I fervently hope that it would inspire other people – the youth like me, to strive for change. After all, this is for our future.
Mai Saporsantos on Mrs. Luz Sabas and Mark Salvatus
When Zero Means Something
In response to a dying Earth’s call, one should not discontinue living – rather, press on more into living a life of purpose even with the presence of existing conditions. This is what Luz Sabas or Manang Luz as she prefers to be called has been doing for the past five decades.
Her efforts in Zero Waste started back in the 1960’s wherein she was tasked to help find a solution to the garbage crisis that hit the city. She tells how much of a tedious task it was to go from door to door to collect garbage which they would eventually sell, recycle, and use as fuel – but every bit of work done was worth it and her experiences moved her so much as to encourage her to learn more about waste management in her quest to share knowledge to more people as well.
A former nurse, educator, and founder of the Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines, Manang Luz at 82 remains to be persevering and continues on with the ever changing challenges posed by her advocacy. Her long experience as a Zero Waste advocate made her realize that there was very little trash that needed to be disposed of and that everything could be used. – Corncobs, dried mango seeds, and old straw brooms transform into artificial flowers. Empty juice packs become recliners and umbrellas, and a swimming pool turns into a fish pond. From this, came her concept of LAHAT (Lupa, Araw, Hangin, at Tubig) which she illustrates as the essential needs for composting. At the same time, also stressing that everyone should be involved in making things happen.
As a tool for learning and raising awareness, the Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines used to come up with instructional materials (Ecological Waste Management booklets) as supplement to assist people in the practice of Zero Waste in communities, homes, schools, offices, and markets. The content of which came from Manang Luz’s masteral thesis: “The Four F’s Total Recycling Scheme for Domestic Solid Waste”. However, despite the success in circulating some of these materials, the production had reached its end as funds decreased – this challenge didn’t become a difficult obstacle for Manang Luz, instead the solution was go to more places to give talks and lectures for raising awareness and share the how-to’s of waste management.
As Manang Luz continues to influence people up to this time, there is nothing she wants more than the practice to be propagated and be easily understood by everyone. Many times tagged as an “Impossible Dreamer”, Manang Luz together with people who are passionate about the environment continues to surprise people in showing the possibilities of Zero Waste and more.
Mark Salvatus echoes the same interest in instigating change and encouraging participation from people as seen in his process-oriented, interactive, and collaborative projects. Salvatus continues to engage people in his work for this year’s Walong Filipina – In the same way that is evident in his previous and ongoing projects. He shows how he uses art as medium for communication and learning by bringing them closer to people.
Seeing objects that looked like “waste” in an organized clutter inside Manang Luz’s car which she would most definitely and eventually transform, recycle, and re-use was what triggered Salvatus’ idea for this year’s Walong Filipina exhibit. In Zero, Salvatus, dug into the bag he always carries around the city, wrapped his found “trash” (2 bus tickets, blister foil, peanut pack, candy wrapper, chewing gum foil, salmiaki pack, 3 receipts, rest room ticket, small wrapper) that when accumulated in clear tape brought them back to life as usable objects such as table stoppers, which as Prof. Datuin, my teacher puts, “becomes a substitute for the actions of people.”
In this work, Salvatus demonstrates what Arjun Appadurai refers to the “social life of things,” meaning that objects have memories and lives of their own. A cigarette wrapper is discarded, turns into nothing, a zero, but if improperly disposed, ironically adds up to the mountains of trash littering the planet. In Salvatus, the discard turns into “art,” in Manang Luz, the trash turns into a functional everyday object. Both objects and their after-life shape the actions of people, as well as their positions and attitudes about life and art.
Zero is the meeting of ideas between Salvatus and Sabas in this year’s Walong Filipina. They invite us to see that windows of possibilities can be found in the process of searching for meaning be it in life, or even in the most mundane of objects.
As a researcher for this project, I had the privilege of meeting and knowing two people who are passionate not only in their disciplines and advocacies, but about life in general. My time with them has taught me that when a cause or a thought has gripped you so intensely, you will apply your creativity and work to the best of your abilities in order to make things happen.
Ma. Deborah M. Virata on Dr. Judea Millora and Jojit Solano
For Jojit Solano, a 27 year old artist, the Walong Filipina Exhibit is a step into a new perspective. His past works tackle the dark side of society where the hypocrites and the politicking personalities are some of his known subjects. For this particular exhibit (Walong Filipina) he was introduced to a woman with a passion to change communities through waste management and recycling and in the process make the people gain more love for their country. She is Dr. Judea Millora, a practitioner of medicine, a mother, and an environmentalist. For Jojit Solano this is the complete opposite of his usual themes and he was compelled to see and work at a different angle.
Dr. Dea, as people call her, is a native of Pangasinan, and one of the few women in the Philippines who are ready to give their time, effort, money and services to make something happen. Waste management became her forte and chosen field to master and focus on as an environmentalist. She is presently a practicing medical doctor involved in natural medicine and also a full time environmentalist. She took up B.S. Biology in the University of the Philippines in 1975 and continued her studies in Lyceum Northwestern-FQDMF College of Medicine (1979-1983) taking up the course Doctor of Medicine. Presently, she is a technical consultant in Ecological Solid Waste Management and the founder and President of Zero Kalat para sa Kaunlaran Foundation, Inc. (ZKKFI).
In 1996, after she passed the licensure exam for Medicine she rendered her services to a poor community in Dagat-Dagatan. While she practiced her craft, she observed the unhealthy sanitary condition of the community with the people’s garbage dumped along the streets. Being a practitioner of Medicine she is concerned about the health of the people living in the surrounding area. And one day she asked the people, “Maglinis tayo”. And so they picked up their walis tingting, dustpan and garbage bags and started cleaning the place as street sweepers. From this small beginning she was able to mobilize the community into cleaning the area and segregating the garbage they collected. This is also the year when Zero Kalat para sa Kaunlaran (ZKK) was founded. For Dr. Dea it is an organization with no money, no headquarters, involved in projects with small impact for change but an organization that affects small community that will create a ripple of change in the surrounding communities.
ZKK uses a community-based approach in giving solutions to solid waste problems. She was able to assemble 120 volunteers during the founding of ZKK (1996) consisted mainly of people which were also members of the community they are working with. From this experience she learned that people should also benefit from their projects for them to be more enthusiastic in working with the organization. From the waste segregation schemes the Materials Recovery Facility was created which is also an income generating opportunity for the people. This is a good foundation given to the community, a mean of improving the quality of living through proper waste segregation and recycling.
There are other people who are as passionate in moving people to care for the environment. Luz Sabas, the founder and past president of Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation, Inc (ZWRMPFI), former secretary Elisea “Bebet” Gozun of DENR and Dr. Metodio Palaypay, the chairman of ZWRMPFI and also a practitioner of medicine are some of Dr. Dea’s inspirations in pursuing the path to being an environmentalist. “Magaling sila” and they are very passionate in what they are doing as Dr. Dea stated. This passion for caring for the environment and loving the country should be passed to another generation of environmentalists.
Transforming lives and communities is the main goal of Dr. Dea together with ZKKFI. Her organization is still evolving and in the process of benchmarking. Solid waste management is just one problem but can be approached in many different ways and there are a number of problems connected to this that will also be mitigated if given a solution such as water pollution, air pollution and land pollution. This is the reason why she chose solid waste management as a commitment to change a neighborhood. A community where opportunities present themselves for people to change their view is a perfect place for Dr. Dea and ZKK to work out their goals. Changing one community at a time through waste segregation and recycling. The people cooperating in this movement only show they also care for their community and the environment.
The artist Jojit Solano is also from the same province, Pangasinan. A surreal painter with hints and motifs from popular culture in his works, the young artist is still evolving in his approach to his chosen art form which is painting. He is a graduate of BS Industrial Education Major in Drafting at the PSU- Cast in Lingayen Pangasinan. He learned painting by reading books and honed his skills through practice. He is a member of different art groups in Pangasinan namely, Art Association of the Philippines, Dagupan Artist’s Circle, and Artista Sining Bisual ng Pangasinan.
In my interview with Dr. Dea I asked her “if you are an object what would you be?” She said that she is the one thread still joining a really thick rope together. This rope is found in a ship and it is so used up that only one thread is pulling the two parts of the rope together. And she said that this represents her relationship to God. And without this one thread then the rope will completely be separated from its other part. Then I asked her, “Are you frustrated?” She said no but she wanted to see more and she wanted to be more passionate in what she is doing. She wanted to do more.
When I finished my interview with Dr. Dea I summarized it to Jojit, the artist tasked to make Dr. Dea as a subject for his painting. But I did not tell him about the “object question” because I feel that it is a personal matter and I don’t want it to influence the interpretation of the artist. So I withheld that particular information when I summarized the interview for Jojit. When I saw the final painting, it has a yellow background and is composed of different images. On the very top is an image of the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo where Adam and God are connected by the tip of their fingers. This is how Jojit represented Dr. Dea’s turning point in life.
The painting is entitled “Out of the Black”. The title suggests that there is enlightenment and change in the life of the environmentalist when she became a Christian in 1994. This is the time when Dr. Dea realized that God works in your life. He can change people, He can change the country. She learned to care for others and love the country more. For her this is the key for change. If the Filipino people will love their country more then they will treasure the land, water and air of their country. They will care and be more disciplined in their actions and attitudes toward their surroundings and the environment.
The main focus in Jojit’s work is a girl with a serious look on her face which suggests that she is aware of what is happening to her surroundings. The artist juxtaposition the image of the girl to the images of the darkened skulls that appears hazy on the lower background of the canvass because of the reddish fog that settles on the ground. It is the toxic effect of garbage to the lives of people. But it is overpowered by the vibrant yellow background that supports the images of enlightenment, caring, and change.
As one approaches the painting from the yellow background various images appears that of fairies, cities, urban elements, flying birds, a woman and a child, and strange plants showering the main focus, the girl with what he can offer.
A young artist who is still in the process of evolving and an environmentalist who wanted to gain more passion so she can change herself, the communities and eventually to change the country is truly a fascinating combination. For Jojit Solano “Out of the black” also applies to him because this is a step into another perspective or a break from his pessimistic subjects. In a way Dr. Dea probably affected another person by opening her life as an environmentalist to an artist.
Flaudette May Datuin on Evelyn Cacha and Efren Garcellano
The Feisty Anti-Mining and Anti-Logging Activist as Reluctant Honoree
When I emailed Ms. Evelyn Cacha for information about her and her projects, she wrote back expressing her “reservations on being included among the worthy Walong Pilipina.” And while she thought that the project “is no doubt a worthy undertaking,” she is “daunted by the idea and I feel I do not measure up to the citation.” This from the founding chair of Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN), a multisectoral alliance of civil society groups, church based groups and individuals of Oriental Mindoro. Formed in 1999, the alliance elected Ms. Cacha as chair and served in that position till 2004. And yet she insists, “I am only a small cog in a machine.”
Her stint as ALAMIN chair was marked by successes and setbacks. In 2001, with Heherson Alvarez as Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary, the Mineral Sharing Agreeement (MPSA) for the Mindoro Nickel Project was revoked, after mobilizations and representations to “imperial Manila” by “our governor, our congressman, mayors and other Mindorenos.” In 2002, the provincial board of Oriental Mindoro passed a moratorium ordinance on large scale mining, after much lobbying and mobilizing. And “for 25 years!” she adds. Alamin had by then organized municipal chapters and “our Calapan chapter chair, a retired government employee, had read about the province of Capiz passing a similar ordinance,” inspired perhaps by the Mindoro experience.
“However, in May 2004, on the run up to elections, the MPSA was reinstated, for lack of due process, according to then DENR secretary Defensor, “ Cacha recounts. “I was in the thick of things, from writing letters, to doing bits of research, or having IEC materials Xeroxed or planning rallies in numerous meetings. But also at this time, I had asked to be relieved of the chair position.” In October 2009, with Fr. Edu Gariguez at the helm, the ECC (Environmental Compliance Certificate) for the Mindoro Nickel Project was approved. A hunger strike was staged at the DENR to protest the issuance and after eleven days a temporary revocation was won “pending validation of allegations” that the process of issuance was flawed.
Thus, at the time we informed her about being cited as an honoree for Walong Filipina 2010, she expressed, not only reluctance but regret at the lack of “sustained efforts on the issues we worked on,” and having left no “significant impacts or legacies worthy of citation,” she writes in that email. “My only consolation,” she went on “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.” The fight to save the Mindoro forest started in 1987, when a Timber License Agreement or TLA for 37, 000 hectares of Mindoro forests was granted by DENR to Oriental Wood Processing. Approached by fellow Calapenos and knowing very little about environmentalism, Cacha took on the cause, steeled by the activism of the people Calapan, a small town where everybody knows practically everybody else, and where the “feeling was strong that we were not going to allow outsiders to plunder our forest and endanger our island province,” she writes in her essay My Green Story.
It took only a little more than two years to have the TLA revoked and the congressmen who ran for office campaigning on the issue won. It also helped that the then President was Cory, the democracy icon who was reported to have said, if the people do not want it, it must revoked.
When the same victorious volunteers would regroup in 1999, the issue was about large scale mining. But in the 20 years between the anti-logging and anti-mining activism, Cacha and the group, with a few other friends conducted a clean-up campaign. Prevailing upon the mayor to declare a no-classes day, they had the students marching on the streets with brooms and dustpans on hand, and converging on the town plaza to sing the national anthem. And from this clean-up idea, another project would surface with a bit more sophistication, this time involving the processing of biodegradable waste into bioorganic fertilizer with scientists and NGOs being roped in to care for the “earth, literally and figuratively,” she quips. Sadly however, the project did not get past its pilot scale.
Despite the ups and downs of what she nonetheless describes as a “rich life,” she is humbled, awed and inspired by the efforts of many people, from the “Bishop of Vicariate of Mindoro, our political leaders, the grassroots and our indigenous people, the Mangyans, and our counterparts in Occidental Mindoro.” In her email, she took note of the “very noteworthy efforts of our activist priest, Fr. Edu Gariguez, who has carved a name on the national and international levels in the anti mining advocacy.”
Faced with such a self-effacing, feisty yet reluctant, “uncooperative” subject, what does artist and fellow Mindoreno Efren Garcellano do to interpret and render artful Evelyn Cacha’s life and works? An excerpt from my emailed response may prove instructive:
Efren Garcellano was here a week ago and showed me works not directly ABOUT you, but INSPIRED by you and your works, as well his own engagement with the issue. It is very indirect – he has a forest scene, with just an outline of your face, barely discernible; there are mundane scenes of clothes, as well as portraits of people, whose lives and ways of life will be and are affected by the destruction of Inang Kalikasan. The art works need not be direct illustrations; nor should they be focused on one person alone, at least as far as Efren is concerned, and we respect that, as much as we also respect your reservations about being the center and focus of his art. I believe his “solution” is brilliant and thoughtful.
Garcellano’s “brilliant” solution refuses to put Cacha on a pedestal; instead it places her and her work in a larger societal context as well as the modest scale and curatorial premise or what I described to her as a “humble Walong Filipina edition, (which) is not after monumental, idealized accomplishments, but the everyday, mundane “enabling” moments and actions from eight Filipinas, including even frustrations, “failures,” which we think can be turned into lessons, which can be inspirational and enabling in themselves.” I also explained that while we “do acknowledge that environmental concerns can only be addressed collectively, but we in the arts do need faces, concrete people to ground us, and this is why Norma chose you because you are her friend and she knows you, not in the abstract but directly.”
Thus we see that in Garcellano’s recent drawing, Evs, the only one that directly alludes to Cacha, her face blends into the forest landscape, barely recognizable and practically indistinguishable from the thick foliage. The rest of the drawings that I selected 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.
This group of works also gives us a glimpse of this feisty honoree’s character, which I pointed out to her in my email: “Norma and I also think that your letter says a lot about you: your humility, modesty, as well as your being frank and realistic about what you achieved so far. That in itself makes you worthy to be cited – as an advocate who wishes to work quietly, a little step at a time, and not wanting to earn credits, especially for work that is supposed to be collaborative. Each of us has a contribution, and I believe the ‘baby steps’ that you and your group have achieved are inspirational enough. After all, we are looking for advocates who are not only environmentally-concerned but are also good people, with character. This, for me, is a more important lesson to impart to my students, as well as the public that the exhibit will reach. “
In that email exchange, Cacha described herself “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, and in this instance, taking up the challenge of rendering in visual form the character of a worthy but humble honoree. Through their examples, these activists, with whom I had the honor of engaging, 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 others.