Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Artists transform gallery into classroom for discussion on Philippine history

By Nancy T, Lu

“Sining Saysay: History in Art” - an ongoing exhibit of mural paintings at the Gateway Gallery in Cubao - invites a revisit of the Philippines’ colorful and dramatic past but with a difference for some of the finest Filipino contemporary artists who proudly call the University of the Philippines their alma mater are the interpreters of events.

The 27 men and women who participated in realizing the big painting project had labored over their creative contributions to the present-day visual treat and educational experience for the general public. Foremost in their minds was the importance of being factual and accurate in their painted narratives.

Jonah Salvosa's "The Galleon Trade"

Period costumes of figures in history sometimes proved extremely difficult to draw because no precise record and reference could be found despite lengthy and thorough research, according to Jonah Salvosa. A desperate need to know how attacking planes looked like in wartime Philippines drove  artist Julius Samson to start collecting scale models of aircraft.

Julius Samson's "Occupied Philippines"

Adi Baens Santos' "Martial Law"
For Adi Baens Santos, history is about memory. His “Martial Law”  has to do with an era of unrest and protest which he knew firsthand. As a young artist working at the Sunday Times Magazine of the Manila Times in the early Seventies, he saw up close and heard directly the extremely idealistic student leaders of the First Quarter Storm. Edgar Jopson, Ericson Baculinao, Gerry Barican, Chito Sta. Romana, and Mila Astorga-Garcia turned up one by one in the editorial office to passionately air their frustration with and protest against the establishment as well as to angrily cry for freedom and change. Association with radical activists made this artist highly politicized. His art over the years has consistently been a strong statement on social issues and causes.

 “Sining Lakbay” - a project adding a digital interface to initially 10 mural works - was launched to lure the generally digital-savvy millennials into the gallery to view and talk about the exhibit. This took place three days before the EDSA People Power Anniversary this year, thereby calling special attention to a relevant work like “Martial Law.” The digital input to this 6 feet by 20 feet painting runs for a total of three minutes.

Grace Javier Alfonso's "Empowerment of Filipino Women"

On March 8, International Women’s Day, Grace Javier Alfonso’s “Empowerment of Filipino Women” will take the special limelight through art images recalling the history of courage of the heroines in the Philippine revolution and in their continuing struggle for their rights.

Neil Doloricon's "History of Labor in the Philippines"

“Sining Saysay: History in Art” opened at the Gateway Gallery about a year ago and it will run at the venue for another year before the entire collection will be moved permanently to the UP campus. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Musee d'Orsay in Paris lending paintings of European masters to Taipei museum

Add aptMillet's "The Gleaners"ion
Lovers of the classic art masterpieces belonging to the Musee d’Orsay will soon no longer need to fly all the way to Paris to view them up close.  The famous repository of paintings that stand out in the history of western art will lend 69 art treasures to the National Palace Museum in Taipei from April 8 to July 24.

The “Impression, Left Bank – Musee d’Orsay 30th Anniversary Exhibition” will highlight the paintings of masters like Van Gogh, Millet, Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Degas, Seurat and Delacroix. Van Gogh’s “The Midday Siesta,” Renoir’s “Girls at the Piano” and Millet’s “The Gleaners” will be in the collection of major 19th century works of art on loan. The awaited art event in Taipei, only about two hours by plane from Manila, requires insurance coverage amounting to 400 million euro, according to the Taipei museum.

Renoir's "Girls at the Piano"

The exhibit will call attention to the leading lights in the art movements in the 19th century like Realism,Impressionism, Expressionism and Cubism. The works of these celebrated artists command incredibly high prices in the art market today.

The Musee d’Orsay is located at the site of the former Orsay Railway Station in the French capital. This opened as the first modern train station in Paris in 1900 but closed down in 1939. The station became the Musee d’Orsay in 1986. Works of art which used to be housed in the Jeu du Paume were moved to this present-day landmark museum, which is said to attract 3.5 million visitors every year.

Van Gogh.s "The Midday Siesta"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Philippine National Artist BenCab reveals his fascination with Chinese tai chi

BenCab presents "Studies of Dance Movements" at his Baguio museum.

By Nancy T. Lu                                                                
Yuan xiao jie (February 11 this year) or what the Chinese people know traditionally as the first full moon after the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival saw National Artist Benedicto Cabrera, better known as BenCab, bring out his calligraphy-like ink sketches of a female performer in a dance celebration at the BenCab Museum in Baguio. As in the aesthetics of Chinese calligraphy, his strokes suggesting cursive script influence went bold sometimes but turned softly flowing just as quickly.

An initial sweeping panoramic look at his 26 works hanging at the Print Gallery of the BenCab Museum resulted in the unmistakable impression of a gracefully evolving tai chi  performance.

BenCab confessed to his fascination with tai chi or the art of pushing hands since his London days. He had the occasion to demonstrate his knowledge of slow-moving tai chi routines and exercises (said to promote good health and longevity) before Polish choreographer Paulina Wycichowska, who then interpreted what she saw in a collaborative effort using dance techniques.
BenCab swiftly went to work with his brush and ink to draw and create with artistic flair 40 different images on rice paper. 

The museum gallery selected for the exhibit titled “Studies of Dance Movements” could only accommodate 26 of the sketches produced during the beautiful encounter of the two artists from different realms.

“Take 5 on Aquarelle” featuring watercolor paintings by five artists of different generations also opened on February 11 at the Gallery Indigo of the BenCab Museum. Alfredo Roces, the oldest at age 85, led the group and he was followed by BenCab, who will turn 75 this coming April. Elmer Borlongan, Kelly Ramos and Abi Dionisio, the youngest at 27, completed the lineup.

BenCab’s take on the challenging watercolor art medium included his depiction of the most handsome rooster with white feathers from the poultry yard in his sprawling estate as the regal and reigning Chinese zodiac animal of the 2017 Lunar New Year. Uneasy, he said, was the process of leaving unpainted the spaces that called for the white color. BenCab expressed his intention to paint all the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. He has finished only four so far.

As in all exhibits of BenCab, icon Sabel must find a niche. Two watercolors put on view were of his famous bag lady with her robe flying and swirling around her.

Both exhibitions at the BenCab Museum will run until April 7.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Jesuit priest Pierre Tritz remembered for passion to help dropouts return to school

Father Pierre Tritz is shown with children in front of ERDA Foundation at 66 Linaw Street in Quezon City.
By Nancy T. Lu

Back in 1981 or 35 years ago, a documentary film titled “Les Trottoirs de Manille (The Sidewalks of Manila)” aired on French television, revealing the shocking poverty of out-of-school children in the Philippine capital. Unraveled dramatically was the heart-wrenching tale of survival of the children scavengers in the depressed neighborhoods of Metro Manila like the garbage dump site known as the Smokey Mountain.

A French-born Jesuit priest, the principal resource person of the TV documentary, realized the extreme importance of education to build a better future for these school dropouts born to families who knew only a hand-to-mouth existence. He reached out to help the streetchildren whose jobless parents could not afford to keep them in school. He undertook to raise money to pay for these sons’ and daughters’ uniforms, books, project materials, school supplies and even transportation allowances to enable them to avail of the free primary school education offered by the government.

The priest launched in the 1970s a school dropout project for the informal settlers called Operasyion Balik-Paaralan or Operation Back-to-School. His staff rounded up the streetchildren to put them back in school. For the parents, he gradually organized skills training programs to prepare  them for a regular and stable means of livelihood.

His name: Father Pierre Tritz.

Father Tritz was born in Alsace Lorraine, a region in France which underwent occupation by the German forces and later reversion to France. As a result, he was fluent in both French and German. His language proficiency proved helpful when he went fund-raising in Europe for his projects in the Philippines. In fact, strangers he met while traveling by train around Europe gave cash and wrote out checks as their donations after hearing Father Tritz share with them the plight of the impoverished Filipino children in need of education for a better tomorrow. 

Father Pierre Tritz, second from right, updates his friends in Paris on the progress of his campaign to keep children of informal settlers in school.

For many years, he encouraged individuals’ sponsorships of disadvantaged and marginalized children to keep them in school. He personally wrote letters to thank benefactors whether in the Philippines or abroad for their generosity.
Former French First Lady Daniele Mitterrand even made a special private trip to the country when her husband President Francois Mitterrand was still in office because of her foundation’s interest in helping Father Tritz in his meaningful work for the poor through his Educational Research and Development Assistance (ERDA) Foundation.
ERDA Foundation encourages corporate sponsorship of Christmas party for marginalized children. Father Pierre Tritz is seen with Alfonso Yuchengco  and  executives from Yuchengco's group of companies. 

Missionary greatness lies in inspiring others to generously spread love and work to help pull those mired in poverty and deprivation to arrive at a much better life. The soft-spoken Father Tritz touched so many lives throughout his years as a Catholic missionary in the Philippines.

Actually Father Tritz was ordained a Jesuit priest in Shanghai on June 4, 1947. His dream was to serve in China. But with the communist takeover in China in 1949, he was forced to leave, arriving in the Philippines on October 24, 1950. He spent the next over half a century showing his full commitment to making people aware of the importance of investing in the education of the young. He gave up his French citizenship to become a Filipino by presidential decree and concentrated with missionary zeal on work among the poorest of the poor in his adopted homeland.

The well-loved Father Tritz passed away at the age of 102 last September 10 at the UST Hospital in Manila. But for many who knew him, he continues to live and be remembered for his passion and greatness in inspiring caring for the poor.  The ERDA Foundation, his legacy, rallies those with the means to help bring down the high incidence of school dropouts in the Philippines.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Master poet Yue Qu Liao lives in the hearts and minds of writers and readers

By Nancy T. Lu

An alma mater always welcomes back with enormous pride the visiting alumni especially graduates who have gone on to become great achievers in their chosen careers.

Last July 9, the Chiang Kai-shek College in Manila warmly celebrated the return in spirit of the award-winning poet Yue Qu Liao 月典了 (Bartolome Tan Chua 蔡景龍). The occasion with local and foreign Chinese language poets in full attendance proved that the late Philippine-born talent in Chinese verse writing has continued to live in the hearts and minds of his many friends and admirers, including his well-known contemporary poets as well as fans and followers from the younger generation.

The awarding of the third batch of winners of the Yue Qu Liao Youth Modern Chinese Poetry Competition dominated the event which unfolded only two days before his 5th death anniversary.

The Yue Qu Liao Foundation which was established after the death of the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas awardee of the Writers Union of the Philippines five years ago launched the poetry contest, attracting once every two years young poets to submit entries and learn from the critiques and evaluations of older and experienced members of the local Chinese literati.

Zhi Shui (real name Yan Xu) led this year’s winners at the Yue Qu Liao Youth Poetry Awards with his poem, “Old House.” “Dream Searching” by An Ran (Shih Ya Wen) garnered second place and “Straw Rope” by Shi Nai Pan picked up third honor.. 

Honorable mention went to “Mountain Peak” by Zhang Mu Hui (Wang Li Jiao), “Mahal Kita” by Hong Zhong (Qiu Hong Zhong), “Nostalgia for the Past” by Liu Yun (Zheng Zhi Qin), and “Growing Up” by Ru Guo (Nian Yen Xin).

Thirty-nine aspiring young writers submitted 111 poems in this year’s contest. Each contestant was encouraged to enter at least five poems. The final winners were 21 to 31 years of age.

Dr. William Chua, Yue Qu Liao’s cardiologist brother who happens to be a painter and sculptor by avocation, designed the stainless trophy handed out to the top three awardees this year. The late poet’s Chinese nom de plume meaning “the moon in a waxing or waning crescent stage” inspired the design.

Yue Qu Liao, renowned for his published writings, co-founded with his close poet friends the Thousand Island Poetry Association in 1985, going on to help organize poetry forums as well as invite famous poets from China and Taiwan to share insights on poetry writing and reading at lectures to keep alive interest in creating modern Chinese poems.

The Thousand Island Poetry Association publishes on the first Wednesday of every month an entire page of poems in the widely-circulated newspaper World News to encourage local poets to write. Members of this leading group of poets in Metro Manila gather also in the evening on this day for poetry appreciation activities like reading of selected works as well as exchanges of ideas on poetry style and technique.

Yue Qu Liao’s Chinese verses and stanzas in his inimitable style have moved and excited countless readers, even intriguing them to pause and reflect on his amazing creative imagery and great sensitivity to nuances of life and living. His emotional outpourings have time and again revealed a depth of feelings so powerful as proven by the tears that flow down the cheeks of his touched readers.

Rosalinda Ong Chua, his essayist wife, confessed that getting acquainted with upperclassman Yue Qu Liao and responding to his electrifying approach and offer of friendship one fine day 50 years ago at the CKS College campus opened up the beginning of truly exhilarating episodes in her life. He looted her heart with his very romantic way with words.

Memories of this marriage partner of 45 years have inspired her to write revealing and moving essays. Life without him at her side in the last five years has made her more determined than ever to work and pass on his legacy in promoting interest in the literary field primarily through meaningful activities of the Yue Qu Liao Foundation and the Thousand Island Poetry Association.

The loving pair published together “Different Dreams, Same Bed” in 2007. He suggested at that time coming out with “Different Dreams, Same Bed (Part 2)” on their 50th wedding anniversary this year. With him gone, she still managed to launch a back-to-back expanded edition of his poems and her essays last July 9.

A mini memorabilia of Yue Qu Liao which was part of a poetry exhibit by senior members of the Thousand Island Poetry Association included one last love poem penned by the poet for his beloved bedfellow. He described love as cutting a finger and turning it into a branch to burn and keep her warm in the deep recess of her heart on a cold winter day. Dr. William Chua painstakingly created for the exhibit a diorama of his eldest brother as calligrapher working on this classic Yue Qu Liao poem.

“Poem Draft for Father,” another exhibited poem by Yue Qu Liao, described a first draft of poetry that was read carefully by his father. With his parent gone, noted the writer, the piece of paper was taken and folded by an unappreciative child into a boat and a plane. The verses could be paraphrased to mean that the beautiful culture of Chinese poetry was lost on the young, perhaps hinting a generation gap.

Words, words, words moved and warmed hearts at the memorable gathering of poets. Definitely a strong presence was the spirit of Yue Qu Liao. His little granddaughter Martina Bernice Chua even overcame earlier stage fright to sing ardently his verses on self-reflection.  

Thursday, June 30, 2016




Sunday, March 27, 2016

City slickers join pilgrimage to heartland of Pampanga on Maundy Thursday

By Nancy T. Lu

Maundy Thursday this year was somewhat different but truly unforgettable for it was spent for the first time with the Reyes clan in the heartland of Pampanga. The trip from Manila to Mexico was unusually long because the bus with more than 40 mostly related passengers representing at least three generations moved at a snail’s pace due to the heavy exodus traffic. Light banter kept impatience and boredom from setting in. Sandwiches from Aristocrat and Jack 'n Jill snacks also helped keep mouths busy.

Reminders that this was a day calling for Lenten prayer were clear to see upon arrival at the Sta. Monica Parish in Mexico, Pampanga. Only the belfry tower of the original 16th century church could still be seen today. The rebuilt main church has beautiful stained glass windows all around.

The Visita Iglesia sites were decked out for the influx of devotees. Signs put up in the church premises emphasized that the church visit must not just be for tourism and picture-taking. Expected was a pilgrim’s behavior. The Ten Commandments were even clearly spelled out to help in the examination of the conscience. Biblical passages sent across the message about God’s great love for humanity.

Interiors of churches visited if parking was not a problem were stripped bare of decorations. Statues were all covered and wrapped in purple, casting a somber mood on the surroundings. A need to show reverence .was not forgotten.

The greatest story ever told was enacted partly, Philippine style, on the national highway. Penitents dressed like the Black Nazarene but with faces covered carried heavy crosses while negotiating their way to their Calvary to keep their personal vows. Flagellants already bleeding on their backs whipped themselves as they followed. Actual crucifixion for some of them was to take place on Good Friday.

Special prayers for divine grace were said and votive candles lighted especially for loved ones and friends nearing the end of their Calvary. For now, they must continue to endure great pain and sufferings brought on by old age and/or sickness,

During the visit to the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Angeles City, the group came upon a tarpaulin sign warmly welcoming  the Reyes family. A poster next door which indicated Taiwanese presence in Barangay Suclaban announced the direct recruitment of Filipino workers in the community for a Taiwanese factory. Offered was a monthly salary of 20,000 New Taiwan dollars plus overtime pay.

A surprise activity of the day - an idea of Clara Reyes Lapus of Mama Sita -  was the planting of papaya sprouts on the farmland of the Reyes family. The tiny plants were prepared beforehand. So were the colorful flags identifying the arriving planters. Somebody did the advanced digging of holes on the ground to ensure proper spacing of the papaya plants, too.
Bart Lapus, the farming expert in the group, suggested returning in December for the fruit harvest. He gave assurance that watering the papaya plants would not be a problem due to the caretaker’s access to a water pump.

Pampango style of palate pampering naturally became part of the experience of the entourage from Manila. Lillian Mercado-Lising Borromeo, fondly called Atching Lillian, received a special request to handle the lunchtime food catering. She selected a buffet menu that highlighted a comforting culinary culture in the province of Pampanga. Sisig - pork cheek and jowl boiled, broiled and then put on a hot plate - tasted particularly delicious.

The 75-year-old author of the cookbook “Atching Lillian’s Heirloom Recipes” sat down with the guests, narrating amusing stories behind some of the traditional dishes. She also signed copies of her cookbook bought by the diners.

The  program of activities on Maundy Thursday for the Reyes clan concluded in the past with hearty dining at the Aristocrat. This tradition was kept this year. The originally planned watching of the reenactment of Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Christ the King Church in Quezon City was skipped because of the group's late return to Manila. The all-too-familiar parking problem was also a factor contributing to a change of plan. 

All told, Maundy Thursday was spent meaningfully in Pampanga. The bonding that took place among families and friends also made the day very memorable.