Saturday, May 09, 2009


WOW. As I was preparing the power point presentation for my artist's talk in Toronto, I stumbled upon some very very old photos/slides of myself and works that I have done. Stuff from a couple of lifetimes ago. Back when I was a cartoonist under Nonoy Marcelo at Manila Chronicle, a designer for a clothing line, and a dancer/choreographer for a performance art company (above, curtain call of a site specific show at a construction site in Malate. The site then became Sala Restaurant).

My first real job ever was as a cartoonist for Business Day (now Business World) back in the late 80's. I did a strip called "The Daily Insight" - a play on my high school newspaper at San Agustin, "Insights". It was inspired and influenced heavily by Bloom County, Doonesbury, and the comics of Jules Pfeiffer of The Village Voice. After a couple of years, I transferred to Manila Chronicle and met the amazing Nonoy Marcelo. I eventually became a contributor to his all comics newspaper, "Pytyk". He also invited me to join the Samahang Kartunista ng Pilipinas. I was their youngest card carrying member. I quit doing cartoons sometime in college. Tried reviving it on in the late nineties but it was too late, I had lost interest. Comics are not easy to do and the pressure to be fresh AND funny on a daily basis was too much to handle. Besides, I didn't have much time anymore once I hit college.

When I hit UP Diliman College of Fine Arts, my sister Anna and I opened up a clothing store called "Island Spice". Not sure if anyone remembers it. It was a shop dedicated to the promotion of the Philippines and "Saving the Earth". I did all the illustrations for them, designed their packaging and adverts, and managed their environmental projects (we reforested a hillside in Mindoro with partial proceeds from our first year of sales). We only played Filipino music in our stores and sold funky accessories from all over the country. I really think we were ahead of our time. Too bad I dropped out of the business because I decided to study in the US.

Some shots of myself and my projects at Rhode Island School of Design. Top: Rigging an outdoor installation/stage set in a garden at RISD. Middle: Joe Davis, artist-in-residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the guy with one leg and beret in the center of the photo). We collaborated on an exhibition called "The Riddle of Life" at Ticknor Hall in Harvard. It was a show about how DNA can be a language, something that can be encoded and used as an information tool. Actually, Joe did all the brilliant stuff. I just cut the woodblock prints and did most of the grunt work. Nevertheless, it was a mind blowing geek experience and it was an honor for him to call me a "collaborator". He really gave me more credit than I deserved. Below: detail of my woodblock prints on a picket fence.

For my thesis, I did a series of maquettes called "Archistructures". These were little abstracted worlds made out of wood, capiz, and candlelight. I loved making these Philippine/Martian landscapes/lanterns. They were a pain to make and an incredible fire hazard but I had a real sense of satisfaction everytime I completed one. I think I'll start making some again. If I can only find my toolbox.

Then after graduation, my best friend Inigo Elizalde and I decided to establish the Philippines "first" Performance Art Company called "Walang Pamagat Productions". We did a lot of performances that blended music, dance theater, technology, constructed Philippine mythology (read: I made the myths up myself. Hee hee), and the visual arts. I also designed the costumes and sets (painted the mural behind) and we collaborated with musicians and performers (above, me and Lara Fabregas dancing at the old Ayala Museum Main Gallery). Multi media would of course be the path that I felt most comfortable pursuing.

Oh man. What a jog down memory lane and what a revelation to myself. Actually, after looking at these images, I see a thread that runs through everything. I kinda know how I got to where I am today. Just like my tours, my past works seem to be site-specific, theatrical, narrative-based, and purposefully "Filipino" whatever that may mean. Hmm. Unfortunately, most of my works are on slides so I can't post them. Drat. Does anyone out there know how I can get them transferred to digital format?

I leave for Toronto tomorrow. I'll see you all in a bit. Don't wait up for me.