The Lake

photo taken from the Canvas Gallery Facebook page

Photo taken from the Canvas Gallery Facebook page

I was lucky enough to be included in Canvas Gallery’s exhibit during the 2014 Art Fair Philippines which happened last February. It was my first time to participate in the Fair, and it was a little overwhelming seeing all the great work from other artists.

Canvas Gallery’s show was entitled “Paraluman” or muse. Sixteen artists created narrative pieces that, hopefully, could generate a host of crowd-sourced stories. The images were uploaded onto a website ( where the audience can view the paintings and submit their own stories.

The painting I made was this:

The Lake

5 x 4 ft. Oil on Canvas

Years ago, I picked up a battered sale copy of Robert Bly’s book Iron John: A Book About Men for PhP 20 (USD 0.45). A summary of the book can be found in this site. Basically, the book is an exegesis of the Iron John story, included the Brothers Grimm collection of fairy tales. The story was interpreted as a journey of a boy through manhood with the help of the wild man.

The exegesis was rife with imagery and meaning, and the notion of some “wild man” as a guide to claiming true masculine energy seemed interesting to me from a visual standpoint. Anyway, I made several attempts to make a picture that was at least tangential to some of the ideas in the book, and I was only able to actually finish something this year (deadlines can be our friends). 

Though i never really set out to do a direct illustration of the Iron John story. Some elements in the painting touch on some of the concepts in the book while others grew out spontaneously from fleshing out the imagery. 

In all my previous studies and down to this final picture, there were always three constant characters and elements:

  • A body of water with a caged wild man
  • A seeker
  • An enlightened character (in this case, the lotus-head boy)




For more about info Art Fair Philippines click here to visit their facebook and click here to visit Canvas Gallery’s facebook page.

Although a bit late, here are some articles about this year’s Art Fair:


Collaborator: A Contemporary Art Exhibition

Collaborator invite

I’ll be part of a group exhibition later this month in Adelaide, Australia. From the press release, originally posted at

Presented by Boxplot:
25 April – 11 May, 2014

A new group exhibition in Bowden from 25 April to 11 May 2014 will feature a powerful collection of works on paper and canvas through which six established and emerging South Australian and Filipino contemporary artists contemplate the positive and negative connotations of the term Collaborator – exploring notions of identity, culture and religion.

Collaborator is the latest offering from Boxplot – an SA-based art initiative formed to exhibit contemporary art in alternative locations across Adelaide and create opportunities for artistic collaboration between South East Asian and South Australian visual artists. Boxplot was founded in 2013 by Adelaide’s Anna O’Loughlin and Filipino-born/SA-based artist Mark Valenzuela.

The Collaborator exhibition will be shown in a currently disused industrial warehouse in Bowden, showcasing works by three SA-based artists: Aleksandra Antic, Glenn Kestell and Mark Valenzuela – and three based in the Philippines: Rommel Joson, Anjo Bolarda and Tristram Miravalles.

Antic, a 2013 Fleurieu Art Prize finalist, and Kestell, a member of Central Studios, are two rising stars of SA’s contemporary art scene. Valenzuela, who resides in Adelaide and is a tenant at the Jam Factory Ceramic Studio, has a growing international career. His work is part of a group showcase at Artinformal in Manila from 20 March – 7 April (Heatwave) and he has exhibitions scheduled in Indonesia, USA and the Philippines later in 2014. For Joson, Bolarda and Miravalles, all of whom have well-established profiles in the Philippines and numerous awards and exhibitions to their names, Collaborator will be the first time they’ve exhibited in Australia.

At the project’s outset Boxplot partnered each SA-based artist with a Filipino artist and challenged each pair to work together from a distance to develop their works via email, Skype and Facebook, using the word ‘collaborator’ as a starting point for their dialogue.

“The works in the show are ultimately all individual pieces by the six artists, but they’re based on the concepts formed as a result of the interchange of ideas between each pairing,” says Boxplot co-founder, Anna O’Loughlin. “Collaborator can mean working with others towards a common goal or refer to a person who cooperates traitorously with an enemy. Looking at the final body of works developed, a number of distinct themes appear, including considerations of identity, competing cultural influences and religion. Given contemporary art from the Philippines hasn’t been widely showcased in South Australia, this is a rare opportunity to see a diverse range of works from both talented local artists and high profile Filipino artists.”

Collaborator Contemporary Art Exhibition

When: Friday 25 April – Sunday 11 May, 2014
(Official Exhibition Opening Event: 6pm – 8pm Thursday 24 April)
Where: 22 Gibson Street, Bowden
Entry: Free / All Works for Sale
Opening Times: 1pm – 6pm, Thursday to Sunday (including Anzac Day public holiday)

The Madhatter’s Masquerade Ball at Van Gogh is Bipolar


I received a call from my friend Jetro Rafael a couple of weeks ago inviting me to a Masquerade Ball at Van Gogh is Bipolar, his eclectic little restaurant located in a compound along Maginhawa Street, Sikatuna Village.

“Sure, what’s the occasion?” I asked.

To which he replied tentatively: “It’s the end of something”.  He chuckled after he said it.

Okay. Cryptic.

Van Gogh is Bipolar has established quite a reputation and a following these past few years. It’s been featured on local lifestyle shows and even on BBC Asia. Quirky and intimate (serving only 12 guests a night, if it’s open), the restaurant serves “mood altering” food that helps manage Jetro’s bipolar condition.

It’s been awhile since I’ve last visited the place, so despite my fretting over the dressing up part, I decided to go.


Stepping into Van Gogh Is Bipolar’s Masquerade Ball is like wandering into a surrealist dream, the impression made all the more pronounced by the flimsy drapery separating the driveway of the compound and the grayness of Maginhawa Street with its ongoing road repairs and noisy tricycles.


The courtyard of the compound had been transformed into the party area. Tables with lit candles and plates of sweet potatoes were organized on the lawn. There was a photo area with a backdrop of damask patterns and masks. The 2nd floor landing overlooking the courtyard was converted into a stage for musical performances.


A popcorn stand stood by the driveway. Ushers gave us wooden party spoons and served us cocktails of lime and fruits as well as juice drinks in small baby bottles. Thick soup with noodles and shredded chicken were handed out in glass bowls.


There was an alcove in front of the restaurant’s porch, separated from the rest of the courtyard by white cloth and leaves hung on a makeshift trellis. On top of the wooden frame that marked the entrance to the alcove was a glowing lantern, and propped on it was a crescent moon wrought in GI sheet. The light from the lantern shone into the little pinholes hammered into the moon, revealing a moustachioed face.


Inside the alcove was a long wooden table with thick loaves of bread stuck with little whirly pops. Above hung a chandelier with candles in different colored jars.


At the far end of the table sat a nude female model in a mask. Robert Alejandro, illustrator, backpacker, and sometime reporter for the Probe Team sketched away with blue watercolor washes in a large sketchpad.


I sat down to sketch in a hassock on the porch that was dimly lit with a red bulb, as if in photography dark room. I could hardly see what I was drawing. Maybe that’s why it looked so good at the time, but not so much in the daytime.


Here’s my drawing, fixed up a bit for public consumption.

A musical duo (Feanne Hontiveros and her boyfriend, I think), performed on the makeshift stage. We bumped into old UP Fine Arts friends and talked about our friends who weren’t there, while the duo on stage sang their set.

An hour passed and the guests began cramming themselves into the little restaurant.


The interior of Van Gogh is Bipolar looks like an eclectic victorian parlor. There was a huge baroque dining table, sets of mismatched chairs embellished with words and splashes of paint, gifts and souvenirs left by friends and patrons, plus all sorts of bric-a-brac collected from Jetro’s travels around the world.


There were skeletons hanging on the ceiling.


Plastic crowns and hats diners were stowed away in trays so diners can wear them while eating in the dimly lit interiors and feel like cuckoo royalty.


Or you can wear this, in case you don’t want your date to recognize you.



There were teapots and teacups, old signages, paintings on desks and on walls, and even a cabinet owned by a dead President. By the doorway, was a wall of calling cards and notes left by guests and patrons that in the dim light of the parlor looked like a flight of butterflies had swarmed on the wall and remained frozen in time.


I saw some celebrities in the attendance – Iza Calzado, Carla Humphries, and Alexandra de Rossi. Jetro has famous friends.


The guests had gathered around a woman seated in front of a koto harp. Without introduction, she began to sing. Her voice alone gave her away as Armi Millare, lead signer of Up Dharma Down.


Here’s Armi Millare without the mask together with my date, Abi.


After Armi’s performance, the nude male model arrived. Wearing a top hat, he stood in a corner of the parlor surrounded by red walls covered in black graffiti. My friends decorated his body with paint Abi and I brought along at Jetro’s request.


Towards the end of the night, I asked one of my Fine Arts friends what exactly was the Masquerade Ball celebrating, to which I got another cryptic answer of: “it’s a funeral”.

I never did get a straight answer to my question that night, and I suppose it’s not really important. From talks with Jetro, everything about Van Gogh is Bipolar has always been about embracing spontaneity and imperfection and perhaps following the logic of dreams.


2014 ink application poster

Ang INK is now open for new members!

Poster by Borg Sinaban

Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan 2014 member applications


1. Five (5) sample illustrations from your portfolio.

  • Individual images should at least be 1000px on one side, and should NOT be more than 72dpi, jpg or png
  • Compile ALL 5 of your works in ONE pdf. Total file size of the pdf should NOT exceed 7mb.
  • PDF name should follow the format: INKAPP14-yourname-portfolio
  • Upload file in online application form.

2. Children’s book illustration spreads based on one of this year’s PBBY Salanga Prize

  • Honorable Mention winners, Gaano Ba Kalayo Patungong Paaralan? by Genaro R. Gojo Cruz. The story can be downloaded from the PBBY website:
  • -Follow this PBBY requirement: All entries must consist of three (3) illustrations that are of the same size and medium. Entries do not have to be based on consecutive spreads/parts of the text.
  • -You are not required to layout/include the text in your illustrations.
  • -Individual images should be 9in (h) x 14 inches (w), and should not be more than 72dpi, jpg or png
  • -Compile ALL 3 images in ONE pdf. Total file size of the pdf should NOT exceed 5mb.
  • -PDF name should follow the format: INKAPP14-yourname-pbby
  • -Upload file in online application form.

3. Accomplished online application form:

Deadline of submission is April 11, 2014, 11:59 PM

All applicants will be notified of the results through email by April 25, 2014.

Have a question? Email INK at 

Visit their website at or their blog at

3rd World Snow in Motion

Way back in 1991, the eruption of long dormant Mount Pinatubo spewed out enough debris and particulates into the air that it lowered global temperatures. Over a hundred kilometers away in Quezon City, where I live, the sky had begun to darken by around 3 or 4pm. The following morning, the city was covered in white ash. It was as if, for the first time, there was snow in the Philippines. I was 13 years old at the time.

Many years later, I made a silent comic inspired by that little moment in history. I entered it into the 2nd Fully Booked / Neil Gaiman Graphic Fiction Competition and it didn’t win anything. Didn’t even get into the shortlist. Too bad. Boo hoo.

Anyway, a couple of months ago during one of our regular INK (Ilustrador ng Kabataan) meetings, I presented the comic, but this time with a couple of transition effects.

It’s like a very primitive motion comic. Hope you enjoy it.

Some Serious Chocolate Therapy

I recently contributed three illustrations for an article in the September 2013 issue of Tiger Tales Australia. The article talks about ceremonies conducted in Fremantle, Australia involving cacao and meditation that lead to mood improvement.

You can view the entire issue here.

Below are the VERY rough studies I submitted and the final pieces that made it into publication.